What Foods Trigger IBS: Ask the Dietitian

What Foods Trigger IBS: Ask the Dietitian

Have you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or feel like you may have IBS? If so, you may be curious about what foods trigger IBS.

Understanding how diet affects IBS symptoms can help you regulate your abdominal discomfort and your overall health! 

Trust me, I know that IBS can be an extremely frustrating and overwhelming condition. The symptoms can start to greatly impact your quality of life and time with friends and family.

In today’s article, I will be diving into the basics of IBS, including symptoms and diagnosis criteria. Then, I will share my best tips for treating and managing IBS as a specialized dietitian. 

Are you dealing with prediabetes or high blood sugar on top of gut health issues? If so, then make sure to check out my latest blog on how to reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise!

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that causes altered bowel states and abdominal discomfort or pain. 

IBS affects approximately 20% of the general population, with women being twice as likely to report symptoms. 

There are four different subtypes of IBS, depending on your symptoms: 

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • IBS with a combination of constipation and diarrhea
  • Unclassified IBS

While IBS can significantly affect the quality of one’s life, the causes are still widely unknown. However, a large amount of research supports the connection between diet, mental health, lifestyle, and environmental factors with IBS. 

As you can see, there’s absolutely hope for you and your management of the condition! 

What are the Symptoms of IBS?

This is a tricky question because everyone has different experiences and discomforts with IBS. Symptoms of IBS can vary per individual, so efficient care is a very personalized approach!

Common symptoms of IBS can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Abdominal pain & cramping
  • Bloating 
  • Gas
  • Altered GI function 
    • Constipation 
    • Diarrhea 
    • Both constipation and diarrhea 
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea 
  • An urgent need to defecate 

How is IBS Diagnosed?

There is no test to give a definitive diagnosis for IBS. 

However, doctors will review symptoms and past medical history and complete a physical exam to ensure you don’t have Celiac disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which both have similar symptoms. 

If your tests come back negative for Celiac Disease or IBD, you will then likely be assessed for IBS criteria to determine a diagnosis. 

  1. Rome Criteria
    1. Belly pain and discomfort at least once a week within the last three months 
    2. The pain and discomfort follow with defecation, a change in frequency of defecation, and/or a change in stool consistency. 
  2. Type of IBS
    1. IBS-C (constipation)
    2. IBS-D (diarrhea)
    3. Both constipation and diarrhea IBS
    4. Unclassified IBS

You may need to continue to receive additional testing and bloodwork before coming to a definitive diagnosis. 

What Role Does the Gut-Brain Connection Play In IBS?

What foods trigger IBS

In order to understand IBS and truly get to the root of the problem, understanding key physiology features is very helpful. 

One key component of IBS is the connection between your gut and brain, called the gut-brain axis. 

Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for involuntary processes like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration (breathing), digestion, bodily fluid production, and more. The ANS has three subgroups: parasympathetic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system, and enteric nervous system.

I want to focus on the enteric nervous system (ENS) since it plays such a vital role in digestion and intestinal function. The ENS contains a whole network of neurons that line the entire GI tract, extending all the way up to the esophagus and down to the anus. 

Did you know the ENS is known as the “Second Brain” or the “Brain of the Gut”?

IBS is classified as a gut-brain interaction disorder because messages constantly go to and from the brain.

If any miscommunications are potentially due to anxiety or stress, your IBS symptoms can begin or worsen! 

Now that you’re more of an expert on the symptoms and causes of IBS, let’s talk about how we can treat IBS and have a healthy and happy gut. 

Treatment of IBS

What foods trigger IBS

Dietary changes are commonly made in order to reduce symptoms of IBS. 

Since food triggers vary from person to person with IBS, identifying personal food triggers can be a series of trial and error. 

How to identify your triggers:

  1. Keep a food journal! Write down what you eat during each meal, with a note on how you felt after. This can allow you to find common denominators and eliminate your triggers! 
  2. Be aware of common triggers so you are better prepared to make connections through your food journal. Remember that depending on which subtype of IBS you have been diagnosed with, different foods will trigger you. 

What Foods Trigger IBS?

Next, I will be discussing what foods trigger IBS. 

It is always best to work with an IBS dietitian before completing any type of elimination protocol on your own!

Common Triggers for IBS-C (constipation-predominant)

  • Breads and cereals made with refined grains 
  • Processed foods like cookies and cakes 
  • Coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks 
  • Dairy products 

If you have IBS-C, you should instead focus on INCREASING

  • Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains can help reduce gas and bloating and increase bowel motility.
  • Water: Drink plenty of water! If your body recognizes it is dehydrated, it will try to retain as much water as possible, and thus, your stool will have a much harder consistency. 
  • Prune Juice: Trust me when I say that prune juice is your best friend during constipation! Prune juice is high in sorbitol and fiber, making it a natural laxative.

Common Triggers for IBS-D (diarrhea predominant)

  • Too much fiber can cause diarrhea. There is fiber in the external skin of fruits like apples, prunes, kiwis, etc. Monitor how much your body can handle fiber since this is very individualized!
  • Coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks, any caffeinated drinks 
  • Fried and fatty foods 
  • Dairy products, especially for lactose-intolerant folks 
  • Foods with wheat, especially for people who are gluten-sensitive 

If you have IBS-D, you should instead focus on :

  • Eat a moderate amount of fiber. Soluble fiber is better for IBS-D symptoms. Soluble fiber options include oats, peas, beans, citrus fruits, etc. 
  • Try to drink water an hour before and an hour after your meals instead of during your meals. 
  • Stick to lean proteins like chicken or eggs
  • Noodles, rice, and potatoes are a great option for neutral and diarrhea-safe foods!

Common IBS treatment options or strategies for most IBS patients include:

  • Reduce Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, and collard greens. Cruciferous vegetables are high in sulfur and thus can increase IBS symptoms by increasing gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 
  • Try reducing very spicy foods. Some people are spice-sensitive and may have flare-ups as a result. 
  • Try to eat slower and more mindfully. Give your body the opportunity to digest at an adequate pace.
  • Get more exercise to reduce stress, improve bowel function, and reduce bloating. 
  • Increase Omega-3 Fats: Omega-3s are great for brain health, which, as you now know, correlates with the gut! Foods rich in Omega-3s include fish, seafood, flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts.
  • Quality stress management – Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Had “butterflies” in your stomach? Felt nauseous from a situation? These emotionally driven physical feelings are due to the brain’s direct effect on the stomach and intestines. It is also scientifically proven that the gut and brain connection is a two-way street, meaning a stressed gut can send signals to the brain and vice versa. Since the GI system and the brain are so intimately connected, stress-induced stimulation can cause symptom flare-ups in IBS!

Stress-management techniques like the ones listed below help maintain a healthy relationship between the gut and brain. 

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga 
  • Adequate sleep 
  • Therapy 
  • Guided imagery exercises
  • Do something fun as often as possible – read, hang out with friends, paint, color, shop, etc. 


Should You Follow a Low-FODMAP Diet?

A low-FODMAP diet is another treatment option that is available for IBS patients. 

“FODMAP” stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyphenols. Some people are highly sensitive to high-FODMAP foods. 

These short-chained carbohydrates don’t absorb well in the intestine and thus could potentially cause bloating and abdominal pain. 

High-FODMAP Foods Include:

  • Canned fruit 
  • Fruits such as apples, apricots, pears, plums, cherries, mangoes, watermelon
  • Large consumption of fruit juices at one time 
  • Wheat and rye products 
  • Dairy products 
  • Honey and foods high in high-fructose corn syrup 
  • Cruciferous vegetables, artichokes, asparagus, beans, garlic, mushrooms, onion, snow peas 


What Foods Trigger IBS: The Takeaways

What foods trigger IBS

I know this can be a lot to take in, as IBS is a very personalized diagnosis. Just know that the more you understand yourself and your triggers, the more you can regulate the discomfort. 

Here you go for those wanting a summary of the key points we discussed!

There are four different subtypes of IBS, depending on your symptoms: 

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • IBS with a combination of constipation and diarrhea
  • Unclassified IBS

Many individuals with IBS link their symptoms to dietary factors, making diet the central area of concern for symptom reduction. Identifying your food triggers is the first step. Next, eliminating triggers will alleviate the pain or discomfort. 

How to identify your triggers:

  1. Keep a food journal! 
  2. Be aware of common triggers so you are better prepared to make connections through your food journal.

Some dietitian-approved treatment options or strategies for most IBS patients include:

  • Reduce Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Try reducing very spicy foods
  • Eat slower 
  • Get more exercise 
  • Try following a low FODMAP diet 
  • Increase Omega-3 Fats
  • Quality stress-management

Looking for additional guidance and support with nutrition and IBS? Head over to my services page to learn more about my 1:1 premium nutrition counseling services. There is no better time to take charge of your IBS than now! 

Can I Reverse Prediabetes with Diet and Exercise?

Can I Reverse Prediabetes with Diet and Exercise?

Do you find yourself asking, can I reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise? 

The levels of people getting diagnosed with prediabetes are climbing every year. Eventually, a good portion of those people will progress to type 2 diabetes. 

That, as you may know, can have serious health consequences. So before prediabetes progresses further, it is essential to use an early intervention of diet and lifestyle strategies.

You can beat prediabetes and reverse it for good! With the right tools and strategies in your toolbelt, your blood sugar levels will drop, and your unwanted symptoms will be gone. 

In today’s article, I will be going over what pre-diabetes is, common risk factors, and the signs and symptoms to look out for. I will also give you three tips for using diet and exercise to reverse prediabetes. 

So, let’s get started! 

Did you know working with a specialized registered dietitian can support your prediabetes health journey? And guess what- you may be able to use insurance coverage for your session! Head over to this page to learn more.


What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a health condition in which blood sugar levels are very high, reaching 100 to 125 mg/dL or 5.7-6.4% A1C, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future, in addition to other devastating health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

For your reference:

Blood Glucose Levels Include:

  • Normal: 70-99 mg/dL
  • Prediabetic: 100-125 mg/dL
  • Diabetic: 125+ mg/dL

Your Primary Care Doctor Might Test A1C Status:

*This test provides an average blood sugar level over the past 3 months.

  • Normal: Below 5.7%
  • Prediabetic: Between 5.7 and 6.4%
  • Diabetic: 6.4% or higher 

What Causes Prediabetes?

Blood sugar levels can rise due to a hormone called insulin not processing glucose properly in the body. 

Insulin, made by the pancreas, transfers blood sugar to cells to use as energy later on and thus helps monitor blood glucose levels appropriately. 

If you have prediabetes, your body is not responding normally to insulin, and as a result, the pancreas will continue to produce more and more insulin until even the pancreas itself cannot keep up. 

Blood glucose levels will continue to rise, leading to prediabetes, then potentially type 2 diabetes. 

If your blood glucose levels eventually reach type 2 diabetes status, it indicates insulin resistance occurring, where your body doesn’t recognize the presence of insulin. 

Signs and Symptoms of Prediabetes

Can I reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise

It is important to note that you could have prediabetes and not even know it. In fact, one in every two people is unaware they have the condition! 

You may not experience any specific signs or symptoms until serious health concerns (like type 2 diabetes) occur. 

Feeling down and not like yourself recently? It is important to be aware of the signs of prediabetes so you can get your levels tested by your primary care doctor before it’s too late!

Here are a few signs and symptoms of prediabetes to look out for:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Weight gain
  • And more!

Risk Factors of Prediabetes

Additionally, there are risk factors for prediabetes that are important to understand. 

These put you are a higher risk for developing prediabetes, meaning you will want to keep a closer eye on your blood sugar levels and diet and lifestyle habits.

These risks include:

  • If you are 45 years +
  • If you have had gestational diabetes 
  • If your mother, father, or siblings have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 
  • BMI > 25 kg/m2: Overweight – Obese BMI Status
  • If you are a chronic smoker 
  • If you are physically inactive less than three times a week: sedentary activity status
  • Having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

*There are genetic research trends for prediabetes as well, showcasing other uncontrollable risk factors. It is currently still not fully understood why, but 17.1 million more men were diagnosed with diabetes in 2017 than women. 

In addition, ethnic and racial groups, including African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans, are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. 

Can I Reverse my Prediabetes Diagnosis?

Yes, absolutely! Prediabetes is, in fact, a reversible condition. 

Lifestyle and dietary changes can ultimately reverse your prediabetes status and reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. They should be the first-line approach for reversal. 

Your second question is probably wondering, can I reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise?

Weight and physical activity status are two lifestyle intervention factors targeted to stop the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. 

Since physical activity increases ‘insulin sensitivity,’ the body will begin to recognize the presence of insulin, allowing the blood glucose to decrease and move to muscle cells for energy use. 

When it comes to your diet, the sugars inside your food get broken down and can raise your blood sugar in varying amounts depending on what and how much you eat.

3 Dietitian-Approved Tips to Reverse Prediabetes

Can I reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise from a dietitian

Now I will share three tips you can start doing today to reverse your prediabetes! 

Tip #1:  Increase physical activity levels to 3-5 days a week, 30 minutes + each.

  • HIIT workouts are extremely efficient in helping control glucose, lower abdominal fat, and thus decrease weight status
  • Find what workouts work best for you and are the most enjoyable for you 
  • Find friends who have similar fitness goals to you to surround yourself with

Tip #2: Consume low glycemic index foods to reduce blood-sugar rollercoasters

A plethora of research studies have found a nutritious diet rich in low-glycemic index foods and fiber, partnered with less consumption of sugar-containing beverages, will decrease the risk of diabetes by 18-40%! 

The glycemic index (GI) indicates how quickly a particular food causes our blood sugar to rise. The lower the glycemic index, the gentler the food will be on raising glucose levels. 

Consuming low glycemic index foods are a great choice for prediabetics as they help control blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of blood glucose spikes. 

Blood sugar spikes can ultimately cause further health complications and increase cardiovascular health. 

Example list of low GI foods:

  • Greens: spinach, kale, collards, beet
  • Fruits: apples, peaches, strawberries, oranges, cherries, coconuts, blueberries, pears, plums, grapefruit
  • Vegetables: raw carrots, snow peas, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, bok choy, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, cabbage, mushrooms  
  • Low GI Grains: Barley, All-Brand & Fiber One Cereals, Oat bran, whole-grain pasta, sourdough bread 
  • Dairy: skim, low-fat, whole milk
  • Legumes: Kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, tofu, and soy-based products
  • Nuts: Peanut + almond butters

It is important to note that the glycemic index is only ONE way to classify food. 

A low GI index score doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy or not healthy! It will just be a great gauge for those hoping to maintain adequate blood glucose levels.


Tip #3: Increase your fiber and protein intake using whole foods.

Increasing both your protein and fiber intake can help you reverse prediabetes and lower your blood sugar levels. 

Protein and fiber both increase satiety more than quick-digesting simple carbohydrates by slowing your digestion and allowing you to stay fuller longer. This also reduces how fast your blood sugar spikes after eating a meal.

Because of this, protein and fiber support long-term weight loss and prevent weight regain. Losing weight (in a healthy and sustainable way, of course) will help reverse prediabetes. 

It is also a good idea to prioritize more whole foods and less processed foods.

Processed foods tend to be high in added sugars and refined carbohydrates that can contribute to high blood sugar levels. 

Add plenty of fresh produce, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains into your day to promote a balanced diet.

Reversing Prediabetes with Diet and Exercise: The Takeaways

I know prediabetes may be a daunting diagnosis. But lucky for you, there are lifestyle and diet interventions that can help reduce the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes! 

All in all, here are my 3 dietitian-approved tips for reversing prediabetes:

  • Increase physical activity levels to 3-5 days a week, 30 minutes + each. 
  • Consume low glycemic index foods to reduce blood-sugar rollercoasters!
  • Prioritize less processed products, whole fruits and vegetables, and foods high in protein and fiber and lower in sugar. 

There is hope! If you are reading this, you are already making steps forward to a better lifestyle and a happier you. 

Looking for additional guidance and support with nutrition and blood sugar levels? I know this all can be overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, I got you! 

Head over to my services page to learn more about my 1:1 premium nutrition counseling services. There is no better time to take charge of your prediabetes and use diet and exercise to reverse it for good! 

The great debate – natural sugar versus added sugar

Did you know there are over 50 DIFFERENT names for added sugar ? Now, that is KRAZY with a capital K!

And let’s be crystal clear – I am NOT talking about the type that naturally occurs in fruits, veggies, whole-grain products as well as in dairy. We are talking about the sugar that is added to food during processing to enhance flavor, texture and shelf life.

Added sugar is typically composed of the either glucose, fructose and/or sucrose. Unfortunately, many food manufacturers are sneaky and hide the total amount by listing it under several different names on a package’s ingredient list.

As if reading labels wasn’t hard enough to begin with!

Any look familiar?



However, sadly the list does not end here my friends. Check out this quick article from Healthline to learn about the 56 (yes, you read that correctly!) other names that sugar goes by.

Talk about an unsavory alias!

Do any of these surprise you?

Raise your hand if you thought agave was a better choice than white sugar?

Surprised to hear that coconut sugar is a “no-go”?


That leads us to the next important question.

How much added sugar are you allowed per day?


Survey says…



But let’s not sweat the small things. Whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole-grains and dairy products naturally contain small amounts of sugar. However, they are also nutrient powerhouses brimming with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. With these added features, whole foods are processed differently and don’t have the same detrimental effects of added sugars.

Therefore, the most effective way to reduce your added sugar intake is to J.E.R.F. – just eat real food. Plain and simple.

However, if you do decide to buy packaged foods, don’t be a slave to label. Be an informed consumer and stick to your daily quota.


Got questions on added sugars? Hit us up in the comments below. We understand this topic can in fact be tricky and we are happy to help! 


Hugs & High Fives,


Snack from the Fridge

Snacks – Open Those French Doors When you Get the Munchies


I confess. I am a snacker at ♥. I know some people just don’t eat snacks. They eat their 2-3 main meals per day and nothing in between. I my friends am NOT that girl.


Often I prefer to have snacks rather than meals. But not just one or two snacks. More like a personal ‘buffet’ of all things snacky. You see, my husband is not a snacker. Because well, tough guys don’t snack. Hee Hee! SO any and all snacks in the house are for me, myself and I.


A little guac, some hummus, a couple bites of scrumptious cheese, some raw veggies and maybe even a couple spoonfuls of full-fat Greek yogurt. That sort of stuff just makes my heart smile. It is like a party – but I am the only one there. After all, snacks are delicious.  Right? I am just sayin’.



Trader Joe’s Guiltless Guacamole – one of my all time favorite snacks



Therefore, as a Registered Dietitian you probably don’t find it odd that I get tons of questions about snacks. I was trying to think if I could come up with a universal guideline when it comes to snacks. Then it hit me – mid ‘buffet’ line at my very own house: snack from the fridge NOT your cabinets.


Get Your Snack On


Fruit, veggies, yogurt, single-serving hummus & guacamole, cheese, and even leftovers are all super-duper healthy snack-a-roonies that all live in your refrigerator. Compare them with the snacks like chips, crackers, sweets and treats that typically reside in your kitchen cupboards. Therefore, looking to your your fridge when you get the munchies should be a no-brainer!


Set yourself up to succeed with healthy snacking by being proactive. Stock your refrigerator with healthy (and delicious!) options and make a solid effort to prep them ahead.


Wash and slice fruits and veggies BEFORE you even put them away when you return from the supermarket. Rock your Instapot to hard boil a half a dozen eggs. Can I say game changer! Or if you are super lazy grab some precooked hard boiled eggs from Traders.  And no – they are not as sketchy as you might think. Stash leftovers in single-serving clear containers (so there is no guessing what is in them!). No leftovers? Pick up a ¼ pound of chicken or tuna salad from the deli. Both make for delicious snacks. Buy single servings of cheese like Baby Bels, mozzarella sticks and Laughing Cow. Then arrange your refrigerator so the healthier foods are front and center, making it more likely that they’ll be the first thing you reach for when you’re hungry.

Easy peasy! Now sit down and high five yourself. You worked hard. No get yo’self a snack.

Hugs & High Fives,




P.S. Never. Ever. Ever. Grocery shop when you are hungry! Here is actual footage of my cart at Trader Joe’s last week.



Dietitian Disaster!



I kid you not! There is pretty much about $150 worth of snacks in that cart 🙂 At least I bought bananas, right? Even dietitians have less than stellar days!


J.E.R.F. Pinky swear it does not involve cauliflower



Today’s nutrition tip is brought to you by the acronym J.E.R.F. – Just Eat Real Food. There are a million ways to spin off of this word (and the relative term real) but the direction I am going to is with ‘pseudo’ foods. Bare with me … I promise you don’t need to eat cauliflower to feel the love.


Last week I posted this silly quote on social media:




And while it definitely made my chuckle – it also made me realize just how many foods we come across on a day-day basis are foods that have turned into things they really are not:


    1. Cauliflower pizza
    2. Cauliflower tots
    3. Cauliflower rice
    4. Mashed cauliflower
    5. Noodles made from zucchini, carrots, butternut squash
    6. Coconut ice cream
    7. Riced broccoli
    8. Impossible burgers– non-meat burgers that ‘bleed’ beet juice
    9. You get my point here 🙂


Cauliflower pizza IS NOT pizza.

And truth be told most versions don’t even remotely come close to the real deal pizza. In all honesty, most cauliflower pizza is not EVEN that much healthier. The crust is generally made with cheese, eggs and more cheese. I have nothing against cheese or eggs– but when you spec it out most can clock in just as high in calories as regular pizza depending on the toppings.


I love zoodles every. once. in and a while.

Of course they are a vegetable high in fiber, nutrients and vitamins and minerals. But what is wrong with having real pasta every once and a while? Yes – I know the carbs. But say you really love pasta why not just have the real deal occasionally in small amounts?


Riced broccoli — first of all have you tried it? It tastes just like broccoli! But are you surprised. Likely not because it IS broccoli.


Anything vegan trying to resemble meat – my only question is a big fat WHY?

Why not just eat real meat if that is the flavor, texture profile you are going for. I can only get away with saying that because I was a vegetarian for 10 years, a vegan for 2 years and a raw vegan for 1 year. I also used to have long dread locks and lived in Costa Rica – so go figure! Now I eat meat – love it – and often I am embarrassed to tell you that I used to eat something called “tuno.” No that is not an expensive Italian tuna in a high grade olive oil. Tuno was a ‘fake’ vegetarian based “tuna” that came in a can and smelled like tuna. Wicked gross.


Bottom Line


My point here is don’t eat foods because you feel like you have to. If you love riced broccoli then … rock on with your bad self! But don’t feel like you have to love it and convince yourself it tastes like rice. Because it certainly doesn’t! Also remember – you don’t have to be anyone or anything you don’t want to be. So why should your food be any different?


You don’t have to eat cauliflower pizza and ‘pretend’ it is delicious. Why not just head down to Modern Pizza once a month and tear it up? (When you do might I suggest the Veggie Bomb with hot cherry peppers!)


Furthermore, you don’t have to kill yourself and do a Whole-30 and deprive yourself of dairy when you love cheese. What are you going to do after you the 30 days? Will you never. ever. ever. return to eating your favorite food group? Survey says – I think not my friend! So why torture yourself and take something out of your diet you love. We have to be realistic with our food choices. If not then behavior change becomes unsustainable and we crash and burn every single time.


You see pizza, tater tots, rice and pasta are NOT the enemy. It is the way we abuse these foods and our relationship with them that makes them unhealthy.


Love yourself enough to eat the real deal


Do you think eating pizza or cheese for that matter will completely derail all your hard work? Hardly. Eating them every day – highly likely! But occasionally eating the foods you love — you know the ones that puts a smile on your face — should be part of your lifestyle These foods are not something you should try to replace. Because you and I both know there is absolutely no replacement for great REAL high quality food.


See part of the cool thing about the food we put into our bodies is that for many of us it is one the few things in life we can control. So why not make a pack to yourself that you are no longer going to eat something just because you feel like you should. You are no longer going to feel bad because you just don’t love spaghetti squash. Instead you are going to have a small serving of the real deal with some awesome sauce and homemade meatballs and call a night. You are not going to feel bad. You are not going to feel like you failed. Instead, you are going to be proud that you made a conscious decision to eat real food that made your little heart sing.


I wanted to leave you with some parting words 🙂



Amy’s Three Killer Tips to Grocery Shopping Like a Champ


I hope you are having an all-star start to your week. Coming off the weekend is alway tough. However, there is no day better than Monday to get back on track. It is time to shake off the Monday blues and bring your focus back to healthy eating. Your first stop – the grocery store. Today I am here to provide you with my three absolute BEST tips to grocery shopping like the champ you are. Put down that grocery store hater-ade and grab yourself a cart. Things are about to get fun!



grocery shopping tips

Grab a cart and get your shop on 🙂



I ♥ grocery shopping


Grocery shopping is pretty much one of my favorite past times. I guess you could even call it a hobby of some sort! Anyone who knows me – knows I love grocery stores. No matter where in the world I might be I am constantly on the look out for grocery stores so I can check out the latest and greatest food finds.


However, with that being said shopping aimlessly is never a good thing. BAD things happen in grocery stores for Amy Plano when she does not have a plan. And I can only imagine the same goes for many of you! Please tell me I am not alone?


So today I am going to rattle off some of my top ticks for staying on track with your diet at the grocery store. I know none of these are new concepts to you. However, if you are like me, I can ALWAYS benefit from gentle reminders on how to improve my behavior.



Game plan it on Friday



I have a rule for myself on Friday afternoons. I cannot leave until I have written down at least two things I am cooking for dinner for the up and coming week. For the other meals I fill in the blanks with leftovers or go-to meals. Easy ones like baked chicken thighs or flank steak on the grill rounding out with some Trader Joe’s frozen veggies. However, I must have two concrete (not made up in my head as I have a tendency to do!) meals that I commit to making before I walk out the door. No ifs, ands or buts about it. That way when I go to the grocery store I am exciting about what I am buying.




I generally just pull up my Pinterest board called “Dinner” (yes – super original) and see what looks interesting and is hopefully in season. Here is the link for my dinner board in case you need some inspiration. Once I have identified the recipes I jot down the ingredients I will need in my spiral plain Jane notebook. This when I go home I know what I need and can compare it against what foods I already have.




A typical entry might look like this:



Monday: Baked chicken thighs, Trader Joe’s frozen sweet potatoes & broccoli

Tuesday: Egg Roll in a Bowl

Wednesday: Sushi

Thursday: Crock Pot Chicken Chili

Friday: Low Carb Chicken Quesadillas with cabbage lime slaw

Saturday: Out

Sunday: Flank Steak, Baked Potatoes and Salad



It is important to note these dinner recipes do not need to be fancy! Nor does your weekly ‘meal plan’ need to be elaborate. People get wrapped up in the semantics. They say to themselves I don’t know what to make that is healthy. Come on. You know what is healthy and what is not. You do not need me to tell you day-day what you should eat. These meals should be something everyone enjoys and resembles something relatively healthy. Depending upon your family the term relatively healthy likely means different things. But don’t sweat the small things.




Just write it down – the very act of writing things down help sets you up to succeed. Plan to succeed right from the start.



food journal

I know you have heard this quote a zillion times – but the message never gets old.




By planning ahead on Friday you will save yourself a ton of stress, time and money at the grocery store. It really puts YOU in the driver seat rather than leaving your meals to chance. So many of my patients do awesome all day with healthy eating. But then dinner rolls around and nothing is planned – so they reach for what is most convenient but not always healthy. They then beat themselves up. By coming up with a plan before the fact this can easily be avoided.



Because you and I both know when we go to the grocery store with no meals planned – food goes to waste and we come home with food but no meals = no bueno 🙁  It’s like having a closet full of awesome clothes – but no perfect “outfits”. We aint’ got time for that!




Make a list and stick with it



DO NOT step foot in any grocery store without a list. Okay – I admit I am the worst at this. However, we all need to raise the bar and follow through with grocery list making. Maybe I should start a self-help group for this? Honestly.  I don’t care if you need to scribble the list down on a receipt you find in your purse. You MUST have a shopping list BEFORE you step foot in that grocery store.


grocery store

Just write it down – the very act of writing things down sets you up to succeed




Shopping with a list is so critical. Not only does it save money because you are only buying exactly what you need – it also saves you from buying less than stellar foods that were not on your list. By making a list and sticking to it you can get in and out of the grocery store without cruising down every aisle wondering, “Do I need these delicious bourbon pickles from Traders?” – nope not on the list. Move on sista’!




The Type A person in me likes to arrange my list on how the store is set up.  The list often starts with vegetables, then fruit, next protein and ultimately the dairy aisle. That way I don’t need to back track. Also the crazy dietitian in me likes to play a game when I grocery shop. I like to see if I can only manage to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. As it is really in the aisles that most people get into trouble with processed foods. Sometimes I am successful – sometimes not. However, I do make a point to spend more time out of the aisles if possible. But sometimes those Ghost Pepper Potato Chips do call my name in aisle 3.



Never ever shop hungry


I know this one is really a no brainer – but nothing good ever comes of going to the grocery store hungry. I don’t care what you eat – whether it be a meal or a snack – but dear friend please have something! If not everything looks good. You end up buying things that you would have never have even contemplated putting in your cart. If you go astray – always try to J.E.R.F. If you do that – then the damage might not be too bad.


grocery shopping tips



And guess what? If it ends up in your cart – it ends up in your house. And if it is in your house — you will likely eat it 🙂


So why not avoid this nonsense all together? Keep healthy snacks in your car. Some suggestions include single serving packs of almonds, RX bars, single serving packet of trail mix, small bags of popcorn, and my personal favorite beef jerky.



Well my friends that is hopefully motivation on this Monday to get your butt in gear.  Happy grocery shopping and hope to see you at Traders, Shop Rite, Whole Foods, Aldi’s or Costco or any other grocery store in between.



Need help navigating the jungle that we call the grocery store? Did you know the dietitians at The Plano Program conduct both one-one and group grocery shopping tours? Well we sure do!  Email us us at amy.plano@yahoo.com to sign up.

Hugs & High Fives,

  food journal



Part 3: How to Smash Your 2019 Nutrition Goals



So, I gave you some time off last week from having to think too hard 🙂 But, I am coming back at you with a vengeance today. This week we are finishing up your favorite topic – good ol’ goal setting. So, grab your nutrition goals that you have been working on so diligently and let’s get to work! 


To clarify once again these are the five key steps to goal setting to ensure your success. If you are coming in late to the game and want to revisit the first two steps of nutrition goal setting click here to read Part 1 of How to Crush your Nutrition Goals and click here to read Part 2 of How to Crush your Nutrition Goals.  





Consequently, this week we are tackling # 3: Create an effective monitoring tool # 4: Execute your goals like the champ you are and # 5: Assess your goals at regular intervals



#3 – Create an effective monitoring tool


So, you let’s recap. In short, so far we have helped you clearly define your S.M.A.R.T nutrition goals. Next we helped you set a realistic game plan. However, now you need an effective tool to monitor these goals.


You have heard the saying, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Well my friends, this certainly applies to setting nutrition goals. Pick a ‘tool’ – any ‘tool’ to manage your goals.






Below are examples of tools to help monitor and track your progress towards your nutrition goals. Please note depending upon what your personal nutrition or exercise goal is not all these tools may be applicable. I provide them just to demonstrate the various ways in which you can track your success.


  • A FREE tracking app like ‘My Fitness Pal, Lose It or Sparkpeople
  • An exercise journal
  • A food journal
  • Physical body assessments like body fat percentages as well as waist, hip, bust and bicep measurements
  • A real, live person to report your successes to weekly (like an accountability buddy!)
  • An exercise tracking device like an iwatch or fitbit
  • Before and after pictures
  • Lab values
  • Performance markers like amount of weight lifted, time trials, Vo2Max, ect.


Notice many of them are by no means fancy. But all of them get the job done. However, keep in mind the best monitoring tool is the one you are likely to consistently use.


I am old-school and use a good old fashion journal. For some reason I feel much more comfortable writing my goals down.




But you may find that boring and rather log your food or nutrition in an app. Whatever you choose – just stick with it!


#4 – Execute your goals like the champ you are


Just. Do. It. In order to be successful with your goals, you need to be 110 % committed to taking action. Talk is cheap.  And just like Benjamin Franklin once said Well done is better than well said.”  I don’t think anyone can argue with that.


So, put on your blinders. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and just do it. Pull out your goals each every morning and every night. Focus on what is important NOW! Because I hate to be the bearer of bad news but If you don’t prioritize your goals and life for that matter – someone else will.  


#5 – Assess your goals at regular intervals


Remember your nutrition and exercise goals are not carved in stone. In other words, they should be dynamic and evolving in nature. Therefore, it is important to revisit them at regular intervals and make sure they are serving you. Here are some questions to ask yourself when assessing your goals:


  • Am I happy with my progress? Yes? No? Why?
  • What am I most proud of and why?
  • What do I need to be doing differently to ensure my continued success?
  • What are repeated barriers that are standing in my way to succeeding? How can I bullet-proof them?
  • How can I  high-five myself for a job well done?
  • What is the next behavior I want to tackle and why?


My new favorite quote is from the book You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I think it pretty much sums up goal setting perfectly, “There is nothing as unstoppable as a freight train full of fuck-yeahs.”






In conclusion, hone your goal setting skills, take your health seriously, DO what you need to be successful, invest in yourself, practice your ass off, fail, fall down, but above all get right back up. Repeat 🙂



Hugs & High Fives,





P.S. Having a hard time getting back up? Heck we have all been there! Feel free to reach out to the dietitians at The Plano Program to set up a consult to help get you on track to where you want to be going.


P.P.S. Love yourself – you are capable of anything.

Amy’s Number One Resource for Meal Prep

SO if you know me at all – you know that I love to cook! Therefore, it is no surprise that one of my favorite websites is called The Kitchn. If you have not checked it out it is a fun website geared towards the home cook. They offer articles on everything from cool new gadgets to Whole-30 compliant recipes. It is a food dork’s black hole. Therefore, please be warned you can really get lost on the site 🙂 Most importantly, their latest and greatest resource? A weekly newsletter aimed at

healthy meal prep.

Sign. Me. Up.


In January of this year The Kitchn started offering a FREE Meal Prep Newsletter in which they send out a weekly email that features doable plans and helpful recipes so you can prep, cook, and eat for the week ahead. The best part – they think of the healthy recipes so you don’t have to.
meal prep

Free newsletter with healthy meal prep options? Sign me up!

Most importantly did I mention this newsletter is FREE – delivered straight to your inbox 🙂 If that is not a win – then I don’t know what is.


You Know YOU Wanna


Above all in my heart of hearts, I honestly feel like most people want to eat healthy. However, I also feel like most people don’t take the time to do the necessary things to set themselves up to succeed – like meal prep. Call it laziness. Call lack of focus. Call it whatever you want. Most people have solid nutrition goals – they just choose NOT to make them a priority.

meal prep

Photo credit: Wooden Earth Cutlery

A couple of weeks ago we talked about the importance of goal setting. We actually used the example of meal prep. If you need a little refresher on goal setting click here for the full details. Success means not only shopping for the right foods but also engaging in meal prep. Furthermore, I think this quote pretty much sums up successful meal prep.

 “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” — Bobby Unser

Therefore,  when you and your family are 50 shades of “hangry” there is awesome, tasty, healthy food available.


Just Do It


So I encourage you to sign up for this newsletter. I think it could be very helpful. A resource like this has the potential to provides SO many things – inspiration, focus, motivation and even a definitive answer for the age old question, “What’s for dinner?”  And after all, who does not want to learn how to cook fast, shop smart, and eat well? I know this chick does!

Need Additional Inspiration?


Sorry there is no other way to put it. I am a Pinterest whore. I simply ♥ Pinterest.

mela prep

Sometimes I just want to look at pretty food. Is that too much to ask?


So if you need a little ‘pick me up’ or a bit of inspiration follow my modest Meal Prep Pinterest board.  Also if you are just looking for suggestions for dinner please follow my main pinterest board with all sorts of healthy dinner options! I have over 2000 healthy recipes Amy Plano approved 🙂 Get your eat on!

Hugs & High Fives,


Part 2: How to Smash Your 2019 Nutrition Goals

So last week we talked about the importance of goal setting. And guess what? This week we are going to continue the conversation. It is really that important.


Like I mentioned there are what I like to consider five key steps to goal setting to ensure your success.


goal setting


Sooooo … last week we hammered the importance of step 1 – defining super duper CLEAR goals. We talked at length about how to clearly define your nutrition goals. How could you forget right? Remember I asked you to tattoo the acronym S.M.A.R.T on your wrist? Kidding! But just in case you need a refresher you can catch up here. But no worries – no tattooing this week, I promise.


Establish a realistic game plan


This week we are going to chat about the importance of coming up with a clear, realistic and effective game plan for your nutrition goals. This game plan will represent the exact steps you need to do to tackle your goals.


goal setting



It is here, in this step, that we take the S.M.A.R.T goals we have defined and add an actionable component. Without this very important piece you will be likely left spinning your wheels. 


So let’s use the goal of meal prepping. We came up with this S.M.A.R.T goal last week:


I will meal prep 1.5 hours every Sunday and Wednesday for the next month.


We made sure our goal was specific, that it was measurable, attainable, realistic and was time-sensitive. So this plan sounds great in theory, right? It looks good on paper, but how can we make sure we accomplish it?


Break your goal into bite size pieces


Well, we need to break down the goal into smaller steps. We need to identify EACH step that needs to be completed in order for us to be successful.  Then we need to come up with a game plan surrounding these actions.


Sweat the small things – the details matter


With a goal like meal prepping here are some of the questions you may need to ask yourself to ‘flesh’ out the mandatory steps to ensure your success.


Exactly what am I going to eat for the week? Breakfast? Lunch? Dinners? Snacks?

What specific food do I already have on hand that I should use up?

Exactly when and where am I going to grocery shop?


You have to get very specific. For each question there should be a very finite answer. No matter how clear your goal is – unless you outline the necessary steps there is just too much room for error.


It’s go-time

So the game plan might look like this:


goal setting



I would highly suggest putting all of this in writing. Write out your menu. Print or electronically save your recipes. I have a board in Pinterest called ‘dinners’ (yes, super creative!) that you are more than welcome to follow for inspiration. I also have a board called ‘Meal Prep’ that you might find equally as helpful. Write in your schedule exactly when you will go grocery shopping.


The more specific you get with your actions the increased likelihood of you connecting with your goals. Creating clear concrete goals is important. But coming up with game plan is equally as important.


Need help creating a game plan for your nutrition goals? The dietitians at The Plano Program are here to help. Click here to schedule your 60 minute initial consultation.


Hugs & High Fives,

goal setting



P.S. Got tips for meal prepping? Leave them in the comments below. After all, who does not love a good meal prep hack?

Part 1: How to Smash Your 2019 Nutrition Goals

The ultimate guide to crushing your nutrition goals


You know the saying, “Fail to plan. Plan to fail,” well today we are going to attack this full throttle. 

Have you ever found yourself asking, Why can’t I force myself to go to the gym before work? Meal prep on Sundays? Stop snacking when I am not hungry? Why am I so friggin’ bad at changing?

Even the most motivated people can get stuck, frustrated, and lose hope during the process of behavioral change. Change is really, really, really hard. But if we set ourselves up to succeed by establishing clear nutritional goals that are strategic and sustainable we increase the likelihood of our success. Today we are going to outline the critical steps we need to take to be successful with our nutrition goals. While these steps may sound easy in theory, following through with them is the hardest part. When things get hard – what do we do? We give up. And I am here to make sure that doesn’t happen 🙂 


Establish a strong ‘why’ 


Just around this time each year everyone seems to start losing their mojo when it comes to their hard-set New Year’s resolutions. As Elon Musk once said, “When you are not progressing, you are regressing.” So, in order to progress, you need to have your “why” firmly planted in your mind. If you don’t, you’ll likely lose focus and back peddle. So I am here to give you the kick in the booty to hit that reset button and get your head back in the game.

Goal setting is SO important. But to be honest with you most people set some pretty ‘weak’ nutrition goals. I am not saying their intentions are poor. I am just saying that after 20 years of working in the fitness and nutrition industry I very rarely see well composed nutrition goals. Most people’s goals tend to be far too ambiguous. They tend to be vague and focus on outcomes we have very little control over rather than behaviors.

But don’t freak out my friend – you are not in trouble. Truth be told – no one probably ever taught you how to set solid goals. But guess what? That is all going to end today. Professor P is in the house! I am going to give you the 411 on how to set effective nutrition goals and smash every one of them.


The five critical steps to setting nutrition goals 


This blog is going to be part of a series on goal setting. There are 5 key critical steps necessary to be successful with executing your nutrition goals. We don’t want to rush through them. Instead we are going to take our time and tackle each one step by step. The five key steps to setting and accomplishing goals like a boss are as follows:

  1. Define clear nutrition goals
  2. Establish a realistic game plan
  3. Create an effective monitoring tool
  4. Execute your goals like the champ you are
  5. Assess your goals at regular intervals


Let’s get started with the most important step of them all.


Step1: clearly define your nutrition goals


Ask yourself: what is really most important right now for me to accomplish?

What is my numero uno nutrition goal? Think lowest hanging fruit here! What is the one thing, if I changed right now, would provide the biggest return on my health investment? No need to go crazy with creating a gazillion goals. Choose 1-2 goals which are MOST important to YOU and can have the biggest potential impact on your health.

Let’s set some hard and fast rules. Rule number 1 – all of your goals MUST be S.M.A.R.T. goals. They must have the following criteria no matter what.  


nutrition goal


We will circle back to these confines in one moment. So hang tight.


Focus on what you can change – your behavior 


It is critical to focus your goals on BEHAVIOR change NOT outcomes. The truth of the matter is that the journey to success starts with a goal and finishes with a desired outcome. Goals pave the path to achieving our desired outcomes. 

An example of an outcome would be = I want to lose 15 pounds. If the intended outcome is to lose 15 pounds I want you to think about what specific behaviors need to be modified to help you achieve this outcome. Zero in on the behaviors – forget the outcomes. What matters most is modifying the behavior change.

Outcomes like weight loss are often dependent on outside forces we cannot control. Therefore, by focusing on behavior change we have complete control over whether or not we are successful with our goals. Some examples of modifiable behaviors are – excessive snacking, minimal exercise, increased consumption of fast-food or convenience foods, going too long without eating, not taking the time to plan and not making the time to cook.



So let’s stick with the example of the outcome that you want to lose 15 pounds by April 1st. How do we turn that into a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Easy peasy – we pick the associated behavior that if we modified helps bring us closer to reaching our outcome.


Meal prep – an admirable goal 


Let’s say you are a sub-par meal planner. And because of this you end up eating high calorie convenience foods that are loaded in calories and unsavory ingredients. This behavior supports your current weight; rather than bringing you closer to your goal weight of being 15 pounds lighter. So let’s create a clear S.M.A.R.T. goal to combat this behavior. 


Every Sunday and Wednesday I will set aside 1.5 hours per day to meal prep all my meals for the week.


This goal is very specific and time sensitive. We know exactly when we will be meal prepping as well as how much time we are going to block out in our schedule. It is attainable and realistic as it is only requiring 3 hours out of our week. [Note – there are 168 hours in each week. Three hours towards meal prep consumes  < 1 % of our available hours.] Lastly, it is easy to measure. We have either meal prepped our meals for the week on those two days – or we didn’t. It is therefore easy to determine whether or not you accomplished your goal.


Write it down 


Lastly, write your nutrition goals down in a visible place. Whether that be in your day planner, directly in your schedule, in a journal, on a post-it note on your desk, or on a scrap piece of paper in your wallet.


nutrition goals

Get your goals on!


Tattoo them on your arm if you think you might forget! And just to be clear you need to look at your goals often to keep them fresh on your mind. I suggest the bare minimum would be reading them first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed. 


Find an accountability buddy 


Got goals? I bet you do! Find someone whether they be a close friend, family member or a spouse and share your nutrition goals with someone you trust. That way not only can that person help you fine-tine them to ensure they are S.M.A.R.T (like you!) – but you also have someone to hold you accountable.


Next week we will tackle: Step # 2 in our goal setting series – Establishing a realistic game plan.  


Need some help? We have your back! 


Head spinning? Need help defining clearly defined your hard pressed nutrition goals? Well I have your back. Please feel free to schedule a one-one nutrition visit to get started on making 2019 your best nutrition year yet. Best part? My team and I accept most health insurances. Biggity boom!  


Hugs & High Fives, 

nutrition gaols

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