We’ve made it past the holidays, but we’re not out of the woods yet! The time of year that we become inundated with opportunities to overindulge on sweets at work, at office parties, and family gatherings continues into this month – especially with the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and even Mardi Gras. It’s easy to justify why you can eat and drink whatever and however much you want. You think to yourself that you have committed to eating healthy, you work out hard, and that you deserve a day off— “cheat days”, if you will. Not so fast. Here are a few reasons why cheat days are a bad idea.

What are “cheat days”?

The thought behind a cheat day is that you schedule a specific meal or meals during the week when you basically eat anything you want, mainly foods that have been deemed “off limits” other times. You eat according to certain guidelines or a designated eating plan during the week, but when it comes time for your scheduled “cheat” meal (or day), all of that goes out the window.

Some may argue that giving yourself days of indulgence is giving yourself a needed break from your diet. That these cheat days provide relief from your weekly routine, and help you stick to healthier foods in the long run. It’s a way to reward your constraint and to satisfy your cravings.

Are these “cheat days” actually a good idea, though? Do these designated days of indulgence actually help you reach your health goals, or do they just keep you spinning your wheels?

What’s in a name?

The phrase “cheat day” itself suggests that what you are doing is something that is not allowed. When you designate foods as either “good” or “bad”, you are setting yourself up for feeling guilt and even overindulgence. When a food is deemed off-limits, you may actually think about and crave that particular food even more up until the day you are allowed to eat it. By that point, when that food is front of you, it’s very easy to lose control and overeat.

Categorizing foods as “good” or “healthy” can also have negative consequences. When you think something is healthy, you may not concern yourself with portion control, whether it’s a “normal” day or a “cheat” day. Remember, there actually can be too much of a good thing.

It’s more difficult to bounce back.

If you allow yourself one designated cheat day, it is easy for this to spill over to the next day, especially if it’s on the weekend. For example, let’s say you go out with your friends for lunch on a Saturday and end up eating pizza. You may feel that because of this you have already ruined your diet for that day and decide to indulge in an unhealthy meal for dinner as well. To make matters worse, you may even feel as though you ruined your diet for the whole weekend, so Sunday becomes an unhealthy eating day, thus allowing you to justify that you will just start again on Monday.

You shouldn’t use food as a reward.

Using cheat meals as a reward for sticking to your diet and eating healthy all week can be a slippery slope. Using unhealthy foods as a reward can lead to or perpetuate unhealthy food habits. You shouldn’t only be allowed these foods at certain times. You can still be healthy and eat these types of foods during the week, as long as you’re not having them every single day or bingeing on them.

How then do you stay on track without any cheat days? Here are 3 easy ways to eat healthy anyway:

1) Listen to your body and appetite.

By paying attention to your body’s hunger cues and eating what you want, you will more than likely end up eating a more sensible amount of it. Intuitive eating has shown to have a positive effect on weight and wellbeing.

2) Indulge in treats once in a while.

Including a properly portioned treat into your daily eating routine can break up the monotony, as well as continue to motivate you to stay on course and enjoy your meal time. These small indulgences can help ensure you don’t feel the need to go overboard.

Related: have questions on nutrition or want to set up a free 30-minute consultation? Click here!

3) Savor every bite.

Once you take a bite of any food item, take a moment to actually taste, smell, and experience that food as a whole. When you consciously take the time to be mindful about the food you are eating (more on how to eat mindfully here), it becomes much easier to tap into your satiety cues.

The Bottom Line

There really is no need in designating a cheat day to reward yourself. Denying yourself most of the week and then overindulging on one specific day “off” just promotes feelings of guilt, anxiety and shame around eating, and in turn can sabotage the goals that you are trying to achieve.

Instead, stay in tune with your body and make everyday a great day by listening to your appetite, periodically adding in some of your favorite foods in small portions, and savoring each and every bite of everything you eat. This sustainable approach will help you think of all of your eating as enjoyable, and that’s what will ultimately help you stay on track to reach your goals, as well as live a healthy lifestyle. Do you have tricks to stay on track without cheat days? Let us know in the comments!

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Mark LeVine. 


Inflammation” is the new buzzword, and for an important reason – it’s often a good indicator to us that something is going on we need to attend to. For example, inflammation can happen as a result of injury.

Additionally, if it’s happening on the inside of our bodies, it may feel like bloating – and it can cause heart disease, diabetes and other issues. So how can we prevent or reverse this inflammation? Food is our best bet.

As people who are trying to be healthy, we need to stop thinking of food as the enemy. Food can be our best friend if we choose the right kinds, the right amounts and use it in a way that is nice to our bodies. Here are 3 tips to reduce inflammation in your diet and the diseases it may cause!

  1. Eat a diet chock full of fruits and vegetables.

Aim to fill half your plate at each meal with these nutrient-dense items, about 5-7 servings per day. One serving is 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked. As I tell my clients, non-starchy vegetables are “free” – eat as many as you’d like! These are great for snacking or for the stress-relieving crunch we all desire. Make sure you eat the rainbow, meaning you chose many different colors each day. The different colors of produce give them different nutrients and antioxidant properties. Also, a variety of foods in our diet can improve the health of our gut, leading to great health overall.

How-To: I turn vegetables into comfort food by spiralizing them into noodles, blending them into smoothies or pancakes, dipping them in a homemade yogurt dip, or making fried rice with cauliflower “rice”. I also enjoy fruit as a dessert by sprinkling cinnamon on it and baking it.

  1. Season your food with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices!

Flavor is key to keeping healthy eating interesting, so why not flavor your foods AND add healthy properties? Use the following herbs and spices to get the best anti-inflammatory benefits: ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, sage, thyme, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. You can also practice mindful eating by focusing on the different flavors while you eat!

How-To: I love to add rosemary and thyme to chicken breasts, ginger to my morning tea, and cinnamon to just about everything!

Related: click here to schedule a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians!

  1. Drink water, lots of it.

Water helps flush out your system throughout the day, it helps you stay full, and it has zero calories! Aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces (i.e. 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces water). For more tips on how to stay hydrated, check out this post!

How-To: I like to add lemon to my water, but you can also choose lime, cucumbers, mint, or even ice. Please don’t add sweeteners – natural or artificial – as these will cause you to crave more sweets later.

Which of these tips have you tried?! Which are your favorite? Let us know in the comments or share on social using the tag #trainingforlife!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.


In response to our readers’ suggestions, we put together a list of more of our favorite resources – a list of some of our favorite nutrition books written by the nutrition experts themselves. Add these RD-written nutrition books to your must-read list and you won’t be disappointed!

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

As I always tell my clients, if everyone only ate when they were hungry and stopped when they were full, we’d all be at a healthy weight. The truth is, we eat for many reasons and usually aren’t very mindful about it.

Intuitive Eating is a nutrition philosophy that dives deep into the mindfulness of eating and focusing on hunger cues instead of constantly counting calories.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an FFC registered dietitian.

No Whine with Dinner by Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD

These dietitians have a blog called Meal Makeover Moms, and have put together many of their favorite kid-friendly recipes for those struggling to put healthy food on the table for the whole family. BONUS: 50 secrets for getting picky eaters to try new foods. Hey, this could work for your spouse, too!

Eat Your Way To Happiness by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD

They say money can’t buy happiness, but in my opinion, a plate of nutritious food sure can! This book lays out how to make small changes in your everyday eating habits to help you feel happier about your weight, your energy levels, and your mood (and chocolate is on the list!)

There you have it! Looking for more nutrition books and info? Be sure to also check out this post on the best FREE nutrition apps you can use to stay on track. Have you read an inspiring book written by a registered dietitian? Please share below in the comments!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.


Have you ever sat down in front of the TV screen with a big bag of popcorn and before you know it, you’ve reached into the bag and discovered the entire thing has magically disappeared?

If you are like most people, this is something that happens more often than we like to admit. This is an example of mindless eating – eating without paying attention to what or how much food is being eaten.

Mindful, or intuitive eating, on the other hand, is the practice of paying full attention to the experience of eating/drinking. It is realizing the color, smell, texture, flavor, temperature, and sound (crunch!) of the food we are eating.

Intuitive eating is important because taking the time to fully experience the act of eating not only makes us more aware of what we are putting into our bodies, but can also keep us from overeating, which can eventually result in weight loss (and a much healthier relationship with food). Read on for 4 ways to practice mindful eating.

4 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Eat in silence.

This means you are not sitting in front of the TV and eating, driving and eating or on your cell phone or social media while eating. It is eating in an electronic-free zone in order to fully be engaged in the eating experience.

Slow down.

Try taking a bite of food and putting your fork down in between bites. It is harder than you might think. Eating shouldn’t be a race, and it takes your brain 20-30 minutes to register the feeling of fullness.

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

Pay attention to flavor.

Explore tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), textures (crunchy, chewy etc.), and smells (sweet apple scent, smell of garlic etc.) of your food.

Try eating just one meal a week mindfully!

Mindful eating should be appreciating, respecting, and enjoying the food you eat everyday. It can be practiced on salad or even cake! It is easy for everyone to try mindful eating with the foods they love.

Related: similarly to scarfing your food down, cheat days aren’t the best idea. Check out this recent post to see why & how you can eat healthy and indulge occasionally anyway.

Do you have any tips for mindful eating or questions about how to eat more mindfully? Let us know in the comments!

This post was written by FFC Registered Dietitian Alicia Huggler. 


There is a LOT of information on nutrition out there – especially in this day and age! What do you do when you find varying facts, opinions and best practices The FFC Registered Dietitians have taken care of that for you and compiled a list of their favorite nutrition books and food documentaries. Check them out!

Related: want to set up a free nutrition consultation with an FFC registered dietitian? Click here!

Top Nutrition Books

  • In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan) – a great read-turned-documentary, this book explores the Western diet and its “edible food-like substances” that will keep you interested and educated.
  • Salt Sugar Fat (Michael Moss) – the food version of “big Pharma”, this read explores the processed world of “big food in America” to look at the reasoning of decisions made in the industry and the impact on products.
  • Mindless Eating (Brian Wansink) – a look at different studies conducted by Brian Wansink, a professor of consumer behavior, into what causes mindless eating.
  • The Good Gut (Erica & Justin Sonnenburg) – this book covers the impact good bacteria has on weight management and our immune system.
  • Food Rules (Michael Pollan) – an outline of 64 straightforward principles to help us decide what we should be eating.

Related: in addition to this list, check out this list of 3 registered dietitian-written books!

Top Nutrition Films

  • That Sugar Film – a good insight on what sugar actually does to the human body, and sneaky places it finds its way into our diets to watch out for.
  • Fed Up – a look into why our population is increasingly having adverse reactions to and getting sick from the food we’re eating.
  • The Men Who Made Us Fat – a 3-part series that includes information on food policy, as well as a deep dive into food marketing and messaging.
  • Supersize Me – a social experiment exploring what happens when you eat only things you can order off of the McDonald’s menu for a month (as demonstrated by director Morgan Spurlock.)
  • Forks Over Knives – a look at what happens when the concept of “food as medicine” is applied, with great information about plant-based diets.

Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments, or share your suggestions with using #FFCChicago! 

Post written by FFC contributor.


You shouldn’t have to sacrifice a well-deserved night out just because it can wreak havoc on your diet! However, it can be tough to find those delicious AND healthy restaurants when you want to dine out. Have no fear, we’ve compiled a list of some of the hottest hangouts in the area; check out these 5 healthy restaurants in Lincoln Park!

Summer House – 1954 N. Halsted St.

Escape the winter blues and find yourself on the beach! Well, not quite, but this California-style American restaurant is like a beach house transplanted from its sister restaurant in Santa Monica.

The wood-fired grill cooks up menu items spotlighting seasonal, locally-sourced products. Check out the bakery counter on your way out for pastries, muffins and Lettuce Entertain You chef and partner Jeff Mahin’s famous cookies.

Healthy menu items that catch this RD’s eye:

  • Roasted Beets with Grapefruit Aioli
  • Wood Grilled Mahi-Mahi Tacos with Guacamole
  • Quinoa and Forbidden Black Rice Bowl with Green Curry and Local Veggies

BOKA – 1729 N. Halsted St.

If you have a special occasion coming up, consider this Michelin Star winning gem. Cozy up in a booth and enjoy the eclectic decor while enjoying beautifully executed dishes and craft cocktails.

Healthy menu items that catch this RD’s eye:

  • Heirloom Carrots with Pistachio, Amaranth and Smoked Goat Cheese
  • Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Pears and Sunflower Seeds
  • Coffee and Hazelnut Whole Milk Ice Cream


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Blue Door Farm Stand – 2010 N. Halsted St.

This farm-to-table café and artisan’s market, named for Oprah’s former Indiana property, prides itself on featuring fresh, seasonal food and drinks from local farms and farmers’ markets, including Chicago favorites Harvest Juicery and Bow Truss Coffee Roasters.

In addition to offering a catering service, the Blue Door Farm Stand can accommodate private events, offers takeout and local delivery. Lactose intolerant? You can order almond milk in your latte.

Healthy menu items that catch this RD’s eye:

  • Sweet Potato Hummus
  • Baked Parmesan Kale Chips
  • Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing

Related: how a plant-based diet helped this group exercise instructor and personal chef overcome food addiction.

Café Ba-Ba-Reeba – 2024 N. Halsted St.

You don’t have to leave your kids at home when you go to “Chicago’s Original Tapas Bar.” They have a children’s menu, as well as a complete gluten-free menu, including dessert. On Tuesdays take advantage of half-off Spanish wines, or half-priced craft cocktails on Mondays.

Menu items that catch this RD’s eye:

  • House Marinated Spanish Olives
  • Wood Oven Roasted Veggies with Toasted Pine Nuts
  • Seared Sea Scallops with Leeks and Torched Oranges

Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen – 1625 N. Halsted St.

This inexpensive BYOB place has something for everyone, including vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free options.

Some health-conscious plates to consider:

  • Lentil Soup
  • Grilled Veggies with Curry Sauce
  • Falafel Plate with Hummus and Tahini Sauce

So look for these items which won’t undo all of your hard, healthy work because social health plays a role in your overall wellness too!

*Note: All menu items subject to change

Post written by FFC contributor.


Ever heard of souping? If you haven’t already, you likely will. Souping has been touted as “the new juicing.” Before you roll your eyes, take a look at what the trend entails and how it can make eating healthy during these colder months easy.

Often shunned for high sodium content, many people wonder if soup is actually healthy. It is! Vegetable and broth-based soups can be both healthful and delicious, packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

A well-crafted soup contains a combination of vitamin-rich vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Soups can provide the fiber and protein for a high-volume meal that is relatively low in calories when compared with other foods with similar nutrient profiles.

Look for broth-based soups that have plenty of vegetables and a serving of lean protein in each bowl. Additionally, soups with a serving of legumes (such as beans or lentils) will provide you with quality low-glycemic carbohydrates, fiber, and additional protein along side the extra flavors and textures they bring to the dish. Beware soups that are cream-based as they are typically loaded in saturated fat and extra calories.

While we don’t necessarily promote “fad diets”, souping can be a great way to reset your diet and cut calorie intake while still getting all the nutrients you need with a quick, 30-minute meal. What should you know about souping? Souping is a short-term diet comprised solely of soup.

Pros of the Souping Diet:

  • Souping minimizes blood sugar spikes when compared to juicing because vegetable and legume-based soups are not only inherently lower in sugar compared to juices (which are primarily made from fruit), but they also provide a greater concentration of complex carbohydrates (which are much slower to digest and raise blood sugar).
  • Nutritious soups have protein, which is typically lacking in a juice cleanse.
  • The extra fiber and protein found in soup not only provides more nutrition than a typical juice cleanse, but it also provides more satiety.

Cons of the Souping Diet:

  • Souping often tends to be low in calories – sometimes too low – which may lead to muscle breakdown instead of fat loss.
  • Souping is a short-term “fad” diet, not a long-term solution. Substantive and maintainable weight loss will require more changes to the big (dietary) picture than a soup cleanse will provide.

Bottom line: nutritious soups can be a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. For some people, replacing a few meals per week with a well-crafted, lower-calorie soup can be a great springboard into making those small dietary changes that eventually add up to big changes.

Related: soups are a great meal to prepare if you are meal prepping. Check out some other meal prep tips here!

30-Minute Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Yields 4 servings.

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 – 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP Italian Spice Blend
  • 2 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup kidney beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the onions and carrots until softened, 3-5 minutes. Ad garlic and continue to sauté ~2 minutes, until softened.
  • Add tomato paste and spices, stir to incorporate and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock, stirring to combine. Make sure to dissolve any tomato paste lumps.
  • Add chicken pieces, cabbage, green beans, and kidney beans, stirring to combine. Bring soup up to a slow simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer until all vegetables are tender and chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Post written by FFC contributor.


While a rigorous workout at FFC West Loop can leave you feeling energized and content, dining out in the area shouldn’t make you nervous about derailing your healthy eating habits. After all, getting out and enjoying a meal (or a happy hour once in a while, like these nearby spots) not made in your own kitchen is an event to be celebrated! Check out these healthy restaurants in West Loop that will offer something for everyone – no matter what type of cuisine you prefer!

Greek Islands (Mediterranean) – 200 S. Halsted St.

The “Mediterranean Diet” is widely considered to be one of the healthiest diets around, focusing on high consumption of vegetables, nuts, oils, legumes, fish and whole grains, and low consumption of red meat, dairy products and processed foods. At Greek restaurants like this one, opt for vegetable or seafood dishes, and steer clear of the fried foods, red meats and cream sauces.

Healthy suggestions:

  • Broiled seafood shish kabob
  • Vegetarian plate
  • Fresh whole fish

Haymarket Pub & Brewery (American/Pub) – 737 W. Randolph St.

Pub fare can be tricky when you’re watching what you eat, but that doesn’t mean it’s off limits. While you should probably skip the bun, pass on the fried foods and stay away from pizza, you still have many options to choose from for a tasty yet healthy meal.

Healthy suggestions:

  • Pear salad
  • Vegan chili
  • Grilled chicken breast – No bun
  • Diner-style burger – No bun, 1 patty only


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Jaipur (Indian) – 847 W. Randolph St.

Bread, rice, ghee (clarified butter) and cheese are staples in most Indian cuisine, and it can be tricky to see past them to the healthier options. Avoid the fried samosas, paneer (cheese) and malai (cream), go easy on the rice and help yourself to dal (lentils), lean meats, and of course, plenty of vegetables.

Healthy suggestions:

  • Tandoori chicken
  • Mahi tikka
  • Dal makahani
  • Navrattan korma

Sushi Dokku (Japanese) – 823 W. Randolph St.

Traditional Japanese cuisine centers on fresh fish, tofu and vegetables, but more and more these days we’re seeing tempura, mayonnaise-based “spicy” sauces, cream cheese and even fried foods making their way onto the menu. In addition to these, many restaurants offer a wide variety of noodle and rice dishes to choose from, which can be overloaded with refined carbohydrates and sodium. If you’re looking for a lighter meal, opting for the more traditional fare is recommended.

Healthy suggestions:

  • Cucumber and spiced tofu salad
  • Nigiri or sashimi
  • Northern California maki roll
  • Ecuador maki roll (hold the wasabi mayo)

Viaggio Ristorante & Lounge (Italian) – 1330 W. Madison St.

When you think of Italian food, what comes to mind other than pasta, cheese, pasta, tomatoes and… More pasta? While most Italian menus feature more pasta dishes than anything else, there are indeed other options if you’re willing to branch out. If you are looking for a pasta fix, I suggest splitting an entree-sized portion with a friend or loved one, and avoiding heavy cream sauces.

Healthy suggestions:

  • Salmon over mixed greens
  • Chicken Viaggio
  • Pappardelle shrimp and broccollini – Share it or box up half to go!

*Note: All menu items subject to change

Did we miss one of your favorite spots? Let us know in the comments!

Post written by FFC contributor.


It’s 5 PM and you’ve almost hit your daily 60-gram macro limit for fat (or some other type of macro), and you haven’t even had dinner yet. What’s a flexible dieter to do? How do you balance macros?

This is a question I get from my clients all the time. You have two choices in this situation: 1) you can go over the limit for a particular macro for that day or 2) you can eat foods that are free or very low in that particular macro.

If you opt for the second option, your next natural question would probably be something along the lines of, “what foods are available to eat in each category?” Below I’ve compiled a number of useful lists you can refer to in this situation to help yourself balance macros and stay on track, but also eat healthy and feel satisfied!

Protein-Dominant Foods

These foods are rich in protein, but free from all or most other macros. Eat these foods when you need more protein, but have already hit or are coming close on your limit of carb or fat macros.

  • Pure whey protein powder/ vegan protein powder: this is great to have on hand and choose brands that have zero carbs and fat or brands that have very little of the other macros. Brands like Isopure, Pescience, Vega One, and BioSteel are zero carbs or very low carbs and 1 gram of fat per serving.
  • Very lean chicken breast: this is only about 1.5-2 grams of fat per serving and could be even less if you remove visible trace of yellow chicken fat before you cook it.
  • Fish: many fish are very low in fat. The top three? Atlantic Cod (0 carbs and .8 grams of fat per serving, Orange Roughy (0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving) and Mahi Mahi (0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving).
  • Seitan: this source of protein is 0 grams of fat and just 6 net carbs.
  • Egg Whites: 1 egg white provides just trivial amounts of both fat and carbs, but 3.6 grams of protein.
  • Turkey Breast: roasted turkey breast is just .8 grams of fat per serving and 0 carbs.
  • Crabmeat: Alaskan King Crab is just .8 grams of fat per serving and zero carbs. Just skip the dipping butter!

Related: want to set up a free nutrition consultation at FFC? Click here!

Carbohydrate-Dominant Foods

These foods are rich in carbs, but free from all or most other macros. These may come in handy when you need more carbohydrates, but have already hit your limit on protein and fat. While it would be simple to just eat a tablespoon of sugar… these are healthier options!

  • Fruit: most fruit is (almost) fat free and very low in protein. Some common options? \
    • Bananas – a medium banana has less than .5 grams of fat and only 1.4 grams of protein.
    • Apples – a large/ medium apple has less than a gram of both fat and protein.
    • Blueberries – a cup has .5 grams of fat and only 1 gram of protein.
    • Strawberries – a cup of strawberries has less than .5 grams of fat and only 1 gram of protein.
    • Pears – a large pear has a trivial amount of fat and less than a gram of protein.
  • Honey: While honey is mostly pure sugar, it does offer some good health benefits, so use this as a carb-boosting sweetener when needed.
  • Sweet potatoes: a medium sweet potato has a trivial amount of fat and just 2 grams of protein, but 23 grams of healthy carbs.
  • Butternut squash: a cup of roasted butternut squash is virtually fat-free and contains less than 2 grams of protein.
  • Dried fruit: dried fruit is a quick way to boost your carb intake in a hurry. Make sure to choose dried fruits with no added sugar and ones that are unsulfured. Some good options:
    • Trader Joe’s Unsulfured Apricots: 10 apricots contain 50 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat and only 2 grams of protein plus 4 grams of fiber.
    • Dried figs: 5 dried figs deliver 26 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 7 grams of fiber
    • Dried dates – this is as good as candy dried fruit and contains 31 g of carbs, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 3 grams of fiber per 5 dates.

Related: do you need help regulating your cortisol levels? Read this!

Fat-Dominant Foods

This is one macro group that I never have trouble reaching, and one that I actually have to work at NOT going over – but I recognize some flexible dieters may not find it as easy, especially if you have been stuck in a low fat mindset for a long time. Below are some options that are not only rich in fat, but in healthy fat too.

  • Virgin olive oil: this monosaturated oil has been linked to a lot of health benefits so use it when possible to boost your fat grams for the day. 1 tablespoon is 14 grams of fat and nothing else.
  • Virgin coconut oil: this fat has gained wide popularity over the last 5 years and also has some health promoting properties. 1 tablespoon contains 14 grams of fat and no other macros.
  • Grass fed butter: grass fed butter also packs some nutrition along with the fat. 1 tablespoon is 11.6 grams of fat and has just a trace of carbs and protein.
  • Nuts: nuts are high in fat, but do contain some protein and carbs. However, the fat they contain is healthy and by far the dominant macro. Some good options include:
    • Almonds – 10 almonds have 6 grams of fat, 2.4 grams of carbs, and 2.6 grams of protein.
    • Walnuts – 1 oz contains 18.6 grams of fat, 3.9 grams of carbs and 4.3 grams of protein.
    • Pecans – 1 oz delivers 20.4 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs and 2.6 grams of protein.

Other Tips on Macros Related to a Healthy Diet

Will going over on a macro ruin your diet?

Don’t stress out if you go over one of your macros on a particular day – or even if you don’t hit one. It won’t ruin your diet. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to his as close to your TDEE as possible. Macros are more for “fine tuning” your results, while your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, related to exercise or expended energy through normal daily activities) determines whether you lose, maintain or gain. Your TDEE is determined by combining your MBR (metabolic rate) with the calories you burn through physical activity.

So yes, you should strive to meet your macros, as these will help you reach your goals as far as body composition is concerned, but eating 20 extra grams of fat on a particular day won’t derail your progress unless it puts you over your caloric goal regarding your TDEE.

Interested in knowing how many calories you should be eating or more about macro tracking? Feel free to contact me at ssobotka@ffc.com or set up a 30-minute complimentary nutrition session and learn more about the programming and resources available to you here at FFC!

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Registered Dietitian Sarah Sobotka


I recently joined the Fitness Formula Clubs team as a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown. While walking into FFC for my audition prior to starting classes, a memory of how I began my journey to following a plant-based diet was sparked from when I first entered this industry.

15 years ago, after earning my AFAA certification, I dove head-first into the world of teaching. Some days would go from 6 AM until 10 PM, teaching 4 or 5 classes a day. I was teaching all kinds of formats, all over the city, working to supplement my unpaid passion for theatre and dance.

On top of the 20 hours a week I spent teaching classes, the hours of dance rehearsals for shows, and the personal training I’d do in between, a compulsion drove me to do more.

I would be on the elliptical machine for an hour before teaching a double, just to make sure I burned my magic calorie goal that day. I’d push myself to run 6 to 10 miles, even before the gym opened at 5 AM. I never took a day off.

Then, I got injured; plantar fasciitis in my heel and tendonitis in my knee. I was beating my body into the ground.

But I was also overweight. My obsessive workout routine was only to compensate for the food addiction binges I’d have. I could tear through 3 bowls of cereal and 2 “energy” bars before noon. I thought running two Chicago marathons and lifting 5 days a week would solve everything. My disappointment with my fat stomach and chubby legs had one solution: add more exercise.

Time for a lifestyle change - to a plant-based dietTime for a Lifestyle Change

It wasn’t until I changed my diet that I started to lose weight and have more energy. My plant-based journey began with a “vegan challenge” – I’d eat plant-based and oil-free for 30 days.

I wasn’t ready to make a full plant-based change after that first month. Yet I couldn’t deny the effects it had on my body. I had lost weight, I was sleeping better, I didn’t feel bloated, and I had more overall energy.

In the 6 years since that “challenge”, I now fully embrace a plant-based diet. I’ve cut my addiction to refined sugar, oil, and flour. I’ve let go of dairy. I’ve discovered oats, beans, and red rice to be more flavorful and satisfying than poached eggs or roasted chicken breast.  

In the 15 years since I first entered the fitness industry, I’m now 50 pounds lighter, lifting heavier weights than ever. I can cruise at an 8:00/mile pace for a 10K, and I’ve learned how to balance my high-intensity interval training with slow, mindful yoga.

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Eating plant-based, my body has been able to reset itself – feeling satisfied and nourished with a healthy amount of fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. I still crave carbs when I need more energy, but now I hunger for bananas and grapes over energy bars.

Related: ever thought about adding seaweed to your diet? Here’s why you should!

I thirst for watermelon to re-hydrate after a 90-degree 7-mile run. I dive into a bowl of lentils after heavy strength workouts. My recovery meals are full of delicious plant-based energy. I have let go of the refined flours, oils, and sugars – also letting go of my addiction to these foods. I feel like such a different body, with such a different emotional mind.

I feel joyful and lucky that fitness has always been a part of my life. I am equally grateful to have discovered the drastic impact a plant-based diet has had on my body. I look forward to sharing my passion for fitness with the FFC family. And I welcome any skeptics of a vegan diet to take my classes and see how strong plants can be!

Post written by FFC Boystown Group Fitness Instructor Katie Simmons.

Related: want to try a nutrition session at FFC for free? Click here!


Katie Simmons group fitness instructor at FFC Chicago plant-based diet

About Katie Simmons

Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Halsted Street and a personal chef based in Chicago. When she’s not teaching, 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 www.plants-rule.com

Outside of the kitchen, she is a fitness instructor, with over 15 years of experience in the industry. For fun, she loves to travel. Some of her favorite trips include week of Holi Festival and Curry in Northern India, 4 nights hiking and camping on the Incan Trail in Peru, 10 days of trekking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile, and 5 months backpacking through New Zealand.