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.


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.


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 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

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.