What is the ketogenic diet?

It’s feature time again, folks, and it’s finally time to talk about the diet everyone is going on about – keto! The keto (aka ketogenic) diet has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years as a weight loss diet, and proponents tout that you can lose weight quickly without cravings.1 Interestingly enough, the ketogenic diet started as a therapeutic diet for children who suffer from epilepsy. The high fat content of the diet is linked with decreased occurrence of seizures in these kiddos.2

Keto curiosity is rampant! Questions about the keto diet top the list of FAQs from my weight loss clients. Even those who don’t directly ask about keto are often asking about how to limit their carbs to encourage weight loss. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting info about the keto diet – what it is, how it works, and the pros/cons of the diet. I won’t actually be following this one (we’ll talk about why throughout the feature), but we’ll be diving into the research and practicality as always!



What is the keto diet?

The keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet.2 The diet is designed to cease your body’s reliance on carbohydrates (broken down into glucose) for energy and instead shift to your body’s alternative fuel source – ketones. In the absence of glucose (aka blood sugar), your body begins to convert fat that you’ve eaten and stored body fat to ketones, which your brain can use for fuel! If you were privy to the Atkins kick, you may be noticing some similarities between the two. You’d be right! The keto diet is something of a reincarnated version of Atkins.

The keto diet includes plenty of vegetables and many high fat and protein foods such as:

  • beef and pork
  • poultry
  • fish
  • processed meats like bacon, sausage, etc.
  • cheese
  • avocado
  • nuts and seeds
  • butter and oils

To limit carbohydrates (usually to around 20-60 g per day), the diet restricts consumption of the following foods:

  • fruit
  • beans
  • certain vegetables such as corn, peas, carrots, and potatoes
  • bread and grains (pasta, rice, cereal)
  • milk and yogurt
  • sugar, honey, and syrups

Keeping the carbohydrate intake low keeps the body from coming out of ketosis, therefore promoting fat loss.



Stay tuned – we will talk more about the research behind keto and pros/cons of following the diet in future posts!


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Sometimes starting a new exercise plan can be overwhelming. One nice thing about being more active is that you have a lot of options, but that can also be a struggle. Many people are confused about what types of exercises they “should” do and how they should do them. This post will give you some tips on selecting exercises and making a sustainable (and dare I say, enjoyable?) exercise plan.

Keep in mind that any new exercise plan should be approved by your doctor, particularly if you have any chronic diseases or injuries. Use this form to guide you as you plan to safely increase your physical activity.



What are your goals?

Ultimately the exercises that you choose should be guided by your health goals. While being physically active is beneficial for overall health, choosing the most appropriate and specific exercises will help you achieve your goals most efficiently.

  • Weight Loss – Start out any new weight loss plan by focusing on simply moving more than you move now. Once that becomes a habit, then increase the cardiovascular challenge by spending more time with your heart rate up. Finally, add in strength training to build muscle mass. This extra muscle will use up energy, increasing your metabolism.
  • Endurance – To increase your endurance, start by gradually increasing the amount of time you spend with your heart rate up. In this case, you’re not looking for very intense exercise, but a moderate challenge that you can sustain for longer and longer bouts of time as you train. Then add in strength training, focusing on more repetitions (10+) and lower weights.
  • Strength – Begin by focusing on your form – ask a trainer or friend (or watch in the mirror) to ensure you are performing the exercises safely and effectively. Gradually increase the difficulty, focusing on fewer repetitions (6-8) and higher weights. Focus on muscle balance – if you train one side of your body (for example, your chest), you must also train the other (your upper back, in this case). If you train biceps, be sure to also train triceps. This helps to protect your joints from imbalances that can lead to injury. Make sure to incorporate the recommendations for flexibility into any strength training plan as well.
  • Improved digestion – Yes, physical activity can improve digestion! Moderate cardiovascular exercise can improve circulation to your intestines, helping your body break down and absorb food more efficiently. Another significant factor is stress – stress can wreak havoc on digestion! Consistently performing stress-reducing activities like prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation can play a huge role in improving digestion.
  • Improved health markers (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) – While it varies based on which lab values you’re targeting, most are improved with combinations of cardio and strength training, even without weight loss; however, reducing excess body weight is linked with improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  • Flexibility – This is a great goal if you’re wanting to improve or maintain movement in your joints and prevent injuries. Anyone can benefit from maintaining flexibility. The key here is consistency. Stretch your muscles and joints regularly. Whether you use yoga, standing stretches, or wall stretches doesn’t matter as long as you are gentle and consistent.





This is so, so important to an exercise program. If you detest doing a certain type of exercise, do not plan on or expect that you will do it consistently. That is a great way to set yourself up to either quit or be miserable. Bear in mind that the first few weeks of any exercise program will be difficult since you are not yet trained for the exercise, but I’m not referring to difficulty here. I’m talking about enjoyability – if you hate to dance, don’t join a Zumba class. If you can’t stand being on a cardio machine, don’t commit to a treadmill. Find methods of exercise that you actually enjoy.


Sometimes that looks like building a little more intensity into the movements you do in everyday life. For example, if you love to garden and be outside, use a push mower, shovel by hand, or cut your own firewood. If you like to watch television, ride a stationary bike while you do or – one of my personal faves –  take a drinking game designed for the show you’re binge-watching and exchange the shots for exercises. These tasks will incorporate fitness into aspects of your life that you do enjoy.




Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have the equipment or space to do this activity? Will you need a gym membership? Is there a realistic time in your day to set aside to do this?

If the basic logistics aren’t there, find something more accessible. If all else fails, there are hundreds of workout videos on Youtube for any type of workout you can think of. No fees, no membership, no travel, and no need for fancy exercise clothes (unless you want them).


Taking all three of these factors into account can help make sure that your exercise program gets you where you’re trying to go in the most enjoyable way that is realistic for your life. Fitness isn’t always fun and there aren’t too many people who are super jazzed to do their workout every day always, but a little thought and planning on the front end can make a huge difference in the long run. If you find yourself stuck or confused, find yourself a certified fitness professional to help you out. Finding a way to make it work is worth it!


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We are past the halfway point of January – did you make health goals this year? Resolutions? How are they doing? Here are a few of my best tips on making changes that stick!


Key #1: Before you change anything

Decide carefully how you will achieve your goals. For many years, scientists have been studying methods for weight loss to find the “best” way to get pounds off. The surprising result of a lot of this research is that so many methods work. A lot of nutritionists have taken to saying, “diets don’t work.” It might be semantics but in general, if the goal is to lose weight – most fad diets do work. Whether it’s low carb, low fat, low calorie, or portion control – weight typically comes off.1-5  If they didn’t work at all for losing weight, word would get around pretty quickly and they would never become popular.

Here’s the kicker (besides that many fad diets aren’t safe): the statistics for maintaining weight loss after a diet are horrendous. Long-term studies show that five years after short-term diets the result is an average regain to anywhere from a net loss of only 6 lbs to a gain of 10-21% of pre-diet weight.2,6 Yikes!

Many fad diets can be extreme, overly restrictive, or just plain miserable (or option d, all of the above). Most people beginning a diet program are willing to commit to short-term pain for long-term gain. Unfortunately, the reality is that long-term dieting is generally not sustainable, and weight loss from short-term dieting is temporary.

But fear not – all hope is not lost! The National Weight Control Registry is comprised of people who have successfully lost at least 30 lbs and kept it off for at least a year, though most participants have lost an average of 72.6 lbs and kept it off for more than 5 years.7 Their participants report that ongoing, long-term participation in sustainable habit changes has been key to their success, as opposed to radical, short-term dieting. You can read more about their habit changes at the National Weight Control Registry website.

All these studies show that a pivotal ingredient for long-term success with wellness, weight loss, muscle gain, or any habit change is sustainability. One of my favorite quotes sums up the wisdom behind this:

Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.”

-Charles H. Spurgeon

Some may wonder what the last phrase has to do with wellness, and personally I believe it is vitally important (and apparently so did Spurgeon since he tacked it on there), so I included it. Regardless of how you feel about God, however, the sentiment is to not even begin a habit change that you can’t commit to long-term. Find changes that work with your lifestyle, not against it.


Recognize that temporary habit changes create temporary results.  You can tweak them, change them, or adjust to the fluidity of life as needed, but if your habit changes disappear completely, so will the fruits of your labors.


Key #2: After you’ve met your goals

You’ve done it, congratulations! You’ve met your goal! You’ve placed a new brick in the healthy foundation upon which you can continue building the life you want. Guess what? You’re not done! If you want to continue to enjoy the benefits of your progress, you must grab hold of the second key to long-term success:

Always have a goal and a sustainable plan to achieve it.

Achieving a goal merits celebration, and also the exciting task of deciding what your next goal will be. It doesn’t have to be intense – your goal could be maintenance and your plan might be walking – but you need to have both or you’ll watch all your hard work and health benefits slip away. Living a healthy life is swimming upstream in our culture – you can not coast into good health.


Have a goal of your own but need help finding a sustainable plan that fits your lifestyle? Contact me or schedule an appointment to start building a healthy foundation for the life you want!


Goal Setting


If your goal for the New Year was to eat more healthfully, you may have selected a diet to make it happen. You’re 8 days in so I’m wondering how you’re doing. Having some cravings? Feeling deprived? If so, you may be barking up the wrong tree. If you’re struggling to foresee this diet lasting for the long run, I’ve got some tips for making some more sustainable (and less miserable) changes.


Here’s what to do instead:


1. Don’t get married without dating first!

What I mean is, don’t commit to stick to a plan if you have no clue how well it is going to work for your body and your life. If it feels like fighting, clawing, and scratching, then it’s not the right change for you. Avoid committing to any plan that you haven’t tried out first. Honestly evaluate how it fits into your life and if it doesn’t, it’s not your failure – it’s the wrong plan!


healthy habits that fit your life


2. Commit to a habit, then figure out how to make it work in your life.

Instead of a whole plan, pick a healthy habit. Want to drink more water? Great! Pick an ounce goal (80-100 oz is a good start for most folks) and try however many strategies you must in order to find the one that actually helps you get there. Try carrying a water bottle everywhere. Try setting mini-goals (20 oz. by 10 am, 40 by noon). Try an app like My Fitness Pal. Try a cheesier app like Plant Nanny. Try fruit-infused water. Try tea. Try filling a gallon jug of water daily. Try whatever you need to try until you get closer to where you want to be. The real work is in finding the strategy that doesn’t feel like work.


Once you’ve figured that one out, choose another habit and stack it on top of the first. Ready to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day? Walk for 20 minutes 3 times per week? Regardless of the goals you pick, this test-driving strategy means you’ll have the opportunity to make each change fit your life. Once you stack up all your new (and easy to stick with) habits, just think how much healthier you’ll be! Not to mention how much more enjoyable it will be than that “clean eating” cleanse you were thinking about trying…


3. Put your blinders on

This is the toughest part and it’s a total mental game. Your cousin’s on keto, your PTO pal is on paleo, and your fitness-nut friend is fasting 16 hours a day. They’re all losing weight and you’re over here working on your water intake. It can truly be maddening. Keep in mind – most any diet will get weight off. Most any diet will not keep weight off. Remind yourself how many times you’ve watched someone (or you yourself have done this…it’s okay!) diet, lose weight, then gradually gain it all back and then some. All of these people you know are setting their bodies up to gain more fat in the long run. It’s sad, but it’s true!

So try not to let them influence you. It’s so, so hard, I know! I’m a dietitian – I’ve studied nutrition for 10 years – and I can still feel myself being influenced by social media progress photos from diets and supplements that I know are not safe or effective. It is a battle. But it’s a battle worth fighting.

You must find your healthy life.

That means that you eat what works for your body, your family, your budget, your lifestyle, and makes you happy. Put in the work to find out what that is, and you’ll be so pleased with how easy it can be to be healthy!


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how do I detox after the holidays


I’ve already been asked this question by three clients this year, so I figured it’s probably a good topic for a post!


Question: How can I detox from all of my holiday eating?



The term “detox” is actually misleading, since if your kidneys and liver are functioning properly, it’s not likely that your body is accumulating toxins. They do a pretty good job of keeping those at bay! However, after a couple weeks of holiday partying you’re probably not feeling your best. Common complaints include:

  • Swelling/rapid weight gain – When you eat more sodium than your body is used to, the sodium binds with water in your body and causes you to retain a bit of extra water weight.
  • InflammationHigh intakes of sugar, alcohol, and certain types of fat (that like to come out at parties) are inflammatory. Not to mention we tend to eat more of the foods that our individual bodies just “don’t agree with” at holiday times. This can lead you with a dose of extra inflammation for a bit afterward.
  • Headache – This is likely to due either to hangover, inflammation, or dehydration (or a combo).
  • Digestive…um…disturbances – These can vary across the spectrum from constipation to diarrhea to gas and bloating. This is usually related to eating foods that your normal collection of gut bacteria are not used to. They aren’t prepared for it and have a hard time helping you digest. Thus, disturbances.
  • Low energy – Sugar crashes, the effects of alcohol, and lack of vitamins and minerals can leave you feeling sluggish.
  • Heartburn – This one can be caused by eating more food overall, or specifically more fat, sugar, alcohol, or high-acid foods.
  • Guilt – I gotta throw this one in here, since many people feel badly about their actions after holiday eating


The good news is, most of this is temporary. If you go back to your usual routine you’ll probably feel normal again after a few days or a week. If you want to speed up the process, here are some tips to feel your best as soon as possible after the holidays.

  1. Hydrate – The number one thing you can do to resolve most of the issues above is to hydrate. Drinking water, tea, and black coffee can help to flush out extra sodium, which in turn can help resolve water retention. Seems backwards, but it’s true. Hydration can also help with digestion, energy, and headaches. Aim for 100 oz of fluid per day for a couple of days. Bonus: Green tea is loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants, so it’s a great option.
  2. Get 4-5 fruit and vegetable servings per day – Water content in produce helps with hydration, and the antioxidant vitamins and minerals in these nutritious goodies fight inflammation and should get your energy back on track.
  3. Go easy on sodium – Extra sodium is causing that buildup of fluid and contributing to dehydration at the same time. Steering clear of high-sodium foods like processed meats, canned/boxed foods, or restaurant meals for a couple of days can help kill the bloat.
  4. Be active – Moving your body helps reduce inflammation and promote healthy digestion and circulation (that gets the water weight out quicker)!
  5. Don’t beat yourself up – Easier said than done when our diet-crazed culture is coming at ya swinging, particularly at the start of the year. Do. Not. Feel. Bad. For. Enjoying. Food. You are under absolutely no obligation to dwell on your holiday eating behavior. If you feel physically bad, make a few healthful choices today and head in a direction that makes you feel good. There is absolutely no worth in kicking yourself for enjoying your holidays. In fact, I encourage it! What is a healthy life for if not to be enjoyed?


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realistic holiday health tips


It’s December! That means Christmas party platters, warm cozy beverages, and a cornucopia of cookies and candies. For some, these goodies can add stress to the holidays, taking away from the real focus of the season. Here are some tips to navigate the next few weeks while staying healthy in your body and mind.


1. Prioritize

Our natural tendency is to take a little bit of everything at any given holiday event. Often, though, we don’t even truly love all of these treats. Skim the spread and honestly ask yourself which items are sure to delight you. Which one would you be sad to leave without? Dish up and enjoy! If there are others that aren’t your favorites, don’t take them by default. Make sure to prioritize what you really love!


2. Set Yourself up for Success

It’s tough to enjoy a holiday when you aren’t feeling well, and we all know that certain foods (in certain amounts) affect us in uncomfortable ways. If a gathering is potluck-style, bring a food that you know leaves you feeling great. Then you know there will be at least one dish that won’t leave you feeling less than your best. If you don’t have the option to bring something, snack on some feel-good foods before you head out.



3. Take Your Time

Don’t rush the experience – eating holiday food is a seasonal delight to be savored. Make a plate, have a seat, and visit with a loved one as you eat. Take time to enjoy each bite and chew well (this helps with digestion as well as enjoyment)! After finishing your plate, give yourself 10-15 minutes before you go back for seconds. Our satiety signals sometimes take a bit to kick in. Waiting can help prevent painful over-fullness!


4. Get Your Move On

You don’t have to kill it in the gym (unless you like to!). Just keep moving to keep from cabin fever and prevent your muscles and joints from getting tight or achy. Go for a frosty walk with a pet, spend a few minutes stretching before bed, do a Christmas boogie, or head for the mountains for a day of sledding or skiing.



5. Enjoy!

Do not let worries about your health or weight consume your holidays. Your mental health is a much larger part of your overall wellness than that Christmas cookie. Practice balance, give yourself grace, and enjoy every second with your family, friends and favorite foods.


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is olive oil the best cooking oil


A couple of weeks ago, I wrapped up a three week stent on the Mediterranean Diet. The guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet recommend that your primary fat source be olive oil, supplemented by fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. Olive oil is an excellent choice of fat – it’s loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs).1 Benefits of diets high in MUFAs include:

  • improved blood sugar and insulin sensitivity2
  • lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol2
  • blood vessels less prone to blockages2
  • possibly lower blood pressure2
  • reduced inflammatory responses3

The discovery and publication of these benefits led to a surge in the use of olive oil in all kinds of cooking and baking, for good reason! Who wouldn’t want to reap these benefits? There was, however, one concern looming regarding the use of olive oil in promoting health.



Smoke Points and Health

‘Smoke point’ is a term frequently discussed in the culinary world. Different oils have different temperatures at which they begin to create smoke and their aromas and flavors begin to change. This temperature is unique to each oil depending on its chemical composition and level of refinement/processing (and even varietal of the plant source4). They can also vary depending on what foods are being cooked in the oils.

Culinary experts recommend not cooking an oil beyond its smoke point largely because of the change in flavor. In addition, some voice concerns about the change in chemical composition that occurs when oils are heated beyond their smoke points.5-7 The general school of thought is that if an oil is heated beyond this point, it produces inflammatory, potentially carcinogenic compounds and some of the oil’s healthful properties can be diminished.8-9



Here’s where things start to get a bit dicey. Depending on who you ask, the smoke point of olive oil can be anywhere from 390-468° F, with the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) being anywhere from 325-410° F.5, 7, 10  Pretty significant ranges! Different cooking methods require different cooking temperatures, shown below.

  • Saute: 300-320° F
  • Pan-Fry: 350-400° F
  • Deep Fry: 350-400° F

Now you might conclude that olive oil is a good choice for a saute and possibly not the best choice for a good hot fry (depending on whose smoke point you go with). A 2018 study by Modern Olives Laboratory Services found that the negative changes that can occur with oils in heating are not so much related to their smoke points as to their general chemical stability.11 After heating many different oils and testing their chemical compositions at high heats for over 24 hours, the researchers found that EVOO was the most stable cooking oil, producing the lowest amounts of oxidative compounds when heated. I’m always hesitant to trust studies whose authors have significant financial stock in the outcome, but this claim is backed by other studies which found that virgin and extra virgin olive oils contained fewer harmful compounds and more antioxidants after frying for several hours, though the antioxidants are less effective after heating.4, 9, 12-14 



So, should I cook with olive oil or not?

Yes – it turns out cooking with olive oil (particularly extra virgin olive oil) seems to be both a safe and nutritious way to saute or to fry foods. This newer information about olive oil’s stability helps to reconcile the health of those who follow a Mediterranean Diet with previous health concerns about the potential dangers of heating it. As a general rule, try not to use more heat than is necessary for your cooking job and limit time spent on the heat when you can.

Writing this post has actually changed the recommendations I will make to my clients, because I previously subscribed to the “smoke point” theory until I updated myself with this new research. That’s one of the many reasons I make sure to continue to keep up with this blog – it forces me to stay up to date and back up my recommendations!



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