New Food Rules: VEG OUT

Many people ask me, what do I need to do to be healthier? “Well… That depends… Healthy is such a relative term.” The answer is SO different for each person. Nonetheless, there is one universal piece of advice I give to absolutely everyone without fail: INCREASE your non-starchy VEGGIES DAILY.


Non-starchy veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals. They help you feel full and satisfied. They are very low in sugar, fat, and calories. Veggies enhance pretty much every body system from the circulatory to the skin.

Two distinct points to make with this (not so new) food rule. First, I did not say eat more FRUIT and veggies. I left all off the fruit apart of the usual phrase for a reason. Fruit is a very nutritious part of any diet; however, 2 servings per day is ENOUGH. Fruit is composed of vitamins, fiber, and yes sugar. More is not necessarily better with the sugary goodness.

Secondly, add more veggies of the NON-STARCHY type. Corn, peas, and potatoes are all examples of starchy vegetables. Just like with fruit, the main components of starchy vegs are vitamins, minerals, fiber, and carbohydrates (which triggers an insulin spike.) Not to say that these types of foods are bad, we just do need more than 2 – 3 servings per day of them.

More than likely, you knew the WHYS to consume veggies more often. But actually getting the goodness from the frig to your mouth is much harder. Here are 3 tips to making it work.


Prep Your Fridge: When prepping a quick lunch or going for a speedy snack, a head of cauliflower or whole carrots are not going to make the cut. In the moment, bringing out the cutting board and breaking down the item will just not happen. Especially when crackers or chips are much easier to grab. Instead make it your intention to cut each veg right after you purchase your stash. You will be surprised how much more appealing a strip of bell pepper or a wedge of zucchini are when they are bit sized and ready to go!

carrots and broccoli pic 2cut carrots and broccoli pic


Make a Tasty Dip: Let’s face it… raw veggies are not that punch of flavor that your favorite chips might be. Why not change this fact? Explore different sauces, dips, or hummus recipes that get you excited about the afternoon snack time.

carrots and broccoli pic

Here is one of my personal and recent favorites:

Ian’s GrIans Green Dressingeen Dressing

One big handful of basil | One handful of           parsley | 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard | 2 – 3 squeezed lemons | 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil |     2 – 3 cloves of garlic | Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together. Enjoy! (NOTE: For a thicker version, sub half of an avocado for ½ cup of oil. Or try MCT oil instead of olive oil.)



Blend it Up: Have an “easy-out” on hand on those days that you just cannot seem to fit it all in. There are many brands of “green powders” on the market that you can add to either a full smoothie, a vegan milk, or even just water. I encourage purchasing a few different sample packs to do a bit of taste testing. Watch out for artificial sweeteners, added sugars, and preservatives. Vega One is currently the brand in my diet routine.

Vega One Mix Pic

New Year, New Rules: Stop Counting!

If there has been on single mistake in my career as a registered dietitian, it has been preaching the notion of calorie manipulation and control. The theory makes perfect sense, eat fewer calories than your body needs and lose weight. However, in practice, I have many follow up visits where my patients have reported following the set calorie number and no movement on the scale. I have even more follow up visits were some successful patients have regained all of their shaken weight. Talk about a major credibility bummer. After a few years of trials (on behalf of those I counseled and even myself) and studying the latest research available, I have turned the corner and cut calories out of my life. Literally, I choose to forget that they even exist.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who got the clue that what we (and by we I mean the nutrition experts) were selling was not working. In Jonathan Bailor’s New York Times bestseller The Calorie Myth, Bailor shouts to the masses why believing calories are the end all, be all will cause just as much damage as the daily cigarette. Bailor and I are in agreement on two major myths:

Myth #1: Calories in = Calories Out

This argument is as old as time and as frustrating as trying to understand the lives of the Kardashians. The principle goes that our bodies need a certain number of calories to function. If they do not have that set number of calories then the brain sends out signals to break down your body’s own fat to make up for the deficit… aka weight loss. And the opposite side to the argument is that if the body is over the needed calories, the calories are converted to stored fat. Problem solved, now everyone go forth and eat less and be skinny! (Note the sarcasm).

Now consider the real life calculation Bailor describes. Comparing the years 1977 and 2006, the average person increased their calorie consumption by 570 calories per day. If calories in truly equals calories out, then the average person would have gained more than 100 pounds per year since 2006 and weigh somewhere around 1,000 pounds. Clearly this is not the case for the average person. So the question becomes when did does the mathematical statement become untrue? Or is it that the mathematical statement of calories in equals calories out was never true. I am opting for the later.

Myth #2: Calories are all created equal

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. This was the classic weight watchers argument. Each food is labeled with a certain number of points (assigned by the calorie count) and participants are allowed a set number of points each day. Spending my points on Twinkies and Pumpkin Spice Lattes would equal the same weight loss as spending my points on kale and quinoa. Luckily, Weight Watchers has updated their stance; however, not many others have.

In one rat study, unlimited access of high quality, nutrient dense food was given to one group while the other group got unlimited access of low quality, nutrient poor foods. As one can expect, the low quality group of rats gained more weight. Even more, the low-quality rat group could not consistently lose the weight that they have gained while eating the poor choice foods. Where one gets its calories is the name of the game. It is not how many points or calories in food that matter. Source matters.


The SANE Food Rules:

Bailor proposes the use of four principles for judging the “healthiest” foods around. This system blows calorie counting out of the water.

FOOD RULE #1: Satiety

How full does a certain food make you? Do you want more food as soon as you finish your plate? Or does a certain food help to satisfy the craving as well as the 4 hours until the next meal? Consuming high quality protein, high fiber vegetables, and plenty of water are main ways to getting a high satiety rating.

FOOD RULE #2: Aggression

Our bodies react as a full system approach to food. It is not just our tummies doing the work. Hormones in the endocrine system play a major role in breaking down food particles and getting the nutrients where they need to go. Focus on limiting carbohydrates (grains, sweets, starchy vegetables, dairy, and fruits) and always paring a carbohydrate with protein or fat. This will help to limit the hormonal response to food entering the GI track.

FOOD RULE #3: Nutrition

Nutrient density has luckily been a major topic of experts of the last few years and for good reason. We need certain vitamins and minerals to actually be alive. Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients per calorie of food. 50 calories of kale has a vast amount more of nutrients than 50 calories of a pop tart. Getting your share of non-starchy vegetables goes a long way.

FOOD RULE #4: Efficiency

How quickly is a calorie stored as fat? Is it relatively easy for the body to make the chemical conversion from a whole food compound to a fat cell. Or does the body actually have do a significant amount of work to store the food item? Avoid excess starches and sweets as they are easily converted to body fat.


Here are some of Bailor’s tips for each of his recommended food group. I thought many of these were great thoughts to keep a hold of.

SANE Carbohydrate Pointers:
  • Cover half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
  • If it cannot be eaten raw, don’t eat it.
  • Stick with fresh or frozen.
  • Greens are great.
  • The deeper the color the higher the SANiety.
  • Raw is ideal but not required.
  • A swerving is about one to three handfuls depending on how “dense” the non-starchy vegetables are.
  • Low-carb diets are great, but your SANE Lifestyle doesn’t have to be one.
  • Ninety percent of what you see in the grocery store is carbohydrate.
  • Carbohydrate is nonessential, so focus on carbs that carry along with them the most essential nutrients possible.


SANE Protein Pointers:
  • Nutrient-dense protein should cover a third of your plate.
  • Eat protein in 30 – 55 gram servings throughout the day.
  • Eat a total of 100 grams of protein per day.
  • Eat protein every time you eat.
  • Eat seafood daily (ideally sources higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury, such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, oysters, etc)
  • High-quality, nutrient-dense sources of protein are critical.
  • If you avoid animal products, you can still be SANE.


SANE Whole-Food Fats and low-Fructose Fruits Pointers:
  • Whole-food fats are essential; low-fructose fruits are not.
  • Go out of your way to eat fatty seafood, cocoa/cacao, and coconut.
  • Avoid unnatural process fats completely.
  • If needed, use stable, natural processed fats such as coconut oil for cooking.
  • Do away with processed fruits (canned in syrup) completely.
  • Pair whole-fat fats or low-fructose fruits with non-starchy vegetables and nutrient-dense protein whenever possible.
  • Whole-food fats and low-fructose fruits are SANE desserts superstars.
  • If you really struggle with your weight, you will be likely to have better results if you focus on whole-food fats instead of low-fructose fruits.




Bailor, Jonathan. “The Calorie Myth.” Harper Ware (2014).

Keesy, RD, and MD Hirvonen. “Body Weight Set-Points: Determination and Adjustment.” Journal of Nutrition 127 (9) (1997).

Rolls, BJ, EA Rowe, and RC Turner. “Persistent Obesity in Rats Following a Period of Consumption of a Mixed, High Energy Diet.” Journal of Physiology 298 (1980): 415-27; Pub Med PMID: 6987379

All Health Begins in the Gut

All health begins in the gut… Wait, what?!? In the traditional sense, most of us think that the stomach as having one function of getting our food where it needs to go. Instead of taking the gut for granted, we need to recognize it as a vital role for both the WHOLE body.


Many in the health arena are coining the term of Gut-Brain. There is a close collaboration between the gut and brain in order to maintain both physical and mental health. Our nervous system is tightly integrated into the stomach with almost 100,000,000 neurons (this is as many neurons in the spinal cord) in the stomach lining. These neurons ensure that our food is digested, our IMMUNE system is regulated, and our brain is informed about nutritional status, inflammation, and stress.

So, the gut is a big deal. How do we keep it healthy? One answer: Nurture our bacteria. Our guts house 100 TRILLION bacteria. I’m going to let this Ted Talk scientist give a vivid picture of the impact of these microbes.

For your gut microbes, diversity is good! Low microbial diversity, or dysbiosis,  is associated with inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and the presence of disease causing bad bacteria. Healthy individuals’ microbes have also been shown to produce more fatty acids to aid in weight management. To top if off, dysbiosis is associated with inflammatory bowel disease or syndrome.

The Savage Solution:

Each fermented, probiotic foods such as grass-fed cow-milk yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt, kefir, komucha tea, saucerkraut, pickles (check label for additives), or raw cheeses. Include a serving or two of these foods every day.

Supplement with a quality probiotic. Look for a high number of probiotic stands (15 billion to 100 billion) and over 10 different strands. Also be sure to check the expiration date on the bottle. (If taking a probiotic for a specific purpose, be sure to research what best strains to consume.)

Avoid the overuse of antibiotics in both medicine and food supply (ie antibiotics in meats).

Avoid the overuse of such medications as antacids, steroids, acid blockers, and birth control.

Avoid excess processed sugar in your diet.

Ingredient Find: Stevia

One of the fastest newcomers in the sugar substitute marketplace is stevia. The all-natural stevia is derived from the South American stevia leaf. Stevia (in the raw) has been consumed for 1500 years by native South Americans. Glycosides, including stevioside and rebaudioside A, are the two compounds that contribute to its sweet profile.

When considering stevia products, one question is imperative: Is this product an extracted glycoside, usually rebaudioside A, combined with other chemically altered compounds? Or is this a whole-leaf stevia product with no other additives?

Due to increasing popularity, food manufactures have engineered the natural extract with harmful additives such as a chemically altered erythritol or more ubiquitous components as natural flavorings. These additives have much of the same harmful effects on the gut as Splenda. In contrast, whole-leaf stevia has been shown to have no negative impact on gut health.

One issue remains with whole-leaf stevia: intense sweetness. On the surface, this issue is the goal of the product and should not be problematic. However, when examining why the brain and tongue perceive something as sweet, the problem comes to light. The brain craves the sensation of sweet when energy is needed in the body. When a person consumes sugar, say in the form of fruit, the GI tract breaks the sugar down and releases energy for the body. The brain is satisfied. When consuming something that is extremely sweet but non-caloric, such as an artificial sweetener, the brain does not receive its reward in the form of energy. Thus, sugar cravings continue to flood the thoughts and the eventual effect is weight gain. This phenomenon has been largely studied with diet soda.

The Savage Solution:

Make sure the package label states “whole-leaf stevia”.

Be on the lookout for other additives such as dextrose or “natural flavorings”.

Consume less then 2 – 3 tablespoons per day. 

The Plate Standard

There are so many diets out there these days that are so limiting, so harsh, and frankly not substantial. For example, paleo is all the rage in elite exercise communities and for good reason. It promotes lean proteins, nutrient dense veggies, and a good quantity of fats. All things I agree with. However, carbohydrates (even fiber, nutrient rich beans!) are strictly off limits. So what happens is that you end up consuming a high amount of protein. Protein is a winner for helping keep a steady metabolism, increasing fullness, and maintaining muscle mass. However, protein breaks down is into various amino acid in the digestive tract. If all of these amino acids are not used, then the kidneys must filter out these acids. The kidneys are being taxed and over worked when excess acids are coming through. Thus, Paleo is not my first choice because is not a balanced approach.

On the flip slide, lets look at a vegetarian or even vegan diet. Again, on the surface, consuming (mostly) plant based food items is a good thing… It is one of the key items of the Savage Standard after all. However, when you ONLY eat plant based with fruits, veggies, and grains, the carbohydrate intake is going to be high. There is just no way around that. As a result, insulin levels are spiking constantly. These spikes have a ripple effect with other hormones that control weight stores. Secondly, a lack of animal based proteins contributes to a deficiency in vitamin B12. (I’m not saying that every vegetarian is going to have this deficiency; however, there is a huge risk for the deficiency). Vitamin B12 is responsible for a key step in energy metabolism. Without it, one will experience constant fatigue.

The answer is to balance out the carbohydrates, the protein, and the fat so each part of our bodily system gets what is needed and is not taxed with excess.   But who has time and/or attention span to count carbohydrates or fat grams…Not I my friend. Introducing… the Plate Standard!

Half of your plate should be filled with non- starchy vegetables like asparagus, squash, or greens (sky is the limit here). The other half of the plate you divide into half again to make one-fourth and one-fourth. (Yes we are going back to third grade fractions!) One-fourth of the plate contains your animal and/or plant based proteins. The last fourth will hold the complex, natural carbohydrates. The deal is to moderate both protein and carbohydrates, while maximizing high fiber, vegetables (and/or fruit for breakfast). Lastly, 1 serving of fat should be consumed with at every meal. Fat is good people!