As a registered dietitian, I’m often asked, “What’s the best thing that I can do right now to eat healthier?” The short answer? Food prep! But today’s dizzying pace of life leaves all of us wishing we had a few extra hours in the day as we struggle to fit in work, family, friends, exercising, and healthy eating. So, shy of skipping out on sleep, what else is a busy health-conscious person to do? Dedicating just one or two hours a week to food prep can alleviate much of the hassle that comes from daily cooking (not to mention that it will help to keep you on track during the week when you might otherwise hear the take-out calling). Here are a few of my best food prep tips for beginners:

  1. Start small

You don’t have to make every meal of the week ahead of time. Simply having a few staple items prepared does wonders. Try keeping fresh cut vegetables, your favorite protein (like grilled chicken), and a healthy whole grain (such as cooked quinoa or brown rice) already prepared and handy in the fridge. With those three simple things prepared, you can throw together a quick stir-fry, an at-home-burrito-bowl, or a fancy salad in only a few minutes.

  1. Plan it out

Once you’re more comfortable with prepping ahead, sit down and make a plan for the items you want to prep for the week. Having a written plan not only helps to guide you in what you need to accomplish in the kitchen, but it also helps you write your grocery list.

  1. Measure twice, cut once

When writing your meal plan and considering food prep tips, try to re-use ingredients in multiple meals throughout the week. This way, when chopping up tomatoes for tacos tonight, you’re also chopping up the tomatoes that you’ll layer onto your salads over the next few days. Now there’s only one mess to clean, but multiple meals prepped!

Related: click here to sign up for a free consultation with a registered dietitian at FFC!

  1. Do double duty

If you’re going to take the time to make one meal, you might as well make a double batch and freeze the leftovers. By doing so, you’ll slowly stock your freezer with healthy “freezer meals” that only need a quick defrost and reheat. Foods that generally freeze well are soups (try this recipe!), stews, chili, and sauces.

  1. Don’t go overboard

Most foods only stay fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge, so too much food prep ahead of time can be wasteful unless it’s intended for the freezer. Using the 2/2/4 rule, remember that things should be completely chilled within 2 hours, stored in containers no more than 2 inches tall, and kept no longer than 4 days.

Did we miss one of your favorite food prep tips? Let us know in the comments!

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.

Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, sports supplements, amino acids, or combination of the above ingredients. Vitamins and supplements are growing in popularity among Americans, with approximately 68% of the population taking some form of dietary supplement.

User confidence of safety, effectiveness, and quality is also very high, at 84%. A large percentage of Americans also believe that supplements are a smart choice for a healthy lifestyle.

Taking Your Supplements with a Grain of Salt

However, it is important to understand that vitamins and supplements do not need to be proven safe and effective before marketing. Unlike medications, clinical trials are not required for dietary supplements.

Another misconception is that if x amount is necessary for optimal health, then three times that amount must be even better. This is not necessarily the case. Protein is a great example of a macronutrient that is necessary in ranges from 0.8-2.0 grams/kg body weight/day, but protein in excess of this does not contribute to increasing lean body mass.

How to Evaluate Dietary Supplements

How can consumers be protected? Here are 4 main guidelines you can keep in mind when looking at supplements. And of course, please remember to always check with your healthcare provider.

Be educated.

The supplement industry makes billions of dollars selling supplements that are not based on sound science. Supplement manufacturers can use industry funded research, or preliminary lab studies to support their claims.

Use reliable sources to evaluate supplements.

Websites including the office of dietary supplements and the Australia Sports Commission are good starting points.

Related: you might not need to be taking supplements for positive health changes – here are 5 spices that have great health benefits too!

Look for 3rd party certification.

These are independent agencies that test vitamins and supplements to ensure quality. Although they do not evaluate effectiveness, 3rd party certification can help ensure that what is listed on the label is actually contained in the supplement.

Note that each agency is different and such testing is essentially a snapshot in time of a particular product and is no guarantee that future batches will be the same. Some common 3rd party agencies include NSF International, United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the Banned Substance Control Group, ConsumerLab and Informed-Choice.

Watch out for proprietary blends.

Proprietary blends allow manufacturers to list ingredients without listing exact amounts for each ingredients. This is especially concerning for supplements containing stimulants caffeine, synephrine, or yohimbine.

Post written by FFC registered dietitian contributor. 



When it comes to getting healthy, eating out can sabotage our efforts. Whether it’s takeout, delivery, or even a fancy restaurant, much of the food prepared in these establishments tends to be heavy in salt and fat. After all, the goal of any place selling food is to satisfy customers with delicious flavor. As customers, it’s natural that we like rich, fatty foods. Chefs tend to rely on salt, sugar, fat and dairy to make dishes more delicious – and that can show up around your waistline. On top of that, excuses for relying on eating out often are plentiful: lack of time, lack of energy, lack of cooking ability. My nutritious 5-minute Asian noodle bowl recipe is here to change that.

This quick, healthy dish is ready in just minutes. It uses a few key ingredients that you can always keep stocked in your pantry and freezer for easy access. Healthy buckwheat soba noodles and plant-based protein from edamame will leave you feeling satisfied and fueled for your next workout. Jazz it up with shredded cabbage, baby spinach, or sliced bell pepper. This noodle-bowl will “take-out” your excuses for “takeout”!

Related: sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an on-site registered dietitian at FFC – click here!

5 Minute Asian Noodle Bowl

  • Level: easy
  • Servings: 1
  • Ready in: 5 minutes


Quick Asian Peanut Sauce:

  • 2 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 tbs orange juice (or pineapple juice)
  • 1/8 tsp red chili flake
  • 1/2 tsp tamari or soy sauce

Noodle Bowl:

  • 1 (2 oz) bundle Soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup shelled edamame

Related: need a quick boost of energy? Check out these nostalgic, yet adult-worthy PB & J Oat Bites!


Make the noodles. You can bring a pot of water to a boil. (This may add a few extra minutes, but will still be pretty fast).

Add the Soba noodles to boiling water.

Make the Quick Asian Peanut Sauce. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, lime, red chili, tamari, and orange juice.

After the noodles cook for about 2 minutes, add the bean sprouts and edamame. Cook 1 more minute, until hot.

Drain noodle mixture. Toss with the Quick Asian Peanut Sauce and serve.

Chef’s Tip: Use an empty peanut butter jar to make a big batch of the Quick Asian Peanut Sauce. You can then whip up this bowl in even less time, or use it as a dressing for salad, a dip for veggies, or even poured over roasted sweet potatoes.

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving (1 recipe)

Calories 445.44

Calories from Fat (34%) 152.39

  • % Daily Value
  • Total Fat 18.22g 28%
  • Saturated Fat 3.51g 18%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 773.95mg 32%
  • Potassium 744.9mg 21%
  • Total Carbohydrates 63.84g 21%
  • Fiber 4.47g 18%
  • Sugar 7.35g
  • Protein 21.43g 43%
  • Calcium 24.96mg 2%
  • Iron 62.53mg 347%
  • Vitamin A 43.18IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0mg 0%

Post written by FFC Boystown Group Fitness Instructor Katie Simmons.

About Katie

Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown, and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at








A friend of mine recently told me she thinks I have FOMO, a fear of missing out. I thought about it, and the concept resonates: I do often feel conflicted when I want to have some downtime but an interesting activity or event comes up. I also have tried hang gliding, bungee jumping, skydiving; you get the picture—not because I’m a daredevil or an adrenaline junkie, but because I want to experience as many things as possible. It had not occurred to me before that there is a connection between this feeling and eating. But when my friend nabbed me with the FOMO label, it made me think back to my childhood and other times in my life where this showed up, and how it could make eating healthy difficult. Here’s why eating with mindfulness is important.

FOMO with Food

My grad school classmates would laugh at me because I’d lug around pretty much my entire kitchen to feel prepared for a long day of classes. And it’s not just me. There is this pervasive fear of missing out when it comes to food. This is probably one reason that most people I work with are fast eaters; it seems built into our DNA and likely served us well for evolutionary purposes. “Better get to it before someone (be it human or animal) does!”

It also seems like that’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to say no to those donuts your coworker brings in for an early office meeting, or a dessert you just have to try at that upscale restaurant downtown.

Related: want to master your meals? Sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an on-site registered dietitian – click here!

Or that, despite your best intentions of bringing your own healthy snacks to work, come 3 o’clock, the vending machine wins out over your trail mix or seemingly lackluster hummus and veggies. You don’t want to miss out on those flavors, the satisfaction, the buttery goodness, the sugar—right now.

So, are we doomed to feel like FOMO failures, or can we do something about this unsettled feeling? Here are a few simple tips to eat with more mindfulness that will help us feel more grounded when a food FOMO moment gets the better of us:

Self talk is powerful.

I like to tell myself in those moments is that I’ve had X (brownie, ice cream, pizza) before, or something similar, and I know what it tastes like. I know I will have it at some point again—so I don’t have to eat it this minute. One research study highlighted in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when people said “I can have it some other time” to themselves, it lessened the value of that food and allowed them to postpone eating it.

Keep in mind that the first three bites of any food are the most satisfying.

If you do want to indulge but you’re trying to reduce your portion size, try eating three bites and stopping after that—either by sharing, putting the food away, or possibly even throwing it away (although I also try to avoid wasting food—even indulgent ones!).

Related: take time to stop and smell the… food. 4 tricks to eating more intuitively! 

Think about the future.

When you feel tempted by certain foods, consider how much better your mind and body will actually feel when you choose healthier options, now and later in the day. You might think about having more energy in the afternoon if you choose a protein-filled snack rather than anticipating a late-day slump.

Feel the discomfort, move through it, and let it go.

This is kind of like grief or sadness, or any other uncomfortable feeling that you want to relieve. We naturally want to run away from yucky feelings. But when we sit with them with mindfulness instead of fight them (or in this case, eat the food), the moment often passes. And then, the need to eat this thing RIGHT NOW lifts, and we can wait another day—or longer.

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Cindy Klinger.

About Cindy

Cindy’s love of food led her to explore its health benefits, and the more she learned the more interested she became. After several years as a writer and editor for magazines, she decided to make a career change to help support people in reaching their health goals. As a dietitian (currently one of FFC’s on-staff registered dietitians), she has worked in a variety of settings, including with refugees, as a health coach, at a retirement home and with WIC (Women, Infants and Children).

Seeing people have “aha” moments and make small and significant changes that profoundly affect their wellbeing is extremely rewarding to Cindy. She enjoys the process of communicating and sharing questions and answers with clients around their health and wellness concerns. Cindy’s approach is a blend of lessons she’s learned along the way, and she strives to think outside the box and help make the process a fun one for her clients. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her at!

As a generally healthy individual, I eat my daily greens, stay away from added sugar and include protein and healthy fats in my diet. This, we have learned, is probably the most important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. Beyond that, though, there is actually much more we can do for our diet in addition to just eating the right foods. This is where the health benefits of spices come into play. Spices are more than just a way to change up your normal chicken and rice!

Not only that, but using these different spices in place of salt will significantly reduce your sodium intake which may aid in lowering blood pressure! Check out this list of 5 spices you need to add to your diet for health benefits.

*As a note, please always check with your healthcare provider before including any of these in your diet.


Cinnamon is most commonly associated with baking, and thereby falls into the off-limits category of “added sugars”. However, you can gain a ton of benefits from this spice. Not only that, but health benefits to active people are especially huge!

Cinnamon has a big-time effect on insulin sensitivity, thereby improving the body’s ability to use glucose. What does that mean? Your body will more efficiently digest and absorb your food after a meal, which will regulate weight gain. Other benefits of cinnamon include raising good cholesterol, potentially lowering bad cholesterol and reducing inflammation.

How To:

Just ½ – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon will allow you to reap its benefits – add it to your daily post-workout shake, coffee, oatmeal, yogurt, or even to meat to give it a smoky taste!

Related: wanna take your boring oatmeal from meh to magical? Cinnamon can help – plus some of these other low-sugar add-ins!

Cayenne Pepper

If you don’t like spicy foods, you may need to tone this one down a bit! Cayenne pepper aids in digestion and muscle cramps and has been known to fight off cold and flu bugs. This hot spice can also help lower high cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

For those leading an active lifestyle, this spice also helps to relieve joint and other severe-level pain while also aiding in weight loss. It’s high in vitamins A and E, so it also contributes to healthy vision and skin as well as slowing the aging process.

How To:

I like to mix a teaspoon of cayenne pepper with ¼ – ½ a lemon and hot water and drink it (be prepared for a fiery mouth!) but you can also add this to any meal to spice it up.


Turmeric goes back many, many years as being known for its medicinal qualities. This intense spice has some of the most exciting attributes, including reducing risk for heart disease, preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s and fighting depression.

On a more day-to-day scale, this spice acts as an anti-inflammatory, increases antioxidants in the body and improves memory. It can also delay aging and age-related chronic diseases.

Related: register to talk to a dietitian and receive a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

How To:

You can buy turmeric in powder form and even pill form, but always try and pair it with black pepper to enhance the benefits. I add ½ teaspoon of turmeric and a dash of pepper to my eggs everyday. You can also make tasty ethnic dishes using turmeric.

Crushed Red Pepper

In my opinion, crushed red pepper is an easy spice to add to your diet, as most of us have tried it on pizza at some point in our lives. But did you know that crushed red pepper has huge health benefits? Crushed red pepper has something called capsaicin—which is responsible for many health benefits, including acting as a painkiller.

Crushed red pepper also has been known to increase metabolism and act as an appetite suppressant. It can also boost immunity and increase antioxidants.

How To:

Add ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper to your eggs in the morning (along with your turmeric and pepper), or on top of salads, fish, or other proteins.

Related: speaking of benefits, check out the awesome benefits of matcha in this post!


My personal favorite spice for benefits is garlic. I add garlic to everything I eat… except maybe my morning oatmeal! Garlic has been proven to reduce bad cholesterol, risk for heart disease and risk for cancer. That, in and of itself, is enough for me!

It has also been proven to fight infection, viruses, and the common cold. Additionally, some studies have also shown that garlic can improve athletic performance and bone health.

How To:

Like I said, I add garlic to everything. My personal favorite is marinating chicken in garlic and olive oil with some red wine vinegar. Plus, you can add garlic powder to any recipe without adding a significant caloric increase!

Related: many of these spices (like garlic) can SERIOUSLY elevate your meal prep game – cook up a big batch of seasoned veggies for easy meal sides! Check out more ideas here.

Post written by FFC Group Fitness Instructor Tiffany Florczak.

T Florczak group fitness instructor at FFC


About Tiffany

Tiffany is a group fitness instructor at multiple FFC locations. She currently specializes in strength-based formats, but you can find her teaching on a spin bike soon! Tiffany enjoys spending her free time in the weight room of FFC, experimenting with healthy recipes in the kitchen, or exploring Chicago’s food scene.

Come to her weekly classes ready to sweat – check out her weekly schedule below. You can also follow her on Instagram HERE for daily workout ideas to try on your own, or find her on Facebook  HERE. 




We’re bringing you a mini-series to introduce and examine some of the top nutrition trends. We’ll explore what’s hot, where we’re seeing it, why it’s gaining popularity, and what’s in store for the future. In this post, we’ll go through the trend of the low sugar diet, benefits and how you can try it on your own.

Added sugar has been in the spotlight lately, especially as research continues to emerge linking excess sugar to a host of metabolic dysfunction and disease.The average American consumes more than 20 teaspoons of sugar daily. Comparing that figure to the recommended daily limits of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women shows the impact that food manufacturers truly have on our sugary bottom line.

Journalists and health advocates alike have taken food manufacturers to task in recent month calling for a reduction in the sweet stuff and the importance of educating people on a low sugar diet. Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, has outright declared a ‘War on Sugar,’ and numerous highly regarded commercial publications have been raising awareness of the health impacts of added sugar.

So, what’s this mean for the future? As focus on the added sugar issue grows, expect to see demand for (and, subsequently, the supply of) “reduced sugar,” “no sugar added,” and “alternatively sweetened” products to rise. Look for food manufacturers to make the move towards less refined, natural sweeteners like dates, honey, and agave.

There will also be an increase in products made with “all natural” sugar substitutes like Stevia, Truvia, Sweetleaf, Whey Low, and Xylitol. Expect to see one nutrient benefit from this sugar crusade: fat. When the low-fat craze hit in the 1980’s, food manufacturers replaced fat with sugar to keep our taste buds happy (and our wallets open). It’s a safe bet that many companies will offer product lines, especially dressings and dairy that return normal-fat content and reduce the amount of added sugars.

Related: register to talk to a dietitian and receive a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

Low-Sugar Recipe Hack: Make Your Own “Added Sugar” Flavored Yogurt Substitutes

Greek yogurt is all the rage right now, and rightfully so – it packs a high-protein punch. But not all yogurts are created equal. With some commercially prepared flavored yogurts containing as many as 22 grams of sugar for a measly 6 ounces of yogurt, it’s buyer beware in the yogurt aisle. So skip the stress and the worry – make your own! Below are a few recipes to make your yogurt flavorful and nutritious.

Fruit On The Bottom Yogurt

Each of the fruit + honey combinations below is approximately 12 grams sugar, total, cutting approximately 5-10 grams of added sugar from commercial yogurt brands while adding more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and overall volume to your yogurt.

Step 1: Pick one fruit option from the list below
Step 2: Mash or dice your fruit to your preference
Step 3: Mix in ½ TBSP honey, if needed (optional)
Step 4: Add 6 oz plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt
Step 5: Enjoy!

  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 6 medium strawberries
  • ½ cup blackberries
  • 2/3 cup raspberries
  • ½ small peach
  • ¼ cup pineapple chunks

Related: fast, convenient snack options (for when you’re in the airport, for example) without added sugar can be hard to find. Check out this post for some tips and options!

Flavorful Low-Sugar Combos

Not a fruit-in-my-yogurt person? Fear not! There are plenty of other options out there that are high in flavor and low in sugar. Add any of the following options below to 6 oz of plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt:

Post written by an FFC contributor.


“Don’t try to drive on an empty tank of gas.” This essential advice is something I remind my FFC members of all the time. When I teach Motiv8 at 6 AM, I’m pushing you to dig deep and give 100% in your workout. In order to get stronger, you have to train hard. You have to push your body through discomfort. How can you expect to do that on an empty stomach? Whether you’re training first thing in the morning, or right after work, it’s crucial to fuel up pre-workout. Running on an empty tank of gas will leave you tired and can increase your likelihood for injury. What you fuel up with is just as important to give you sustained energy. Check out this insanely easy recipe for peanut butter and jelly oat bites – one of my favorite go-to pre-workout snacks.

The classic combination of PB & J takes us all back to the memories of childhood (but dried currants and all-natural ingredients keep the recipe mature enough for adults). I throw just a few ingredients into my food processor and roll up a batch. Not only are these great pre-workout snacks that are gluten-free, vegan options, they’re also 100% plant-based and have tons of nutritional benefits!

Some of these benefits include:

  • Whole grain oats are naturally gluten-free, providing vegan protein and fiber for long-term energy.
  • Natural roasted peanut butter adds some fat to give you long-lasting satiety.
  • Dried currants provide natural sweetness for an energy boost that won’t leave you dragging in an hour.
  • A dash of cinnamon does double-duty, providing interesting flavor and acts as an anti-inflammatory food (read more about controlling inflammatory foods here!)

One of the best parts? I’ll make a batch of these and keep them in the freezer – and any time I might need a quick energy bite, (or some pre-workout snacks) I throw a few in my bag! They work in the morning before I teach class, in the afternoon when I am craving something sweet, and even on long trips when I’m stuck in an airport. I even make them as a personal chef for my clients who pack them in their kids’ lunch boxes!

Related: want to set up a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of our on-site registered dietitians? Click here!

Try This Recipe: PB & J Oat Bite Pre-Workout Snacks

  • Level: easy
  • Servings 10 – yields 20 “bites”
  • Ready in: 10 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free oats for 100% gluten-free treats)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (preferably with no added sugars or oils)
  • 1 1/4 cup dried Zante currants
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or adjust, depending on salt in peanut butter)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp warm water

Related: speaking of energy – check out this easy peasy 5 minute Asian noodle bowl for the next time you’re craving take-out!

Pre-workout snacks - try these easy PB & J Oat Bites!


Gather ingredients. Place the oats in your food processor. Puree oats until well-chopped, resembling shredded coconut. Remove from food processor and pour into a medium bowl.

Add the peanut butter, currants, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to the food processor. Puree peanut butter mixture until currants are chopped and everything is well-combined.

Add shredded oats back to the food processor. Puree. Add 2-4 tablespoons warm water, until mixture binds together. Continue to puree until mixture naturally clumps into a large ball. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until this consistency is reached.

Remove mixture from the food processor into a medium bowl. Roll about 1 tablespoon of batter into a two-bite ball. Repeat with remaining mixture.

Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week or freeze for longer.

Chef’s Tip: for a peanut-free alternative, try it with almond butter or sunflower seed butter. These are perfect fuel for traveling through airports or training for marathons! Want to see a step-by-step? Check out the full preparation video here!

Nutrition Info

Serving size: 1/10 of a recipe (about 2 bites).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 219.71
  • Calories From Fat (31%) 68.31

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 8.17g 13%
  • Saturated Fat 1.65g 8%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 177.46mg 7%
  • Potassium 346.45mg 10%
  • Total Carbohydrates 31.63g 11%
  • Fiber 4.62g 18%
  • Sugar 13.36g
  • Protein 7.93g 16%
  • Calcium 0.86mg <1%
  • Iron 36.39mg 202%
  • Vitamin A 13.91IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0.04mg <1%

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at


I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the web: “unbalanced cortisol levels lead to weight gain.” This can be incredibly frustrating if you are in a deficit-related program trying to lose weight for a healthier lifestyle, or even if you have another goal (like an upcoming weight lifting competition). What is a deficit? A caloric deficit is burning more calories than your body requires. Knowing how to manage, maintain and avoid your triggers will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals through nutrition and hormone maintenance. And prevent a cortisol crash.

So How Does Cortisol Tie Into All Of This?

Simply put, cortisol is a hormone released in the body via the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are small glands located on the top of each kidney. They produce hormones that we cannot live without – one being cortisol.

Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions. Your body’s cortisol levels increase when adrenocorticotropic hormones are released from your pituitary gland. Without getting into a lot of science, essentially, when a person is put under excess amounts of stress (whether it be physical or mental), the body produces more cortisol, attempting to calm you down.

How does this relate to nutrition? Another key purpose of cortisol is to help the body metabolize and use sugar and fat for energy. Having an excess amount of cortisol in the bloodstream and body can lead to weight gain, immune system issues, blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, low testosterone in men and fertility problems.

Related: want to set up a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians? Click here!

How to Balance Your Cortisol Levels

It’s safe to say that we want to keep this hormone as level as possible and prevent a cortisol crash! If you believe that you have chronically elevated cortisol levels, there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to help overcome this unwanted hormone excess. Lowering your cortisol can be accomplished relatively quickly.

Here are 4 tips that you can implement today to prevent cortisol crashing quickly and easily:

Up your magnesium intake.

Whether you get this through food or an Epsom salt bath, upping your magnesium intake will go a long way to improve your cortisol levels.

Get more sleep.

The obvious one – getting enough sleep helps your body restore and ensure you’re ready for another day of hard work.

Related: food can help you regulate your mood! Avoid mood swings with these nutrition tips.

Limit your blue light exposure.

Try to avoid blue light 1-2 hours before bed. Blue light comes from cell phones and televisions. Being exposed to blue light inhibits your body from creating melatonin, a naturally produced sleep aid, and can lead to getting less sleep, which is important for balancing your cortisol levels.

Eat regularly.

Eating frequent meals will help to keep your blood sugar level even throughout the day. Make sure to grab a bite/healthy snack every 2 – 4 hours.

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park registered dietitian Sarah Sobotka.

About Sarah

Sarah is a registered dietitian at FFC Lincoln Park. She is a credentialed professional who is inspired by the science of nutrition, passionate about advancing her knowledge in the field, and committed to promoting the RDN credentials.

She believes in the power of food, fitness, and having a good lifestyle balance. She aspires to serve as a guide to her clients & make positive differences in their lives. She loves to work out and be active, whether playing sports, rollerblading in the sun, or riding her bike to enjoy new delicious restaurants around the neighborhood.


So you’ve made the decision to track your nutrition. Congratulations! Meal tracking can improve one’s diet, promote more mindful eating behaviors, provide lots of new information for your benefit as well as for your doctor or dietitian and ultimately, lose more weight! MyFitnessPal (a popular app available for both iPhone and Android) is an easy and effective way to track what you eat.

Getting Started

After downloading the app and signing up using your email or Facebook, you are encouraged to provide basic information such as your age, weight and activity level.

This will help you establish a goal (such as losing, maintaining, or gaining weight) as well as the rate at which the weight change will occur. These factors will determine the app’s recommendation for your daily caloric intake.


Related: want some other apps or resources for tracking nutrition? Check out this post!

Track Your Diet

Now you can start tracking! Using the diary page, you can input new information by pressing the blue + button on the bottom of the screen or the “add food” button under specific meals. The + button allows for you to input food as well as other information like status with progress photos, water, exercise, and weight.

One of the most useful aspects of MyFitnessPal is their enormous database containing most food items that can be bought from stores. Your phone’s camera can also scan the barcode of almost any packaged food item and the database will usually have it stored! However, be careful to specify the number of servings you eat, as many packaged food items contain multiple servings.

As you track your meal through the day, the equation on your diary page will update to keep you informed on your progress. The more exercise you get in a given day, the more you will have to eat to compensate for those burned calories. Exercise can be factored into the equation automatically using your phone’s ability to count steps or compatible devices such as Apple Watch or Fitbit.

To see your breakdown of caloric intake per meal, nutrients and macros (carbs, fat, protein) click “Nutrition” while in the diary tab. Track your weight over time to further motivate yourself! You can also input other information like BMI and body fat %.

Related: want to supplement your meal tracking with a plan? Click here to register for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an FFC on-site registered dietitian!

5 Tips for Maximum Results

Use the “recent” food tab.

When inputting food in your MyFitnessPal diary, use the “recent” tab for foods you eat regularly. You can also group ingredients as a custom meal to use in the future. Over time, time spent tracking your meals should decrease significantly!

Say no to diets, just eat mindfully.

Studies show that people who subscribe to “fad diets” often do not succeed with their weight loss goals. At the end of the day, companies care most about making money by selling you products. Doing your research, tracking your diet, and eating more mindfully can be done without paying anyone (and is much cheaper, especially given that MyFitnessPal is free!)

Remember that everyone’s macros will be different.

Keep in mind that everyone is different –  different people will function best with different ratios of carbs and protein. Carefully monitor the way you feel and function after different meals – these experiences and results are uniquely yours!

Use the barcode scanner.

The barcode scanner is your friend! When I began to track my meals I was excited about the bar code scanner and the potential to track exactly what I ate. So for one day, I only ate food that came in packages I could scan. I cooked once that day but was sure to scan every ingredient using exact measurements. These rules dictated that I could not mindlessly eat a handful of chips or chug orange juice from the carton because everything had to be measured out precisely. I immediately learned about how to eat more mindfully.

Share the data!

The nutrition data you collect over time should be immensely helpful for your doctor, registered dietitian (did you know we have a full staff of RDs at FFC?), or other healthcare professional. Nutrition is one of the biggest indicators of overall health and it is currently very rare that patients have complete logs of their diets. If you are experiencing health problems potentially related to nutrition and your current health care professional is not knowledgeable about nutrition and primary prevention, find another who is.

The more you track, the more motivated you will be!

Post written by FFC contributor Andy Devries.


Winter weather gets a bad rap for also wreaking havoc on your health. Common questions we hear all the time include those such as “what’s the best way to boost your immune system before cold season?”, “what should you take to help prevent getting that icky bug that’s been hitting everyone?”, “what’s the best germ fighter around?” and “how do you fight colds faster?”

The answer is easy, simple, and my personal favorite: a healthy diet!

A healthy diet chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber is your best dietary weapon against the common cold. How to fight colds faster? Never get one in the first place!

How to Fight Colds Faster

Giving your immune system everything it needs to operate at full capacity on a daily basis is far more effective at preventing illness than nursing reactionary fizzy vitamin C drinks or popping zinc lozenges during cold and flu season.

Far more goes into making a healthy, fully-functional immune system than just vitamin C and zinc (which are two of the most commonly supplemented over-the-counter cold home remedies for immediate or after-the-fact treatment.)

Related: don’t forget to hydrate! Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated.

We need a whole host of vitamins and minerals just to have functional enzymes in our immune system, let alone all the other dietary components that go into making all facets of the immune system. So, the first and most important thing is to maintain a healthy and very well-balanced diet.

Vitamin C & Zinc Can Still Help

That being said, vitamin C and zinc supplementation may yet have their merits. While no definitive research exists to support the use of these supplements to reduce the incidence of the common cold in otherwise healthy individuals (in fact, it’s supposedly just the opposite: a quick perusal of current literature reveals that study after study has found neither vitamin C nor zinc to significantly reduce the number of times a person gets a cold), researchers are now looking into the efficacy of these products once you have already contracted a cold.

The data is mixed, but some studies have found an association between zinc and/or vitamin C supplementation and a reduction in the either the severity of symptoms or the duration of illness. More conclusive research is certainly needed, especially to clarify timing and dosage, which are both still very unclear.

Even though the jury is still out on some facets of cold remedies, one thing is for sure: a healthy diet sure is a tastier and simpler method for staying healthy all year long. Check out some of these delicious recipes for a fast nutrient fix when you’re feeling especially run down and need to fight colds faster or just when you’re in need of a health-kick.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

30-Minute Recipe: 3 Quick Cold-Busting Picks

Open-Faced Veggie-ful Breakfast Bagel

½ whole grain bagel topped with 2 tbsp cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, sliced cucumbers, and spinach with several slices of chicken or turkey.

Healthful Lunch Bowl

Top ½ cup black beans + ½ cup corn kernels with 1 serving fajita seasoned chicken, chopped tomatoes and sautéed bell pepper + onions (sliced and sautéed in 1 tsp olive oil). Additional toppings can include 1-2 tbsp light sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, and/or ¼ cup pico de gallo.

Bonus: this meal is easily made ahead of time in batch for a whole week’s worth of lunches that will keep you health and help you fight colds faster!

Lean Mean Mediterranean Dinner Salad

Toss 2-3 cups spinach with ½ cup chickpeas, 4 oz shredded chicken, and as much sliced cucumber, diced tomatoes, and diced red bell pepper as you like then top with 1 oz crumbled feta cheese; make a dressing from ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp olive oil, as much lemon juice and spices (try dill and a little garlic!) as you like.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.