Well, this is it! 21 days of MyPlate completed. Here are the stats for the whole project:

Weight changes: -1 pound

Waist changes: 0 inches

Average calorie intake: 1984

Number of days MyPlate food group guidelines were met: 13

Average cost of groceries per week: $33

Pros: The MyPlate diet is pretty easy to follow because you can quickly check just by looking at your plate. It promotes intakes of a wide variety of foods and as such is a good way to encourage balanced nutrition, control portion size, and get all of your vitamins and minerals.

Cons: As I mentioned in previous posts, not everyone agrees with the Guidelines. Some say they are too carb-y, some say too fatty, some say too loosey-goosey with restrictions on substances like sodium and saturated fat. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve read enough to develop my stance on those specific issues yet, but I’ll continue to research these topics as I move through the diets.

Observations: The diet was not drastically different from my normal way of eating, so I never really felt much different because of the foods I was eating. I covered a lot of the things I learned in my last post, but overall I gained an appreciation for the experience of tracking food and calories. It was pretty interesting to me to learn about the Guidelines, where they came from, and the controversies surrounding them.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to research as much in those 21 days as I had hoped. There is so much information to read and only so much time. One of the great things about studying nutrition is that everything really is connected. As I move into my next diets I will come across concepts I started researching last month. And on and on. Please send me a message through the Contact page about any specific nutrition questions you might have. I’d love to learn more about what my readers what to know!


Keep checking back! Readers voted and chose the Paleolithic (or Paleo) diet for me to follow next. Send me a message through the Contact page if you have any specific Paleo questions you would like me to answer!

MyPlate Guidelines


Today marks my last official day following the MyPlate diet. Starting in one week, I will begin on the next. I thought I’d sum things up a bit with a bunch of things I have learned, and that have already started to change the way I view food and work with my patients:

  1. My body regulates its calorie intake pretty well. I quickly realized that even if I wasn’t tracking my food throughout the day, I would end up eating 1800-2000 calories without feeling deprived or overfull. Bodies are cool like that.
  2. 1 cup is not as much as I thought. 0208140842aExhibit A: 1 cup of orange juice in a standard glass. Pouring appropriate servings took some practice.
  3. 2 tablespoons is a lot more than I thought. As the standard serving size for many condiments, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, mayonnaise, or any kind of salad dressing was waaaaaaaay more than I ever thought. I had always assumed I was eating more than that by default, but when I measured out 2 tablespoons of almond butter to eat with my apple I couldn’t even finish it!

  4. “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” mealsThis nifty little saying is something I had heard over time to flip the traditional “American” way of eating on its head. It makes sense because when you eat breakfast, you’re fueling your body for the whole day, so you need to eat more and eat well. At night, you’re only fueling your body for another hour or two. It worked beautifully for me when I was trying to get all of my food groups in. In the morning I was motivated to eat well and get all of my groups in and by the evening I was tired after work and more likely to go for something easy. It worked with my plan, rather than a common diet pattern of eating basically nothing for breakfast and lunch, then bingeing at dinner when you’re tired and starving. I heard a dietitian at a conference once refer to that as the “weight gain diet.”
  5. Meal plans can be helpful. They are also really annoying. It was a love-hate relationship for me. It was nice to know I had everything already bought and decided for what I was going to eat. However, making the grocery list, having no flexibility, and feeling like I “cheated” when I didn’t eat exactly what was on it were all big cons for me. Check out this article for more thoughts on meal plans.
  6. Vegetables are really low in calories. Like, REALLY low. I knew this already in my brain, but putting 1 cup of spinach, 1/4 cup of mushrooms, half a tomato, and half a cucumber into your tracker and getting a grand total of 37 calories kind of drives that one home.

  7. Tracking everything you eat is exhausting. It was kind of fun in its way…for about a week. After that it became very tiresome, especially if I got behind and had to catch up. From now on, I think I’ll recommend that clients track for about two weeks, and then maybe one day each week just to keep in check. After a week or two you get a pretty good idea of how to do it in your head, anyway.
  8. Tracking websites and apps help with this a lot. My fitness pal screenshotsPersonally I like My Fitness Pal, but there are negatives to it also. One thing I really love is that you can enter in homemade recipes, calculate the nutrition facts, and save them to go back and use later.
  9. Eating three servings of dairy a day is really repetitive. milkYogurt, milk, cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese.
  10. Vegetables are not really as difficult to get in as I expected. They can go in most anything. My friend Abbie taught me this the weekend I stayed with her. Abbie puts veggies in everything – scrambles for breakfast, soups for lunch, and side dishes for dinner. Just chop, chop, chop and sautee, bake, boil, or steam. They add tons of flavor variety too.
  11. It is extremely difficult to eat less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day. Except for when I was traveling, I cooked most everything at home from scratch. I ate a ton of fresh produce. I rinsed the canned beans. I stayed away from the packaged, the processed, the sodium-laden. It was a terrible struggle. I’ll have a lot more empathy for my heart failure patients from here on out.
  12. It is even more difficult to eat more than 35 grams of fiber per day. TONS of veggies, beans, and whole grains was not enough to get me there most of the time. I was about to start gnawing on cardboard in the evenings just to reach my daily goal.
  13. Eating MyPlate at restaurants is really not very tough (with the exception of limiting sodium). Portland mealMany places have fruit side dish options and milk as a beverage choice. The struggle here? Whole grains.
  14. Telling people you’re on a diet can be awkward. Most people were really supportive of me and the reasons I’m doing it, but that wasn’t always the case.

  15. Some kinds of exercise can make really big dents in your calorie intake. 0124141459Hiking, snowboarding, dancing, biking up hills, and plyometrics left my net calories for the day sometimes as low as 1400! I was shocked at how quickly these fun activities added up to big time calorie gaps.
  16. Other kinds of exercise make reaaaaaally teeny dents in your calorie intake. 0124141459Cycling through town or strolling with the fiance was not going to fit the bill if I was trying to even out an indulgent day.
  17. On a related note, it’s okay to have indulgent days. One weekend day out with Abbie I ate chicken wings at happy hour. You may have read about my Superbowl feast. In the end, it all averaged out. Some days were a little low, some days were a little high. I never really felt deprived at all during the entire three weeks.
  18. I don’t need to eat as much ice cream as I usually dish out. I still maintain that the half-cup serving size on the label is insulting and offensive, but two small scoops was enough for me. I rarely eat ice cream because I’m actually hungry…I just want to taste it.
  19. Starting small and working up with salt can go a long way. Make your meal and taste it. Add a little bit of salt only if you feel like you need to. I found that most of the time, I didn’t need to add any salt and when I did it ended up being only a pinch in the entire recipe.
  20. I’m really enjoying being creative with food. God gave us the amazing gift of thousands of different flavors in this world…and there are so many combinations to explore! I’m so excited about trying new foods, new recipes, and new ideas. Send me your favorites! I’d love to try them!
  21. I think it’s going to be hard for me to not pay attention to what I’m eating once the diet is over. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about being obsessed with their food once they have been on diets, and I can totally relate now. It’s a different animal to be completely aware of everything that goes down the gullet – keeping a mental tally of food groups, calories, and nutrients. Honestly, I’m really curious to see how it ends up going on this week off from dieting.

Thanks for your support and following along with me!


MyPlate Guidelines Wellness Tips

Weight change: -2 pounds from last week (loss of 1 pound since beginning of MyPlate diet)

Total cost of groceries: $52. I made a big shopping trip last week with the hope that the groceries will carry me into this week, and it’s looking like they are going to.

Average daily intakes (7 days)*:

  • Total calories (goal=2,000): 2075
  • Net calories (after subtracting exercise): 2029 (I know, I know…I didn’t do very much exercise this week)
  • Carbohydrates (goal=45-65% calories): 260 g (50% calories)
  • Protein (goal=10-35% calories): 65 g (13% calories)
  • Total fat (goal=20-35% calories): 66 g (29% calories)
  • Saturated fat (goal=less than 10% calories): 19 g (8% calories)
  • Sodium (goal=2300 mg or less): 2439 mg
  • Fiber (goal=more than 25 g): 25 g

# of days food group guidelines were met: SIX! Much improved from last week. I made much more of a focus of getting all of my food groups in this week.

The good: Working on getting food groups in changed my focus from what I couldn’t have to what I could. I like foods from all of the food groups, so it was a treat to look at what was left on my checklist to get in for each day. Calories stopped controlling my meal intakes, because (somehow…almost like magic) if I focused on getting the right amount of each of the food groups, I ended up pretty darn close to my calorie goal for the day. Go figure! It’s like they did the math or something.

The bad: I’m starting to feel a little bit of the weariness of tracking everything I eat. It’s funny how when I meet with my clients once a week, and they get tired of tracking their food after only two meetings it feels to me as though they’ve given up so quickly. But now that I’m tracking, it feels like I’ve been tracking my food for twoooooo loooooooooong weeks. Puts a little perspective on it…I apologize to my clients for my naivety!

The ugly: That stinkin’ sodium! My average is only 139 mg over my daily goal, but you should have seen the individual numbers. My lowest day was in the 1,600s, but my highest was in the 4,000s! I’ve always told patients that sodium is tough to keep in check, but I had no clue how tough. Personally, I’m a salt-lover and I would eat a whole bag of tortilla chips with a jar of salsa if left unattended for long enough. I figured that my regular, pre-MyPlate sodium intakes would likely have been off the charts, but I expected once I was following the diet, eating more fresh produce, and cooking more often that it would fall in line. Drat.

*Intakes are rounded 7-day averages. The percentages will not add up to 100%.

MyPlate Guidelines

First of all, I would love to shout a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the Seattle Seahawks for an epically awesome Super Bowl win! I had a heck of a great time watching them all season.

This particular game, in typical Super Bowl fashion, was watched by me at a party at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. With food. And drink. Lots of it. So I wanted to have a game plan. Here’s the play-by-play:

  1. Ask my bro what’s on the menu. I found out it was pretty much going to be meat, meat, and more meat.
  2. Ask my bro if I can bring something, and choose strategically. Since I knew what would be there I also knew what would not: fruit, veggies, dairy, and whole grains. I opted to bring a fruit salad so I would have an option for that food group. I also got sneaky and asked my mom to bring a veggie tray so I could get those in too.
  3. Think ahead. I knew where my weak points would be during the game (lunch and dinner times), so I targeted those at breakfast to get me started. One of Charlie and my favorite places to eat in Seattle is the Crumpet Shop, and he always gets a crumpet with ricotta cheese and orange marmalade. I replicated that with whole wheat English muffins, ricotta cheese, and some homemade peach jam. I topped that off with a fruit smoothie with 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 cup spinach. Superbowl BreakfastThis yummy breakfast started me off with 2 oz of whole grains, 1 1/2 cups dairy, 1 cup fruit, and 1/2 cup vegetables – all of the groups I knew would be tough to get at the party. Though I used some Greek yogurt and dairy to get protein in this breakfast, I avoided meat and eggs because I knew there would be loads of protein at the party later.
  4. Scope out the goods and make a plan. The smorgasboard consisted of meatballs, chicken wings, chili, veggie tray, fruit salad, (whole grain!) chips with dip, pizza, chocolate chip banana bread, and a variety of beverage. I was actually able to follow MyPlate pretty well for the lunch half of the party (had to do it in two plates because they were small).superbowl plates
  5. Relax and enjoy it. Don’t go crazy, but for Heaven’s sake, don’t deny yourself everything you want to eat. I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule: eat nutritiously 80% of the time, and the other 20% will help you balance it out. Later in the day, I had two pieces of pizza, some whole-grain chips, and a couple of ciders. I ended up with all of my food groups, 300 extra calories for the day, a Seahawks win and a huge smile on my face. And I don’t regret a thing. =)superbowl collage

MyPlate Guidelines

After dinner at my parents’ house I had about 200 calories and one serving of dairy left to go for the day so, logically, we started pursuing dreams of frozen dairy delights. I love ice cream. Love it. My sweet tooth really only has eyes for this cold creamy goodness. Since MyPlate tells me to avoid solid fats (such as the saturated fats in cream…sigh…) I began perusing Pinterest for healthier options. And I found…this stuff from Meghan on JaMonkey.

Three easy ingredients + twenty minutes = sweet, refreshing yummy-ness.

If made with fat-free Greek yogurt, unsweetened raspberries, and stevia, this dessert contains 18 g each of protein and carbs, 1 g of fat, and 150 totally-worth-it calories per 1 cup (yes, one WHOLE cup!) serving. You can easily switch it up with nearly any fruit or real sugar if you prefer.

raspberry frozen yum! Any way you shake it, this stuff is GOOD. And easy. And will definitely be re-visited in my diet future.


MyPlate Guidelines Recipes

Creamy chicken tortilla bake in an example of a MyPlate dinner with 1 cup mixed salad greens, a whole-wheat roll, and a cup of red grapes. I promise to work on improving my food photography skills in the future to better portray how delicious this really looked.
Creamy chicken tortilla bake in an example of a MyPlate dinner with 1 cup mixed salad greens, a whole-wheat roll, and a cup of red grapes. I promise to work on improving my food photography skills in the future to better portray how delicious this really looked.

Alright folks, here it is. Late in the day but as promised, a delicious new protein-packed entree. I’ve seen several like this on the interwebs, but this is my own personal design. One serving of this recipe will count for 3 ounces of protein, a half a cup of vegetables, and a half-serving of dairy on the MyPlate meal plan. For this recipe you will require:

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large sweet onion

1 large green bell pepper

1 medium jalapeno pepper

1 can (15 oz) low-sodium black beans (drained and rinsed)

1 medium tomato (chopped)

1 can heart-healthy cream of mushroom soup

Ground red pepper or cayenne pepper to taste

2 ounces whole corn tortilla chips

1 cup shredded low-fat cheese (Mexican blends work well here)

1/2 tablespoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

  1. Bake chicken breasts at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. While chicken is cooling, chop onion and peppers. Saute in olive oil over medium heat until soft.
  3. Shred cooked chicken with a fork and place in a large bowl. Add sauteed vegetables, black beans, tomato, soup, and spices (some like it hot!). Stir well.
  4. Crush the tortilla chips with your hands and spread half on the bottom of a 9″x13″ pan. Spread half of the chicken mixture on top of that, followed by half of the cheese.
  5. Repeat layers one more time: chips, chicken mixture, cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with cilantro. Delicioso!

Recipe makes about 12 servings. Each serving contains 229 calories, 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 31 g protein, and 301 mg sodium. Nutrition info calculated using

MyPlate Guidelines Recipes

As I’ve been focusing on carbohydrates in my research thus far, I wanted to build a “foundation of physiology”, if you will, to build all the dietary recommendations on. If you’re a science geek, I hope you’ll enjoy this with me. If you’re not a science geek and you’d rather mow grass with fingernail clippers than read about the way your body works, stop reading and come back tomorrow. I promise to post a delicious new recipe for you then. Now, on to the nitty-gritty.

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in grains, fruits, dairy, starchy veggies (potatoes, beans, etc.), and sugar. Depending on the type of food, the carbohydrates are either long chains of molecules (complex carbohydrates), or short chains or single molecules (simple carbohydrates). Once you put these in your mouth, your body gets right to work. An enzyme in your saliva starts breaking the bonds between the molecules. It usually doesn’t get very far, because most of us swallow before it has a chance to break all of the chains apart. My sixth grade science teacher used a neat trick to demonstrate this breakdown by giving us each a saltine cracker and told us to chew on it for at least a minute. Eventually, it started to taste sweet because the carbohydrates were being broken down into their individual sugar bits…pretty neat, huh?

Anyway, then you swallow and the food goes into your stomach. Not much happens here in the way of breaking apart the carb chains, because your stomach contents are too acidic for the enzymes to work. After your stomach has done its thing, the food passes into your small intestine where most of the magic happens. Another enzyme (dispatched from your pancreas) goes to work breaking the rest of the bonds in the chains of carbohydrates. You are basically left with single molecules known as monosaccharides. You may be familiar with their individual names: glucose, fructose, and galactose. I’m only going to talk about glucose for now, because that’s the most prominent player in your energy pathways. Glucose molecules are transported into your intestinal cells and then pass from there into your blood through a variety of methods. If you have ever heard of someone testing their blood glucose or their blood sugars, they are essentially measuring how many of these glucose molecules are floating around in their blood at any given time. Some of the glucose then goes to the liver for storage, and some of it needs to get into your body’s cells to provide you with energy. To get out of the blood and into most of those cells, glucose needs help from a hormone called insulin.



Think of the glucose molecules in your blood as people walking on the street, and the cells of your body as locked houses. The glucose can’t get into the houses without a key – in this case, insulin (as you can see in my highly sophisticated diagram above). Once it’s in your cells, it can either be used to make energy right away, or stored away in long chains called glycogen until your body needs energy later.

If there is more glucose left over when all of your body’s glycogen stores are full, then your body converts the glucose into fatty acids and stores it away as body fat. Furthermore, that extra glucose actually tells your body to use less of your body’s stored fat for energy. Now before you go scolding your body for this process, remember that it came from the survival instincts of our ancestors who often lived in times of either feast or famine. While there was plenty to eat, their bodies stored fat to sustain them in times of hunger. The problem for many modern-day people is that they constantly live in times of plenty. When people go on low-calorie weight-loss diets, their bodies will start to use that fat (and unfortunately, muscle) to fuel them. Now I’m definitely not advocating that we all just run off and haphazardly quit eating carbohydrates to lose weight. There are definitely pros and cons to be weighed, and for now I’m an advocate of age-old moderation. In agreement with the information I referenced in previous posts, my textbook on metabolism states that (as of 2009) researchers have yet to determine the ideal balance between carbohydrate, fat, and protein intakes for fat loss. Clearly, there is a balance to be achieved.

So there you have it – a snippet of your body’s complex innerworkings. Maybe now you and your body will have more to talk about!

How Your Body Works