How to Avoid Gaining Weight During the Holidays

I love food as much as anyone.  In fact, a really good meal brings me great joy!  But you know what I don’t enjoy?  That miserable “stuffed” feeling you get after an overly-large holiday meal.  Even worse is the feeling you get when you step on the scale for the first time once the holidays are over.

Fortunately, I have good news.  There are ways to enjoy eating during the holidays without slipping into overindulgence.  Here are few tips I recommend you try this year to make your holidays happy and healthy:

General tips:

  • If someone brings or offers you food, remember: you don’t have to eat it. You can either politely tell them you aren’t hungry, or you can take the food and share/donate it later to someone in need.  It’s okay to decide if a food is truly worth eating or not.  We make decisions all day about how to spend our money and time.  Consciously deciding how to spend our calories is just as wise.
avoid weight gain during holidays
You don’t have to avoid these as long as you make mindful eating decisions during the holidays!
  • Be careful of liquid calories. Many beverages can contain a lot of empty calories that don’t make us any fuller, but can contribute a lot of extra pounds.  It is also easy to quickly drink a lot of calories that can take a long time to burn off.  For example, an 8 oz. cup of hot chocolate is easily going to contain at least 150 kcal.  For me, burning those calories takes at least 30 minutes of walking at a fast pace, or about 10 min of running to burn.  This isn’t to say you shouldn’t drink any hot chocolate or eggnog or whatever else you enjoy, if you’re willing and able to do some cardio after.


  • Make sure to keep your home well-stocked with more nutrient-dense, less calorie-heavy foods. If you make sure to get plenty of good nutrient dense foods in per day, you won’t be as hungry for the foods that contain more empty calories.  By no means am I saying you should skip out on your favorite treats.  But if you eat nutrient-dense food first, you won’t probably feel the urge to snack on holiday fudge as much.

At gatherings

  • Scope out all the food selections before grabbing a plate or starting to eat. Decide what foods really look best to you.  See if you can narrow it down to 5-6 foods you really want to try the most.


  • Start with very small portions of each food and then decide what foods you enjoyed the most and truly want more of. In other words, use your “second helpings” wisely!  By not filling up all at once, you can eat more of what you really like as the meal goes on.


  • Don’t hang out near the food. Get your food and go sit down somewhere, preferably across the room from the buffet.  If you finish your plate and are still hungry, then go back for more.


  • At many holiday gatherings, everyone is responsible for bringing something. I recommend bringing a lower-calorie option to share.


  • Have a snack before you arrive at a large gathering. Some people think if they skip the previous meal, they will have more room in their calorie budget for the buffet.  This often backfires and ends in overeating.  In other words, never skip breakfast Thanksgiving morning!  (Or any morning.)


  • Remind yourself that you can have more food later if you get hungry again. You can even put food on a plate and set it aside for yourself to eat later on.

The key thing to remember is to listen to your body, and to be mindful about your eating.  You can make conscious decisions about eating without being restrictive or depriving yourself.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Meals

Here are a couple questions you can ask yourself before and during meals to help promote more mindful eating:

  • What food looks best to me right now? What am I really in the mood for?
  • Am I enjoying this food as much as I did when I began eating it?
  • Is there a different food I would rather eat right now?
  • Could I stop eating, walk away from the table and not feel like I “need” more food right now?

All these tips probably seem very simple.  That’s because they are!  I promise you, losing weight – or in this case, avoiding weight gain – doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to “go on a diet” or “be miserable” during the holidays.  It means making conscious decisions about what, when, and how you eat.

Of course, if you would ever like a more personalized weight management plan, I would be happy to help you create one!  In fact, one of the smartest times to see a dietitian is during the holiday season.  As a reminder, I also offer personalized meal planning, diet analysis, and grocery store tour services.  If you would like to schedule an initial consultation, feel free to contact me by calling 801-815-7301 or emailing me at

Special offer:
Mention this blog post and get $10 off your first consultation!
(Cash pay only.  This discount does not apply to those paying through their insurance.)

In the meantime, follow these tips!  If you do, it’s far more likely that when you step on the scale come December 26, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you see.

Happy holidays!


The Best Motivator for Weight Loss

One of the first things I discuss with clients is what motivates them to want to change.  As you know, change is hard.  And making significant lifestyle changes (like how you eat) takes motivation.

When I ask people what is motivating them to change, here are some of the common responses I hear:

  • I want to feel better
  • I don’t want to develop health problems (i.e. diabetes, sleep apnea)
  • I want to have more energyThe best motivator for weight loss is positivity
  • I want to look better
  • I want to lose weight
  • I want to walk up a flight of stairs and not feel winded
  • I want to keep up with my kids

All these answers have something in common: people want to be something they currently aren’t.  Or in other words, they aren’t happy with how they are right now.  They want something more for themselves.

While the desire for self-improvement is natural and healthy, understanding the motivation behind your desire is very important.  Specifically, it’s critical to understand the place the motivation is coming from.  Is it positive or negative?

For example, see if you can spot the difference between this:

“I am a valuable member of my family, and I contribute to society.  I want to eat better so I can feel good and function better.”

And this:

I feel fat and tired all the time.  I don’t like myself and I feel unattractive, so I am going to go on a diet to lose weight and not feel so bad about myself all the time.”

One is a positive motivation, the other negative.

Body Positivity

Why is this important?  Because research has shown that body positivity actually helps promote permanent change far better than shame.   This should come as no surprise, as love has always been a stronger force than hate.   That said, loving ourselves is not always easy.  We are often our own worst critics. And sadly, some of the negative things we feel and think about our bodies are reinforced by society, sometimes even by family members or friends.   Sometimes, when these thoughts and ideas are reinforced, they can even become the basis of an eating disorder.

Unfortunately, the media is excellent at putting pressure on both men and women to have a specific, idealized appearance that has no semblance in reality.  Given how much of our time is consumed by ads, social media, and the news, these issues probably won’t diminish any time soon.  Since no one I know is ready to toss their iPhone in a lake, sell their TV, or move out to the middle of nowhere, the alternative is to work to develop good body positivity.  I know this is easier said than done, but it tends to be a good shield against the storm of negativity and judgement we face on a daily basis.

My own struggle with body positivity

What I am about to share is very personal, but I think will help you understand why I find this topic so important.

As a child, I was always very thin and fit until about age 15.  I really didn’t know anything about nutrition back then.   Unfortunately, it was at this point in my life that congenital malformations began to show themselves.  First, I started having issues with my joints.  I was in track and field and developed such severe patellar tendonitis in my knee that I was forced to quit running, and spent over 2 months on crutches waiting for the inflammation to calm down.  I had to stop doing all the sports and activities I was accustomed to, and spent all my free time resting on the couch or in bed.  I gained a significant amount of weight and felt miserable.  Even after I was well enough to resume normal activity, my knees were never really the same.  I was not really able to get the weight off that I gained and I wasn’t very happy with how I looked.  I was the last one of my friends to be asked to Jr. Prom, and found out two days before that I was a pity date.

I didn’t feel attractive, nor did I feel healthy.

To make a long story shorter, let’s fast forward to my college years.  I had worked hard to get accepted into a competitive dietetics program at Utah State University, and was excited to start my junior year.   A week into the semester, I became very ill.  I was in and out of the ER, doctor’s offices, clinics,  and got no answers.  I was in excruciating pain all the time.  Different doctors put me on and off lots of different medications in an attempt to make me feel better.  Not only did these medications fail to help, they caused me to gain 30 pounds in a month and a half.

While this was going on, I was still attempting complete my classes.  After three months with no answers, I started questioning if my life would end before the doctors could figure out what was happening.   Fortunately, after four months of misery, I finally received a correct diagnosis – but the damage was done.  I had lost most of my muscle mass and gained a lot of weight.  Worst of all, my nervous system was damaged from being in severe pain for so long.  I still struggle with chronic pain as a result of this episode.

As I tried to get back into shape, I started having difficulty with my joints again.  This was partially due to skeletal malformations, but also due to the weight I had gained from being ill.  I felt unfit, unattractive, and broken.   But I knew the only way to ever feel better was to exercise, embrace better nutrition, and get back into shape.    Fad diets and extreme measures weren’t going to cut it – what was needed was a commitment to doing the right things for my body. 

It was very hard at first, but the more I did it, the more I realized how much I had actually missed eating well and exercising.  After spending so much time barely being able to get out of bed, it occurred to me that what I wanted most was a better quality of life.  I didn’t want to lose weight to please someone else’s ideal of what a woman should look like.  I wanted to lose weight because I knew I could be an active, contributing member of society.  Because there were things I wanted to do with my life – and getting in better shape would enable me to do them.

A change in motivation, a change in health

When you are afraid you might be dying, you stop worrying about how attractive you are.  I started exercising and eating better because I wanted to feel better and be more functional, not just to meet an unrealistic and superfluous standard set by Hollywood.   Looking back, I only wish I had come to this realization before all those medical problems struck.

It was after this adjustment in perspective that things changed for me.  This is when my personal exercise and nutrition program became consistent, and I began to eat well and love exercise for their own sakes.   My lifestyle changed because I wanted to do everything I could to maintain a higher quality of life.   I had no desire to live 60 more years if it meant not being able to do the things I loved.

I still have chronic pain.  I still struggle with my health on a daily basis.  But every day I do what I can, and it has paid off.   And the reason I am able to keep moving forward is because I understand why I do it.  My motivation is not fleeting, because it is not based on negative feelings about myself.   It is always there because I have found a way to love and respect myself.

So, as you seek to meet your own health-related goals in life, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to change?
  • What motivates me?
  • Does it come from a positive space?
  • If not, how could it be more positive?

I love what I do.  I love helping people find their “why.”  And mostly, I love helping people achieve a better quality of life through better nutrition.  So, if you are feeling like maybe changing is just too difficult on your own, feel free to enlist my help.  Whether you need help with weight loss, gastrointestinal issues, managing diabetes, or just having more energy, always know that I would love to work with you.

Why Hiring a Registered Dietitian Shouldn’t Be Your Last Resort

Whenever I meet someone new, it’s not uncommon for them to ask me what I do for a living.  When I tell them I am a Registered Dietitian, the person will usually proceed to tell me about their nutrition problems and the many things they have tried and failed.  (They also like to tell me everything they ate that day.)

Very rarely do I meet a person that says they have actually worked with a dietitian.

Instead, many people have met with doctors, supplement suppliers, or weight loss groups, but never even thought to seek out a dietitian.  I see it often, and yet it still surprises me!  It’s like hiring a bagpipe teacher when you want to learn the piano.  Yes, the bagpipe teacher might know something about music, but they aren’t going to be very successful at teaching you how to play a piano.

So if you know you have a problem with your eating or nutrition, wouldn’t it make sense to hire a Registered Dietitian that specializes in that specific area?

Don’t spend hours and hours trying to do it all yourself.  Hire a dietitian to help!

You see, people like me go to school for many years so that we can help others get better.  I spend almost one hundred hours every year staying up to date on the current research on various nutrition-related topics so my clients don’t have to.  Similarly, I hire a CPA because the thought of having to understand all those complicated tax laws makes me want to cry thinking about it.  I am happy to pay someone else to do that for me, thank you very much. Why not pay a dietitian to sort through the many and often complicated nutrition studies for you?

The other comment I often hear is “I know what I am supposed to do, I just don’t do it.”  My response is typically, “That is what I help people with.”  I am an expert in nutrition, but there is a reason I call myself a nutrition coach.   My responsibility to my clients is not just to spew information at them, but to actually work with them to help them make changes and reach their nutrition goals.  That is what good dietitians do.  Basic nutrition information is just that, basic.  Implementing healthy eating behaviors, though, is where things get more challenging, which is a big reason why dietitians can be helpful.  They can help to actually make lasting changes, while not making you miserable in the process.

The truth is, the majority of my clients coming to see me for the first time for help with weight loss actually had a binge of their favorite foods the night before, because they were afraid I was going to put them on a “diet” and tell them not to eats those foods anymore.  Fortunately for them, I have never done that with any of my clients.  I consider myself a foodie, and greatly enjoy eating myself, so I don’t believe in depriving other people the joy of eating either.  Not only that, but deprivation will nearly always end in binging, which is the inherent flaw with diets – especially fad diets – in the first place.  The good news is that I can teach people how to enjoy their food, but eat reasonably enough to have good nutrition and maintain a healthy weight.

I have found that almost everyone has some type of nutrition concern, but only a wise few choose to hire a registered dietitian.  I know that cost can be a huge deciding factor for many.  (One of the first questions I always ask when looking for service of any kind is “How much is this going to cost?”)  The reality, though, is that hiring a dietitian can be less expensive than you think.  Better still, the tools I teach people will last a lifetime, and can ultimately end up saving you a TON of money in the long-run.  Plus, I am a preferred provider for several insurance companies and can often get my services covered at 100%!

So, if you are ready to finally address the nutrition concerns you have with something better than a simple Google search, then give me a call.  If you would like, I can even answer the phone like this:

I can be reached at 801-935-6500.  I look forward to speaking with you!

How to Set a Health-Related New Year’s Resolution You Won’t Want to Give Up on Almost Immediately

Research has shown that the majority of people who set New Year’s resolutions include a health-related goal.  Maybe that’s because we realize another year of our life has gone by and we want to slow the aging process – or maybe it’s because we ate too much of our father-in-law’s delicious fudge during the Christmas season.  (In my defense, it was really great fudge.)  Either way, setting health-related goals is always a positive thing.

But there’s an old adage that says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  In this case, it’s critical that you create a plan to reach your goals.

You see, it’s common to set goals that just lead to more frustration.  That’s because many people set goals that can never be achieved, and then they feel frustrated because they aren’t “succeeding.”   In fact, I bet you can think of someone right now who set a health-related goal only to give up when it proved more difficult than expected.

Fortunately, there’s a very simple solution: make sure your own resolutions are S.M.A.R.T. ones!  You may have heard this acronym before, but it’s always useful to review exactly what a SMART goal is, and how to set health-related ones.  By following the steps below, you’ll be much more likely to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions.

So here it goes, let’s learn about setting SMART goals:

  • S is for Specific. Maybe your goal is that you want to get fitter next year. Awesome!  It’s great to be fit!  But what does that really mean?  How are you going to know if you end up getting fitter than you were the year before?  In what ways do you want to be fitter?  Are you actually wanting to increase muscle mass, lose fat mass, or lose weight?   If so, how much?  I have many people come to me and say “I want to lose weight.”  That’s a worthy desire, but it doesn’t yet qualify as a goal.  An actual goal would be something like, “I want to lose 20 pounds this year.”

When I work with clients on their health-related goals, the first thing I do is make sure their goals are specific.

  • M is for Measurable. Maybe you’ve decided that your desire to be fitter actually means you want to decrease your body fat percentage. Now your goal is a bit more specific.  But to make it actually measurable, let’s pinpoint an actual amount.  For example, “I want to decrease my body fat % this year by 3%.”   Or if your goal is that you want to lose weight, your goal could be to achieve to a goal weight of 160 lbs.  This allows you to actually measure your progress compared to where you started.
  • A is for Achievable. This is where I see a lot of people struggle. It can be hard to know what is actually achievable and what isn’t, because it requires a more in-depth understanding of the human body than most people have.  This is why there are professionals (like me, *wink wink*) that can guide you.

For example, say you want to lose 20 lbs. in 2 weeks.  That’s only achievable if you have a death wish.  You see, some things might be theoretically possible, but that doesn’t make them safe or smart.  I could technically lose 10 lbs. overnight, but by the next day I would probably be so dehydrated I couldn’t stand up. Losing 10 lbs. of fat weight in one day simply isn’t achievable for me.  Now, if I were to decide to try to lose 10 lbs. of fat weight over the course of a whole year, that might be achievable.

Also, keep in mind that while something might start out seeming achievable, things can change.  Maybe your goal is that you are going to exercise at least 5 days per week, every week for the month of January, but then you break your leg half way through the month.  Have you failed because you broke your leg and couldn’t make it to the gym?  No.  That’s why it’s important to remember that you can adjust your goal if needed to accommodate for changing circumstances.  That keeps your goal achievable.

  • R is for Realistic. This, in my humble opinion, might be the most important aspect of setting SMART goals.  Let’s say I’ve decided that in order to be fitter, I want to lose 10 lbs. over the course of a year.  It’s specific, measurable, and technically achievable, but is it realistic?  For one person, it might be, and for someone else it might not.

Let me explain.  Imagine I have 2 clients, who both want to lose 10 pounds in a year.  One of them (let’s call him Bob) is 100 lbs. overweight, while the other (Sam) is 10 lbs. overweight.  Technically, they are both overweight, and it is going to be safe for either of them to lose the 10 lbs.  Both of them want to lose the weight to “be fitter” but if each of them loses 10 lbs., will they both actually end up getting what they desired?  Maybe, or maybe not.  That’s because most people in their quest to lose weight are going to lose some amount of fat free mass as well.  Take Sam.  He loses 10 lbs. total, but 4 of those pounds are fat-free mass.  He technically weighs less than he did before, but he also notices that he can’t bench press the same amount of weight that he used to.  Sam may not really feel fitter despite reaching his goal, because it wasn’t a realistic goal for him.  Bob, on the other hand, lost 10 lbs. and also lost 4 lbs. of fat-free mass.  In his case, he notices that his knees hurt less and it’s easier for him to get in and out of the car.  He also notices that he can walk longer without feeling out of breath.  Bob now feels fitter.

It’s important to evaluate if your goal will actually get you what you desire, because that is what makes it realistic.  Again, this is often where professionals can help you know if your goal is realistic or not.

  • T is for Timely. This one is fairly easy, but still important.  If you don’t have a specific time frame in which you want to meet your goal, it becomes more of a wish than an actual goal.  I could say that I want to lose 10 lbs. of fat-free mass, but if I don’t indicate over what time period I want to do this in, when do I evaluate if I met the goal?  Furthermore, what motivation do I have to actually start now?  What if I gain 2 lbs. of fat the first month, and then lose 10 lbs. of fat over the next 6 months.  Did I really accomplish what I wanted?  It all depends on what time frame we look at.

Hopefully, these pointers will help you structure smarter goals with a higher chance of success.  That said, even if you set SMART goals, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve them every single time!  Sometimes the breakdown doesn’t occur at the goal-planning level, but somewhere during the implementation stage.  If you aren’t meeting your New Year’s Resolutions, it might be that you need to change the way you are going about trying to achieve them.  This is often times when people give up, when really, they just need to make a small change.  Maybe to lose that 10 lbs., you just need to cut out that extra serving of starch at dinner instead of giving up your favorite food altogether.  Remember that if something isn’t working well, it’s okay to make changes along the way.

One more thing.  For most people, achieving health-related goals can sometimes seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task.  That’s why there are people like me to help you on your way!  If you have a desire to improve your health but don’t know how, I would be happy to help you along that path.  From meal-planning to diet analyses to grocery-store tours, my goal as your dietitian is to help you achieve yours.

By the way, if you have health insurance, I have many patients that are able to get their visits with me 100% covered.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

In the meantime, good luck with your resolutions!  Let’s make 2017 everything it can be!



The Silent Killer Most People Don’t Know About – And How to Avoid It

In the past 10 years, there is a deadly condition that has become much more prevalent and yet many people have never even heard of it.  It is suspected that in the next 10-20 years it will be the most common cause for liver transplantation—yikes!  In fact, it is already suspected to affect up to 25% of the US population.

What is it?

The condition is called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).  This is when excess fat cells build up in the liver.  The liver normally does contain some fat, but if the liver becomes more than about 5-10% fat, then it is termed “fatty liver”, or in medical jargon: steatosis.

Who is at risk for developing it?

Anyone can develop it, including children, but the populations most at risk for developing this condition include:

  • Those who are overweight or obese
  • People with diabetes
  • People with high cholesterol or triglycerides

Why is it so dangerous?

The excess fat can cause the liver to swell (termed hepatitis, which means swelling of the liver) which in turn can cause scarring (or cirrhosis in medical lingo).  This leads to a condition known as NASH, which stands for Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis.  This is the medical term for when the liver is damaged from too much fat and chronic swelling that has occurred over time.  Once the liver becomes too severely damaged, the only option left is a liver transplant.

What are the symptoms?

NAFLD often has no symptoms, which is why it is deemed a “silent killer”.  When symptoms do occur, they often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Spider-like blood vessels
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the legs (edema)
  • Build-up of fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Mental confusion

How is it diagnosed?

Blood is taken to check the liver enzyme levels.  Ultrasound is often used to confirm the diagnosis.

How is it treated?

There are no specific therapies for NAFLD or NASH.  If liver damage becomes too extensive, a liver transplant may be required.  However, there are some basic recommendations you can follow that can both manage an existing fatty liver, and most importantly, prevent a fatty liver:

  • Reduce weight if overweight or obese
  • Follow a balanced and healthy diet
  • Increase physical activity
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid unnecessary medications

Weight loss has been shown to improve liver enzymes in patients with NASH, and has actually helped reverse the disease to an extent.

There have been some experimental treatments done with supplements, however currently there is not enough clinical evidence to support the safety or benefit of their use.  Also, as the supplement industry is not well-regulated, caution should always be taken before considering their use, and the risks/benefits should be discussed with a qualified professional.

Even if you have not been diagnosed with NAFLD or NASH, following the basic recommendations provided above can help reduce your risk of developing it in the future.  These recommendations, while seemingly “basic”, can still be very challenging to accomplish on your own.  As a registered dietitian and nutritionist, I can work with you to come up with a realistic plan on how to better follow many of the above recommendations.  Specifically, I can help you:

If you would like some extra help, or just want some more information, I am only a phone call, text, or email away.  You can now also schedule an appointment for yourself directly from my website.



How to have a healthy relationship with food

Food SmileyOver the course of my career, I have worked with many clients who have developed a negative relationship with food and eating.  This not only decreases their quality of life, but makes it much more difficult for them to meet their nutritional goals.

What does it mean to have a negative relationship with food?  To put it simply, it means you have started to view food as the enemy, and eating becomes an action that causes physical pain, emotional distress, or weight problems.  Sometimes this is a result of chronic dieting.  Other times it is due to illness or trauma.  Sometimes it is even due to verbal abuse from others.  Whatever the cause, often emotions become intertwined with the eating process, which complicates things further.  Once people start associating negative emotions with eating, it becomes very difficult to reverse.  In some instances, it warrants counseling from a qualified professional.

There’s another way to develop a negative relationship with food, too.  Once a person’s relationship between food and emotions become intertwined, it becomes very easy for eating to become a method of coping.  In some instances, when people feel out of control in their personal or professional lives, they find that strictly controlling what they eat is a way to make them feel more in control.  For others, they have learned that eating specific foods makes them feel less depressed, so when they are feeling down, they find themselves turning to food to feel better. (Eating actually can affect the brain chemistry, so there is a physiological reason why people do this.  More on this in an upcoming blog post.) No matter what the reason, using food to cope is never a good thing, because it creates a vicious cycle that is difficult to stop.

You see, it’s easy to use food to ease or dampen unpleasant emotions, but that doesn’t actually solve the root problem that caused those emotions in the first place.  And that’s when we develop a negative relationship with food.  We eat (or don’t eat) to feel better, and then blame food when it doesn’t solve our problems or actually makes them worse.  As time goes on, our relationship with food gradually becomes worse and worse. This is why people often need counseling to help them work through the emotions related to eating, and to learn healthier methods of coping.   If you are to a point that you need professional counseling, do not feel bad about it.  It’s simply a challenge that needs to be overcome – and life is full of challenges!  So please don’t let anything stop you from getting the help you need.

This article is not intended to fix complicated relationships with food, but simply to help you possibly start viewing food and eating in a way that maybe you hadn’t in the past.  I’m hoping that some of these ideas will help you to start seeing food in a different light, which is often the beginning of the road to a healthier and happier life overall.  (There’s a reason why my company slogan is Better nutrition for a better life!  It’s not just catchy – it’s true.

There have been points in my own life when I started to develop a negative relationship with food due to illness or other trauma.  If it hadn’t been for my training as a dietitian, I cringe to think about what the consequences would have been.  Sometimes I still have to work hard to keep my relationship with food healthy, but I know that it’s worth the effort.  This is a topic that is very personal to me, so please understand that the point of this post is to help others, not to shame anyone.  Everyone has their own journey with eating, and whatever feelings people experience are not to be disregarded, undermined, or used for bullying.

With that said, here are a few steps you can take to create (or maintain) a healthy relationship with food:

  • Remember that food is fuel. The purpose of eating is provide our body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly.   Before you eat, it could be valuable to stop and ask yourself a couple questions:
    • Why am I eating this? Is it for emotional reasons, or because my body actually needs food?
    • Will what I am about to eat help my body function better?

If you find you want to eat for emotional reasons, then it’s a good time to stop yourself and find a better method of coping.

  • Avoid categorizing foods as “good” or “bad”. As humans, we love to categorize things.  Safe vs. unsafe, happy vs. sad, tasty vs. yucky.  It’s a way for us to distinguish things that we should seek out or avoid.  The problem is that food isn’t so black and white.  All foods are different and have a unique nutrient composition.  Some foods are more nutrient-dense, meaning they are packed with more good nutrients relative to the amount of energy they provide.  Some foods are less nutrient-dense, meaning they provide quite a bit of energy, but very little else.  That doesn’t mean one food is “good” and another is “bad”.  It just means the most nutrient-dense foods should be consumed the most frequently because they will provide our body with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs to function well.  Labeling food as “bad” has a negative connotation, which is what leads people to feel guilty about what they eat.  If you are fueling your body well, there is no reason to feel guilty about eating.  If you ever have questions about how to identify which foods are nutrient-dense and which aren’t, feel free to contact me and I can teach you more.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. This can be confusing for people because sometimes they think their body is telling them something, but in reality, it is their emotions or their mind trying to drive their actions.  If you pay close attention, your body will tell you when you really do need food and when you need to stop eating.  (There are conditions in which these natural cues can become altered, so if you suspect that to be the case, consulting with a registered dietitian can help you figure out what’s going on.)  Children are very good about respecting their bodies until adults teach them not to.  If children are left to determine how much to eat, they generally will not overeat.  So why do adults do this?  Because they have learned to eat for emotional reasons, social reasons, chemical addiction, or for sake of time.  Practicing mindful eating can help you get back to eating for the correct reasons, which again, helps to remove the guilt from eating.
  • Avoid creating forbidden foods. I frequently overhear people saying, “That looks so good, but it isn’t on my diet.”  It makes me feel sad because they are preventing themselves from having some of the foods they enjoy most in this world, when in reality that deprivation isn’t necessary or  I know that if I tell myself I can’t have something, it just makes me want it more.  For example, cinnamon rolls are one of my very favorite foods.  I also recognize that it isn’t the most nutrient-dense food that I could consume, so I don’t go out of my way to make or buy them often, but if someone offers me one and I feel in the mood for it, I eat it.  I never feel deprived, so if I am not in the mood for it, or if I am simply not hungry, I can turn it down or save it for later when I am.  If I told myself I was never going to eat cinnamon rolls again that would last maybe one day, and then I would be finding myself a nice gooey roll.The good news is that it is possible to eat foods you love and still enjoy them – you just have to do it within reason.  Anyone seen the new Weight Watchers commercial?  It has Oprah talking about her love affair with bread, and how she didn’t let herself eat it for a long time, and how happy she is now that she can eat bread.  The key is that you don’t need Weight Watchers to gain that kind of freedom, just a healthy relationship with food, and the development of healthy eating habits.   People usually create “forbidden foods” because they label them as “bad” for various reasons.  Again, it makes it seem like food is the enemy, which it is not.   For those of you that saw Finding Nemo…you saw how well the “forbidden food” idea worked for the sharks.
  • Avoid using food as a reward. This is a very temping thing to do, but I strongly encourage separating food and rewards.  Once you start rewarding yourself (or your kids) with food, it then connects food and feelings, which as I talked about previously, is never a good thing.  It may seem innocent at first glance; after all, when you do something good, it’s only to go out for ice cream.  But what happens if you don’t meet your goal?  Now, not only do you feel bad about not meeting your goal, but you’re forced to deny yourself the ice cream you were so looking forward to.  How do you feel about ice cream now?  Personally, I would probably feel resentful.Or do you give in and eat the ice cream anyway to make yourself feel better?  Either way, you have connected another emotion with food—a negative one.  You now also know that when you feel bad, you can make yourself feel better by eating ice cream.Let’s look at this from the eyes of a child.  Imagine are potty-training your 2-year old girl, Sally.  (I have highlighted all the emotions in red).  You tell her that she can have a piece of candy every time she uses the potty.  So the first time Sally use the potty, you both get all excited, and you give her the candy.  She is happy.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Next time she sits down and tries to go, but she can’t quite do it.  So you have to tell her that she doesn’t get a candy.  She feels terrible and looks up at you with those big sad eyes and starts crying.  Now she feels deprived of the candy that she was looking forward to soooo much.  Do you give in and reward Sally with the candy anyway, “for effort”?  If so, now Sally knows that she can get a reward whether she performs the task or not, and she associates food with a feeling of success or failure.   She only gets candy when she “succeeds” and becomes deprived when she fails.  See how many emotions can become connected with eating? Do you see how this can become dangerous really fast?  Many of the serious problems people have with food first developed as a result of this very issue.  Now, I am not saying that positive reinforcement can’t be a good tool – it just shouldn’t involve food.  Remember, food is fuel, not a reward or a punishment.

Now, if you have done this sort of thing with your kids, don’t feel bad!  I myself I have done it without really thinking about it.  It’s simply something to be aware of, and a way that you can help your children – and yourself – develop a positive, healthy relationship with food.

These steps alone won’t solve or prevent all issues with food relationships, but they will help.  Even if you have spent your entire life looking at food as the enemy, it isn’t too late to try to see it from a different perspective.  It’s also never too late to get some professional help if needed.  Having a healthy relationship with food can significantly improve your overall happiness and well-being, and is a goal worth striving for.

As always, if you would like a little help with your journey, I would love to work with you.  I understand the struggle and want to be of assistance.  From diet analyses to personalized meal planning to grocery store tours, I can help you create a plan that will enable you to reach your health and weight goals while simultaneously developing a more positive relationship with food – without having to give up the foods you like best!  Give me a call at 801-815-7301 or email me at to learn more.

In the meantime, happy (and healthy) eating!

5 New Year’s Resolution Mistakes to Avoid

It’s that time of year again – the time for setting New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re like many people, managing your weight is probably high up on your list of priorities for 2016. In fact, according to some research[1], weight loss is the most common New Year’s resolution!

Unfortunately, setting a resolution is a lot easier than actually meeting it. In fact, studies[2] show that only about 8% of people end up reaching the goals they set.

Why exactly is weight loss so hard? There are a few major reasons. For instance:

  • Losing weight often means changing – or at least adjusting – your eating habits. But habits can be extremely hard to break.
  • It is very easy to eat extra calories, but burning off extra energy takes effort and time
  • There is a large psychological component to eating. It is easy for food to become a coping mechanism, which can make losing weight far more challenging.

All that makes weight loss sound rather daunting, doesn’t it? Fortunately, there’s good news. Reaching your weight goals can be very doable – you just have to approach it the right way!

What exactly is the “right” way? In large part, the right way means avoiding the common mistakes many people make when trying to lose weight. So if you are one of the many people vowing to shed pounds this upcoming year, here are a few things to keep in mind when setting your goals. Avoiding these common mistakes will help you be more successful in achieving the weight you desire.

Mistake #1: Trying to lose weight too fast. Setting a goal to lose 15 lbs by the end of January is likely just setting yourself up for failure. After a couple weeks, you are going to realize that losing that much weight isn’t realistic, and you will probably get discouraged. Besides, even if you do lose a lot of weight at once, studies show that the faster you lose weight, the faster you regain it. Slow, gradual weight loss is actually healthier and more sustainable than trying to lose a lot of weight all at once. Remember: it’s one thing to lose pounds. Keeping the pounds off is something else altogether – and is more important in the long run.

Mistake #2: Trying “fad diets”. What is a fad diet? A fad diet is a diet that gains popularity for a short period of time, but quickly falls out of favor once people realize that it isn’t sustainable. The big problem with fad diets is that, once again, you are setting yourself up for failure. There are indeed some “diets” that will help you lose weight, but the whole idea behind going on a diet is inherently flawed. As soon as you go off the “diet”, you will probably regain the weight you lost, plus more!

Even worse, all of the diets that actually do result in weight loss have been studied. What did researchers find? That these diets were effective only because of “calorie restriction”, meaning not because you are only eating grapefruit, or whatever other insane restriction is being recommended. If you really want to lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off, you have to learn how to actually eat healthy. Despite what many people try to sell you on, there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. (Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.) If you want to look and be healthy, you have to live healthy. There’s a reason my company’s slogan is Better nutrition for a better life.

Mistake #3: Giving up if you don’t see results immediately. A lot of people start making some good lifestyle changes, but because they don’t immediately see the results they want, they give up. These days, we are so used to having advanced technology provide satisfaction with the push of a button that we often forget that the best things in life take time. For instance, if you start eating better and exercising, you may actually find yourself gaining a bit of weight at first because of the added muscle mass. This often makes people feel discouraged, leading them to quit even though they were actually making progress! Always remember that weight loss is a process. It doesn’t always happen as quickly as we would like, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Mistake #4: Creating “forbidden foods”. Often times when people are trying to lose weight, they decide to cut out their favorite food because they are afraid they will eat too much of it.   Unfortunately, this just makes them crave that food even more! (Ever heard the phrase “forbidden fruit” before? Same principle.) Then they feel bad about the fact they can’t have it and decide to just give up on their “diet”.  It’s like telling a child “No”. The first thing they want to do is the exact thing you told them not to.   In this case, creating a forbidden food also prevents you from having a good relationship with food altogether, because now you have turned food itself into the enemy.

Mistake #5: Thinking you have to starve yourself to lose weight. If you feel like you are starving, you are probably trying to be too restrictive, or else you cut back your portion sizes too fast. That’s not good, because if you restrict your calories to the point you feel starving, it will likely slow your metabolism, which means you will burn fewer calories at rest, thereby making weight loss even more challenging!

If you can avoid these five common mistakes, you’ll find that weight loss is more doable, less stressful…and best of all, more sustainable!

Of course, avoiding these mistakes isn’t necessarily easy. So if you’ve found yourself running into these problems and don’t know what to do about it, I can help! As your nutrition coach, I can help you with everything you need to successfully meet your weight-loss goals. From analyzing your current diet to find areas of improvement to helping you create the perfect meal plan, my weight optimization package could be just what you need to make your New Year’s Resolutions a reality. Call/text 801-815-7301, or email to schedule an initial consultation today!

In the meantime, happy New Year!




Food Mythbusting: Is soy the silent murderer lurking in your kitchen?

When you hear the word soy, what’s the first thing you think of? I love all types of Asian cuisine, especially Japanese, so my first thought is sushi! A little soy sauce with a nice piece of sushi makes for some very good umami.

Unfortunately, soy has a bit of a bad reputation in some quarters…especially on the internet. In fact, some people claim soy is outright bad for you.

But is there any truth to that? Is soy the murderer lurking in your kitchen? (No, I am not being melodramatic, the claims get that drastic.) Let’s find out in the latest edition of our Food Mythbusting series.

Food Myth #3: Soy causes breast cancer, can lower sperm count in men, can cause thyroid disturbances, and can cause memory problems.

Background: There are many types of soy products, and many of the claims are based on a specific component of soy, so let’s start by learning a bit more about it.

Soy products come from soybeans, which are classified as a legume. (Peanuts and lentils are also examples of legumes.) Soybeans are toxic to humans if consumed raw because they contain a substance called trypsin inhibitors. In order to eat them, they first need to be cooked with some type of a moist-heat cooking method, which destroys the trypsin inhibitors.

Soy products typically are classified as either fermented or non-fermented. Some examples of non-fermented soy products are soy milk, tofu, and soy protein powders. Fermented soy products include, but are not limited to, soy sauce, fermented bean paste (miso), natto (a traditional Japanese food), and tempeh.

Fermentation uses microorganisms to produce or change a chemical product. In this case, it’s used to breakdown some of the complex compounds found in soybeans. I would like to elaborate a bit more on some of these compounds because many of them are at the heart of the health claims involving soy.

science warningThis next part gets a bit technical, so if you are interested in the science behind it all, you will likely enjoy the next section. However, if you’d rather just get to the gist of it, feel free to skip to the Summary section.

The Inner Workings of Soy

Soy contains several complex compounds, including:

  • Phytic Acid (inositol): This is the principle storage form of Phosphorous. It is considered an anti-nutrient because it can chelate and bind several important minerals and prevent them from being absorbed. Fortunately, cooking, soaking, and fermenting breaks the acid down. There is a theory that endogenous lactobacilli (a type of bacteria typically found in the guts of humans) may be enough to neutralize the acid’s effects[1].
  • Isoflavones are substances that act as phytoestrogens in mammals. Phytoestrogens are chemical substances that can act like estrogen, or sometimes have anti-estrogenic effects in the body. Some Isoflavones are considered anti-oxidants[2], which can prevent cancer. Several studies have shown that these can decrease the risk of breast cancer, but only in Asian populations[3]. Other studies in mice have found they can cause abnormalities in the thymic and immune systems[4]. There is also a concern that one of the isoflavones found in soy may contribute to the development of goiters, particularly in those with inadequate Iodine intake[5].
  • Oxalic Acid is an organic compound which can combine with calcium to form calcium oxalate—a known component of kidney stones.

There are some other components of soybeans that are important but not altered by the fermentation process. Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA) is an omega 3 fatty acid that is essential for our bodies. Omega 3 fats are considered to be anti-inflammatory. Omega 6 fats are also essential to our bodies. High consumption of omega 6 fats has been linked with several illness[6]. The recommended ratio of omega 3 to Omega 6 is about 1:1, however the American diet tends to be closer to a ratio of 1:16[7]. The ratio of these fats in soybean oil is 1:7. Overall, the fat composition of non-hydrogenated soybean oil is quite healthy.

Soybeans are also high in purines (yet another chemical compound), which people with gout may be sensitive to.

Whew! That was a lot of information, and probably more chemistry than you ever wanted to know. But what does it all mean when it comes to your health?

The Facts

According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, soy formulas are considered safe[8].

And according to the American Cancer Society “studies in humans have not shown harm from eating soy foods.[9]” Studies have also not shown soy to have demonstrable effects on testosterone levels or sperm count in men[10].

An Indonesian study found consumption of tofu was associated with worse memory, but tempeh was actually associated with better memory[11]

Overall, moderate consumption of non-processed soy products are generally deemed safe[12]. (I love that this fits in perfectly with my “moderation in all things” motto.)

Here’s the fact of the matter: consuming soy brings some undoubted health benefits. But there are also some aspects of soy to be cautious of, and some soy products should probably be avoided altogether. I will summarize them below.


  • Raw soybeans are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
  • They contain healthy fats, and some studies have shown that soy can positively affect cholesterol levels.
  • Soy is generally considered a complete source of protein, which is especially important for vegetarians and vegans, who can’t get protein from meat like others do.
  • There is some evidence that soy decreases the risk for breast and prostate cancers[13].


  • People with soy allergies should avoid consuming soy (obviously)
  • Those with thyroid problems taking medication should avoid soy within several hours of taking their medication and may want to limit consumption to no more than 30 mg/day, especially of unfermented soy. This is because of the Isoflavones mentioned earlier.
  • Those with inadequate Iodine intake may want to avoid soy as well. (However, an even better solution would be to correct the low iodine levels. Iodine deficiency in the United States is rather rare due to the iodization of salt).
  • Some people suffering from gout that have found themselves to be sensitive to soy because it contains purines. However, not all people with gout find a low purine diet beneficial.

Soy products to avoid

  • Hydrogenated soybean oils contain trans-fat. There is absolutely nothing good about trans-fat, making this a product to stay away from.
  • Soy supplements—soy isoflavone supplements and soy protein powders with isoflavones in it are not recommended or considered safe.

Verdict: Busted


While high consumption of processed or non-fermented soy products is likely not a good idea, neither is the excessive consumption of most any other food. (If there’s one thing I hope this Mythbusting series has taught you, it’s that excess is the real enemy of healthy eating.)

The fermentation of soy actually improves the amount of nutrients you can get from it. Fermentation also breaks down some of the potentially harmful compounds naturally found in soy. There is not enough solid research to say that soy truly causes cancer, or most of the other health risks the internet tries to claim. For that reason, this myth is busted. Soy is almost always a good thing in your diet…especially fermented soy eaten in moderation.

However, if you are concerned about soy in your diet, or are trying to follow a vegan diet and want to know how to get protein from other sources, I would be happy to help you.

I can confidently say though, that soy it is not a murderer lurking in your kitchen.

With that said, anyone want to get some sushi with me? Seriously, I really feel like sushi now.
















Food Mythbusting: Does Gluten Negatively Affect Your Brain?

Gluten picture copyThe internet is full of scary stories about gluten, many portraying it as some sort of food super-villain. That’s not surprising, considering gluten-related conditions like Celiac disease are on the rise. In fact, Celiac disease is 4 times more common than it was 60 years ago[1]. Researchers still don’t know why that is, but the leading theory is that it has to do with a change in our microbiomes[2], which is the collection of microorganisms that reside in our bodies.  (Spoiler: I’m planning an awesome blog post about this in the near future).

The link between Celiac disease and gluten is well-established…but what about gluten and the brain? Some people believe that gluten is bad for you even if you haven’t been diagnosed with Celiac disease. Some hypothesize that we should avoid gluten altogether because it can negatively affect our brains.

But is there any evidence to support this hypothesis? Let’s find out.

Food Myth #2: Eating gluten causes or can worsen Autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The Facts:

Let’s start by first getting a better understanding of what gluten is. Gluten is a protein that is found in many grain products (namely, wheat, barley, and rye.) It’s what gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise, and gives the final product a nice chewy texture. Gluten, even traces of it, can be found in many of the foods we eat such as salad dressings and even candy bars. There are many important nutrients that can be found in foods that also contain gluten. Because gluten is found in so many foods, eliminating it from your diet completely is no small thing.

Celiac Disease

In people with Celiac disease, ingesting gluten causes the body to start attacking the cells in the small intestine, which can damage them. The villi in the small intestine are what absorb nutrients from the foods we eat, and when they become damaged from this auto-immune response, the person is not able to absorb nutrients properly.[3]   This can lead to malnutrition, which prevents the body from being able to properly produce important neurotransmitters that affect mental function.

In these people, consuming gluten triggers the “adaptive-immune response.” This is the process that creates antibodies. In this case, those antibodies effectively pit the body against itself. The allergic response to response to gluten essentially triggers an inflammatory response, which isn’t good, because inflammation has been found to worsen many medical conditions as well as being painful in and of itself.

There are specific blood tests that can be performed to check for Celiac, but often times a biopsy of the small intestine is required for a firm diagnosis. There is no known cure for this disease, and the main treatment consists of sticking to a strict gluten-free diet.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)

There is also another condition that can be triggered by ingesting gluten called non-celiac gluten sensitivity[4]. In this case, a different part of the immune system is triggered: the innate immune response. In this case, specific antibodies are not formed, but inflammation still occurs. People with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity can often feel sick when ingesting gluten, but it doesn’t cause actual damage to their intestines. There is unfortunately no diagnostic test for this condition, so it can make it more difficult to determine if someone is truly sensitive to gluten, or if their gastrointestinal symptoms are caused by something else.

So that’s the lowdown on gluten. There are some definite benefits to eating gluten, as well as some major risks to your gastrointestinal health if you suffer from Celiac disease. Now let’s look at whether those risks extend to your brain as well. Here are some of the questions my clients in the Salt Lake City area have asked me in the past:

Does gluten cause ADHD?

1 out of 7 children with ADHD were found to have Celiac disease, and a study[5] found that in those with Celiac disease, a gluten-free diet significantly improved their ADHD-related symptoms. However, that is only one study, and the sample size was quite small, which isn’t ideal. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to draw firm conclusions from a single study with a small sample size.

Therefore, most current research says there is not really proof that eating gluten causes ADHD, but if people who suffer from ADHD have undiagnosed celiac disease, it can make the condition worse. In short, while there may be a correlation between gluten and ADHD, it’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation.

What about Autism?

A large study done in Sweden found no association between Autism spectrum disorders and Celiac disease[6]. Furthermore, a “well-designed study from Brazil found no statistically demonstrable association between Celiac disease or NCGS and autism spectrum disorder.”[7]

As far as treating Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with a gluten-free diet, multiple double-blinded trials did not find any benefit to a gluten-free diet when treating autism[8]. Some have suggested that a combination of a gluten-free diet with a casein-free diet may be effective, but a 2008-review of the literature found no real benefit there, either.[9]

That said, a few studies did report some benefit from a gluten-free diet for those with Autism, however there may be some observer bias that can’t be adjusted for. A subset of those with Autism may have a NCGS (non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) that can’t be diagnosed[10], which may explain why some studies did show some a benefit.

This is a difficult area to study, which is probably why the evidence is not entirely clear. More research is clearly warranted, but the research that does exist hasn’t really shown enough of a benefit to warrant switching to a gluten-free diet as a treatment for ASD. More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think that gluten (or Celiac disease) causes Autism.

Does gluten cause or contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Because non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity causes inflammation, some people hypothesize that it can also cause neuro-inflammation, which may lead to cognitive dysfunction.[11] But that does not mean eating gluten will cause this same response in everyone that eats it.

There can definitely be neurological symptoms present in those with undiagnosed or untreated Celiac disease,[12] however it is likely related to nutritional deficiencies caused by the damage done to the intestines rather than by gluten itself. If a person were to go undiagnosed with Celiac disease for a long time, a more long-lasting nutrient deficiency theoretically has a higher likelihood of causing brain damage. In people without Celiac disease or an NCGS, there is no evidence that eating gluten will cause dementia or Alzheimer’s, and a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating whole grains (including wheat) can actually protect your cognitive function[13].

Whew! We just covered a lot of information, didn’t we? But I hope you’ll agree that it’s an important topic. Because gluten can be found in so many products, and because gluten-related conditions can be so harmful, it’s critical that we educate ourselves on the subject.

So does gluten negatively affect your brain? At the moment, the answer appears to be no. However, more research is required, and there is some correlation between gluten-related diseases and the conditions involving the brain. For that reason, the verdict is…

Verdict: Unlikely, but plausible


For those with diagnosed Celiac disease, eating gluten is clearly not a good idea, and can cause cognitive and behavioral disturbances in large part due to nutritional deficiencies.

Since there is no way to officially diagnose a NCGS, the only way to really determine if you are sensitive to gluten is to eliminate it from your diet and see what happens…which is neither fun or easy. Furthermore, I would not recommend eliminating gluten from your diet without seeing a physician and getting a diagnosis of celiac disease first, and then consulting with a registered dietitian, such as myself, as your diet may become deficient in important nutrients. If you think you may have a NCGS, it is also important to talk with a doctor first before making changes to your diet or it may affect their ability to distinguish true Celiac disease from a NCGS.

If you do not have symptoms of Celiac disease or NCGS, you can continue eating gluten secure in the knowledge that it is not destroying your brain, and in fact may be protecting it. I think we can officially take gluten off the food super-villain list now.

If you have recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease, or are wondering if you are having problems with gluten, and need information on how to follow a gluten-free diet, Salt Lake NutriCoaching can help. I offer a package for those suffering from gastrointestinal complaints. In only an hour, I can:

  • Help you understand why you may be experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms and what nutrition-related steps you can take to relieve them
  • Help you plan a simple, easy-to-follow gluten-free diet that is still delicious and contains all the nutrients you need to stay healthy
  • Provide you with additional educational materials that you can take home with you.

If you mention this article, you can receive 10% off of this package!

Give me a call at 801-815-7301 to find out more!
















Announcing the “Food Mythbusting” Mini-Series

If you were to spend an hour scouring the internet, you could easily be convinced that all foods are mutant super-villains out to kill us, and that all food producers are trying to turn us into brainsugar-2-1466962-640x480-washed minions so they can take over the world.   Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but the media does tend to make it easy to wonder if there are any foods safe to eat other than celery. (I have never come across any evil celery theories. I think most of us actually forget about celery altogether unless we are making soup). So what is actually good for us to eat, and what isn’t?

After many years of nutrition classes, I realized that the vast majority of foods are neither inherently “good” or inherently “bad”. Each food has a different nutrient composition, meaning some foods are more nutrient-dense and therefore should be eaten more frequently, while some foods have less nutritional quality and therefore shouldn’t be eaten as often. But that doesn’t make them necessarily bad.

(One of the few foods I do believe to be outright bad is soda…more on that in a moment.)

During my almost 10 years as a dietitian nutritionist here in Salt Lake City, I’ve learned that the rule of “moderation in all things” is especially important when it comes to foods. Even too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be toxic. Eating healthy is simply a matter of wanting to eat the most healthy foods the most often, and the least healthy foods the least often.

That said, sometimes it’s hard to know what is really healthy and what isn’t, because there is so much misinformation out there. Partially due to the rise of fad diets, many foods have gotten a bad reputation…and it’s often underserved. (For example, some fad diets would have you believe you should avoid carbohydrates like the plague…nonsense!) To combat this trend, I’ve decided to do a series of “mini-articles” to address common food myths and misconceptions.

One of my favorite shows is Mythbusters. I love it because the show usually deals with real-world questions, and try their best to show the actual science or evidence behind the answers. So I decided to structure these mini-articles a bit like the show. I will start with a food myth and then go on to explain if it is busted, confirmed, or plausible, and why. Hopefully you can learn some cool stuff, and enjoy yourself along the way. Above all, I hope you’ll be able to see that you can still enjoy some of your favorite foods while sticking to a balanced, nutritious diet.

Enough talk, let’s check out Myth #1.  (I’ll cover other myths in future articles.)

Food Myth #1: Eating sugar causes diabetes, cancer, cavities, and makes pain worse; therefore sugar is bad and you should almost never eat it.

The Facts:

Many people don’t realize that carbohydrates and sugar are related. Carbohydrates are made up of rings of sugars hooked together in various ways. When we eat carbohydrates, they get broken down and digested back into those rings of sugar. So, carbohydrates are sugars, but some are complex and some are refined. Complex carbohydrates are things like whole grains and fiber. Refined sugars are things like table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and sugar found in fruit juice. The more refined the sugar, the less work our bodies have to do in order to digest it, and the faster it spikes our blood sugar, which is not a good thing.

Sugar and Diabetes  

Consuming excess amounts of refined sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, for example) has been linked with the development of type 2 diabetes.[1] Soda is full of refined sugars, provides practically no nutritional benefit, and has only been found to have adverse effects on our bodies…which is why it finds itself on my very short black list of foods. It should be noted that there are many things that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, like physical fitness, age, and genetics. On the other hand, eating complex sugars in the form of whole grains has not been associated with the development of diabetes, and the fiber contained in those foods can actually help with blood sugar regulation.

Does Sugar Cause Cancer?

The fact of the matter is that sugar is your body’s main source of energy. Our cells actually breakdown sugar to use as energy! On the other hand, tumor cells also use sugar as energy. For this reason, it’s sometimes alleged that eliminating sugar from your diet can help prevent cancer, and eating it will “feed cancer” if it is present. But studies show that eating sugar doesn’t necessarily lead to cancer. Furthermore, if you try to deprive tumor cells of their form of energy, you also deprive healthy cells of the same energy source.[2]  So by trying to prevent one problem, you are actually creating another!

But what about our teeth?

Some people claim that we should never eat sugar because it causes cavities. Here’s the truth: sugar by itself does not cause cavities. Ask any dentist and they’ll tell you that what really happens is that the germs in your mouth use sugar to produce acid. Germs + sugar = Acid. It’s actually the acid that eats holes in your teeth and makes them susceptible to cavities. Brushing and flossing as recommended by your dentist is what prevents cavities, not simply eliminating sugar from your diet.[3] The important thing is to avoid consuming high-sugar foods and then not brushing.

Sugar and pain

Here at Salt Lake NutriCoaching, one of my specialties is helping people with chronic pain issues find easy, affordable ways to manage pain through proper nutrition. One thing I often tell my patients is that eating too much refined sugars causes a release of proteins called cytokines, which promote inflammation.[4] Inflammation is a common cause of pain, particularly in the joints and muscles. On the other hand, complex sugars in the form of whole grains do not cause the same rapid rise in blood sugar levels and therefore do not cause the same cytokine release.  Eating balanced meals, emphasizing complex sugars like whole grains, and including a good source of protein when you eat refined sugars can help prevent the rapid rise in blood sugar level and decrease the cytokine response. This, in turn, can help you manage inflammation and pain.


Sugar is like many other foods: if eaten in excess it is not a good thing, but it’s still an important nutrient that our body needs. Some forms of sugar are better for us than others. Refined sugars, like high fructose corn syrup found in soda and sports drinks, and those found in many desserts, aren’t the best kinds of sugars. Those that come from whole grains and complex carbohydrates are generally healthier choices because they don’t cause the same rise in blood sugar and often contain other vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. In the end, it’s not sugar itself that is the villain. The real enemy is the all-too common habit of eating it in excess.

Verdict: BUSTED

If you have any questions about the appropriate level of sugar in your diet, or how sugar plays a role in reaching your weight goals, managing chronic pain, or dealing with diabetes, please give me a call at 801-815-7301. I would be happy to set up a one-on-one consultation and diet analysis with you. This way you can feel confident that you are eating the right amount of sugar as part of a balanced diet that takes your specific goals and needs into account.


[1] Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes

[2] Does Cancer Love Sugar?

[3] Does sugar cause cavities? No…and yes.

[4] What you eat can fuel or cool inflammation, a key driver of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.