Tuesday, March 19, 2019

How to Track Macros When Dining Out

One of the most common questions that I receive from nutrition clients is: How to track macros when dining out? If you have a fun dinner (or wedding or another social event) on your calendar, how do you plan your day, macro-wise?

The great thing about macros/flexible dieting/IIFYM is that it gives you the freedom to eat whatever you want whenever you want. But, in Bethenny Frankel’s famous words: “You can have it all, but not all at once.” You can eat anything you’d like, but the challenge with eating out often is with tracking the macros and calories. At the end of the day, it comes down to planning your day ahead of time and figuring out how to best track macros when eating out.

You might be able to find a restaurant that shares their nutrition information online. I mean, having access to the best macro-friendly restaurants would definitely make life easier, right? But, a lot of restaurants don’t have this information readily available online. So what do you do then? How do you track macros when dining out? I promise, eating out on macros doesn’t need to be difficult. And the last thing you want to do is avoid certain restaurants or social situations that involve eating out with friends. That said, here are some options for planning your day and tracking macros when dining out. Feel free to try a couple of different options to see how they work with your lifestyle, personal preferences, and tracking challenges. And, remember, you can choose different options for different dining situations. I hope they help!

1. Give yourself a day off and don’t track at all. Eat, drink, and be merry, but be mindful of your choices. Use a day “off” as motivation to get right back on track the very next day.

2. Only track the macro that you have the toughest time hitting. I typically give this advice to clients who have more than a meal out to look forward to, such as an all-day wedding or weekend away. You don’t want to have your nose in your phone tracking every little thing you eat. You should be enjoying time with family and friends! Instead of tracking everything, pick the macro that you typically have trouble hitting. A lot of the time, it’s protein, so only pay attention to that one and do you best to make healthy decisions when it comes to your carbs and fat. In the end, you just want your overall grams/calories to be within range for the day.

3. Track breakfast and lunch and leave yourself a calorie “buffer” for dining out. I typically recommend that this buffer be 1/3 to 1/2 of your total calories for the day, depending on how much you’d like to splurge, what you plan to order, and whether or not you plan to drink alcohol.

3a. Focus on filling your breakfast and lunch with protein and non-starchy vegetables leading up to your meal out. Most restaurant meals are loaded with carbs and fat and skimpy on protein, so it’s in your best interest to front-load your protein (and fiber) the best you can. This will also keep your blood sugar steady, so you’re not going to dinner absolutely starving. Definitely don’t restrict calories all day before your dinner out. That is a disaster waiting to happen!

4. If you decide to track your dinner out, guesstimate the best you can and move on. Remember: Macros are just an estimate to keep you on track. Search MyFitnessPal (or other tracking app) for a meal that looks similar, add it to your log, and be done with it. Additionally, you can always do a “Quick Add” and estimate your overall macros/calories for the meal. Feel free to err on the side of overestimating since restaurant calories and portions can really add up! It won’t be perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. Enter what you can and move on!

At the end of that day, dining out (and similar social events) is suppose to be enjoyable. It should not stress you out or make you dread the experience. It’s more about the company and experience, so please don’t avoid going out and enjoying yourself because you feel tied to your macro goals. Use the options above and incorporate the ones that will work best for you.

And, finally, here are some healthy eating habits to also keep in mind when you dine out:

  • Take half of your meal home
  • Split a meal with a family member or friend
  • Choose 2 out of 3 (appetizer, alcohol, dessert)
  • Order a healthy side dish (i.e. veggies) as an appetizer
  • Select an appetizer as your entree
  • Skip the breadbasket all together
  • Order dressing and sauces on the side (dip fork into dressing/sauce and then food)
  • Eat until 80% full, not stuffed to the gills

Macros don’t need to be perfect to work. Even getting close to your macros is better than ignoring them all together. Dining out is all about the experience, so be mindful of your choices, but, most of all, enjoy yourself!

What Are Macros?

How To Calculate Macros In 5 Easy Steps

How I Tracked Macros on Saturday

My #1 Macro Tracking Tip


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Quotes from Kindergarten Screening

Hi, guys!

My morning started with a workout at Iron Way followed by quite the delicious overnight oats mixture. I made steamed carrots in the instant pot last night and then pureed them with vanilla almond milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a touch of sea salt. I added that to rolled oats with hemp seeds and collagen, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. This morning, I added a big ol’ scoop of Teddie peanut butter, and, my gosh, it was tasty – and nutritious! 🙂 Sorry that I don’t have an official recipe, but you can totally wing it. It’s hard to mess up overnight oats!

After breakfast, I got Quinn ready for the day, which included kindergarten screening. Holy cow, my baby is really growing up. We’ve been talking about kindergarten/Quinn’s new school, and he’s super excited about it!

As we were leaving the house for his screening, Quinn asked: “Are there cots there?” (As in, will there be naps at my new school?) I (laughed and) replied no, and he raised his hands in the air and yelled “yayyyyyyy!”

The screening was short and sweet. It took maybe 15 minutes. Quinn came out of the screening room with a sticker on his jacket and a smile on his face, so I assume things went well.

In celebration of a successful kindergarten screening, I suggested that we grab a donut at Dunkin Donuts on the way home. Of course, Quinn was ALL about it, but added: “I wish Coffee Shack was open.” Oh, me too, bud. We miss Coffee Shack so much. As we drove away from Quinn’s new school, he sighed and said from the backseat: “I love this school.”

Question of the Day

Anyone else have a little one going to Kindergarten in the fall? 

P.S. Brandless has stainless steal straws for just $3

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Keto Bloat: Separating Fact from Fiction

Move over, keto crotch. There’s a new fear-mongering anti-keto media blitz forming: keto bloat.

According to the “good scientists” of the Kellogg company food lab, an unprecedented number of young people are walking around with bloated guts and colons packed to the brim with impacted fecal matter, and it’s all because they’ve embraced ketogenic diets and “forsaken” fiber.

If this sounds like nonsense, that’s because it is.

Are millions of keto dieters suffering from bloating and constipation? I can find no evidence of this.

Is fiber necessary to prevent bloating and constipation? It’s complicated. I’ll explain later. But probably not.

Does the ketogenic diet necessarily exclude fiber? Not at all.

Are ketogenic diets as commonly practiced low in fiber? No.

What Is “Bloat” Anyway?

There are two things that people refer to as bloat: constipation and abdominal distension.

Constipation has different components. It’s being unable to make a satisfying bowel movement. It’s also feeling like you have to poop but are unable to. It’s being able to poop only a little bit. It’s struggling on the toilet bowl. Mostly, it’s being unhappy with your performance on the toilet.

Abdominal distension also can be different things. It might be trapped gas. It might be feeling “heavy” or “full.” It might mean your pants don’t fit after eating.

So, “bloating” can be any or all of these. You can pass hard small stools and feel like you’re bloated. You can poop just fine but have a lot of gas and feel like you’re bloated. You can spend hours on the toilet with not much to show for your effort and be bloated. So “Keto bloat” is difficult to pin down. That makes it easy to make claims and hard to disprove.

Let’s see how frequent bloating and constipation occurs in the ketogenic diet literature.

What Does Research Say About Constipation?

In a study of children with epilepsy placed on an olive oil-based ketogenic diet, about 25% of the subjects experienced constipation. So, was ketosis slowing them down? Not exactly. Those who experienced constipation were actually less likely to be in ketosis. Constipation went up as ketone readings went down, and epilepsy symptoms returned. Constipation improved as ketone readings went up and epilepsy symptoms subsided.

In adults with epilepsy on a ketogenic diet, constipation occurred in just 9% of patients. The authors note that this rate is lower than some other ketogenic studies and attribute the difference to “the heavy focus on importance of fiber from nutrient dense (fiber rich) vegetables, nuts, and seeds.” Note that they weren’t getting fiber from pills and powders. They were eating nutrient-dense foods that just so happened to contain fiber.

Another ten-year study compared the classical ketogenic diet, MCT oil-based ketogenic diet, and modified Atkins keto diet. They were all equally effective at reducing epilepsy symptoms in children, but the occurrence of constipation varied greatly. It was most common in the classic keto diet and medium chain triglyceride-based diet, both of which restrict protein. In the modified Atkins diet, which does not restrict protein, constipation was much rarer. Another study on the modified Atkins diet had similar results, with just 2 of 26 subjects reporting constipation.

Constipation does seem to be a common occurrence. However, the majority of keto diet studies are in epileptic populations following very strict clinical Keto diets. The extreme nature of these therapeutic ketogenic diets—extreme protein (7% of calories) and carbohydrate restriction—makes them an imperfect representation of how most people are eating Keto. And in studies of less-extreme, more realistic versions of the diet, such as modified Atkins (which allows more protein) or the version with “heavy focus” on vegetables, nuts, and seeds, constipation occurs at a much lower rate.

What Does Research Say About Bloating?

The only instance of something approximating bloating in the ketogenic diet literature occurred in studies using medium chain triglyceride-based diets. These are ones that use huge amounts of MCT oil to increase production of ketone bodies. It works great for curbing epilepsy symptoms, but it can also cause cramping, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. That’s not bloating per se. It’s literally the closest I could find.

Causes Of Bloating While Keto?

Okay, say you are dealing with constipation or bloating on a keto diet. What could be going on?

Not Enough Food

Constipation is often a consequence of low energy status. Everything that happens in the body requires energy, and if energy levels are low or energy availability is poor, basic functions will suffer. Bowel movements are no exception. The muscles and other tissues responsible for moving things along your digestive tract use energy. If you aren’t providing adequate amounts of energy, you’re depriving your tissues of the ATP they need to work best and sending your body a signal of scarcity which will only depress energy expenditure even more.

Low carb diets in general and keto diets in particular are very good at causing inadvertent calorie reduction. Great for fat loss, but some people take it overboard and go too far. I’m talking 800-1000 calories a day on top of CrossFit. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Water and Mineral Loss

When you go Keto for the first time, you shed tons of water. For every gram of glycogen you lose, you drop 3-4 grams of water. You also lose sodium and potassium with the water, and you need extra magnesium to regulate your sodium and potassium levels.

The water content of stool is what gives it that smooth texture we all desire. If you’re dehydrated, even mildly, you’ll have less water available for your bowel movements and be more likely to suffer from constipation.

Drink a big glass of salty water with lemon juice in the morning and sip on salty broth throughout the day. Zucchini is a great source of potassium, as is avocado.

Also, if you’re going to eat more fiber, you need to increase water intake for it to work.

Too Much or Too Little Fiber

The relationship between fiber and constipation is mixed. Some interventions do seem to help. Psyllium husk and flaxseed have both been shown to improve constipation. Galactooligosaccharides, a class of prebiotic fiber, improve idiopathic constipation. And inulin, another prebiotic fiber, improves bowel function and stool consistency in patients with constipation.

But there’s also evidence that more fiber can make the problem worse. In one 2012 study, patients with idiopathic constipation—constipation without apparent physiological or physical causes—had to remove fiber entirely to get pooping again. Those who kept eating a bit or a lot of it continued to have trouble evacuating. The more fiber they ate, the worse their constipation (and bloating) remained. Another review found mixed evidence; some people get less bloating and constipation with more fiber, others get less bloating and constipation with less fiber.

Personally, my toilet performance is stellar with or without a constant intake of voluminous levels of plant matter. Most days I eat a good amount—Big Ass Salads, broccoli, sautĂ©ed greens, berries—but on the days I don’t, I don’t notice any difference. I’m suspicious of the widespread calls for bowel-rending levels of fiber as the universal panacea for all things toilet, and I’m also suspicious of the people who claim fiber is unnecessary or even harmful.

Fiber helps some people and hampers others. There’s no one-size-fits-all with fiber, especially since there are many different types of fiber.

Too Many Sugar Substitutes

I get it. There are some interesting candies out there that cater to the Keto set and use various sugar alcohols—non-alcoholic, low-or-no calorie versions of sugar—artificial sweeteners, and fibers to recreate popular treats. It’s fun to eat an entire chocolate bar that tastes pretty close to the real thing and get just a few net carbs. But that’s a lot of fermentable substrate your gut bugs are more than happy to turn to gas.

If you want the opposite problem, you can always turn to Haribo sugar-free gummy bears.

FODMAP Intolerance

FODMAPs stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—the carbohydrates in plants that our gut bacteria usually mop up. Most people have gut biomes that can handle FODMAPs; indeed, most people derive beneficial short chain fatty acids from their fermentation. But some people’s gut biomes produce too much fermentation when they encounter FODMAPs. Fermentation begets hydrogen gas, which gathers in the gut and causes great distress. Common complaints of the FODMAP intolerant are bloating, stomach pain, and visits to the toilet that are either unproductive or way too productive—all of which fall into the bloating category.

The myth is that Keto people are eating salami and cream cheese for every meal. The reality is that many people go Primal or Keto and find they’re eating way more vegetables than they ever have before. These are great developments, usually, but if you’re intolerant of FODMAP fibers, you may worsen the bloating.

What Can You Do?

Eat enough protein. Most people can get away with eating 15-25% of their calories from protein and still stay in ketosis. Most people can eat even more protein and still get most of the benefits of fat-adaptation. The keto studies which had the lowest rates of constipation were far more tolerant of higher protein intakes.

Eat FODMAPs unless you’re intolerant. Most people can eat FODMAPs. In most people, FODMAPs improve gut health and reduce constipation and bloating. But if your gut blows up after a few bites of broccoli or asparagus, consult the FODMAPs list and try a quick FODMAP elimination diet.

Make sure you’re truly constipated. Your stool volume and frequency of toilet visits will decline on a normal ketogenic diet because there’s less “waste.” Make sure you’re not misinterpreting that as constipation or bloating. If there’s less poop, there’s less poop. If there’s more poop but it’s just not coming, and you have to go but can’t, that’s when you have an issue.

Experiment with fiber. Fiber clearly has a relationship to bloating and constipation. You just have to figure out what that looks like in your diet.

  • If you’re bloated and constipated on a high-plant Keto Diet, eat fewer plants.
  • If you’re bloated and constipated on a low-plant Keto Diet, try eating more plants. If that doesn’t help, go zero-plant.
  • If you’re bloated and constipated on a zero-plant Keto Diet, try eating more plants. .

We all have to find our sweet spot.

So, to sum up, “keto bloat” is mostly a myth. There’s a glimmer of truth there, but it’s highly exaggerated. Constipation is common on the most restrictive clinical keto diets, while eating fiber from whole plant foods, being less restrictive with protein, and making sure you’re drinking enough water and eating enough calories and electrolytes seems to avoid the worst of it.

What’s been your experience with bloating and constipation? How have you handled it?



Ho KS, Tan CY, Mohd daud MA, Seow-choen F. Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(33):4593-6.

MĂĽller-lissner SA, Kamm MA, Scarpignato C, Wald A. Myths and misconceptions about chronic constipation. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005;100(1):232-42.

Guzel O, Uysal U, Arslan N. Efficacy and tolerability of olive oil-based ketogenic diet in children with drug-resistant epilepsy: A single center experience from Turkey. Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2019;23(1):143-151.

Roehl K, Falco-walter J, Ouyang B, Balabanov A. Modified ketogenic diets in adults with refractory epilepsy: Efficacious improvements in seizure frequency, seizure severity, and quality of life. Epilepsy Behav. 2019;

Liu YM. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic therapy. Epilepsia. 2008;49 Suppl 8:33-6.

Arnaud MJ. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation?. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57 Suppl 2:S88-95.

Noureddin S, Mohsen J, Payman A. Effects of psyllium vs. placebo on constipation, weight, glycemia, and lipids: A randomized trial in patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic constipation. Complement Ther Med. 2018;40:1-7.

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Road Warriors

We took a little trip this weekend to meet up with my family in Charlotte. Thomas went out of town for a guys weekend / bachelor party, so I made the trip to Charlotte solo. Man-oh-man, I don’t want to drive again for a long time! I had hoped Birch would continue is two hour morning naps in his car seat, but alas he never slept more than a 33-minute sleep cycle the whole trip. Poor little guy cried at least once and hour, and we stopped so many times. It must be so hard to be a baby. I don’t like car trips and I’m a grown up. I sat in the drivers seat going through all the things he could be unhappy about (hungry again, diaper, hot, cold, overtired, undertired, uncomfortable, bored) and it was so hard not to be able to help him while I concentrated on driving. Mazen, however, was happy as a clam back there with his iPad! He was helpful at times to give Birch a toy or play peek-a-boo, but that only lasted for about 10 minutes.

We stopped mid-way at a McDonald’s so we could all stretch, I could use the bathroom (I held it for ages not wanting to stop at a gas station), Birch could have a good long nurse and cuddle, and Mazen could get lunch.

I brought some slow food from home 🙂 Quiche and grapes. (I did have a chicken sandwich on the return trip – full disclosure!)

Eventually, through torrential rain, we made it to Charlotte greeted by a happy Emerson!

The kids played outside while Larbs and I caught up. Their new house is so beautiful!

Just before dinner, Grammie and Pea arrived!

We brought Peeps for Grammie’s birthday (which is tomorrow!) Happy Birthday Grammie!

Birch loved Emerson’s old Bjorn bouncer. It was nice visiting someone with a stash of baby gear! We used their Lotus Travel Crib, and I liked it so much I just bought one of our own!

We ordered dinner from Bang Bang Burgers. I had a pimento cheese + fried pickle burger and it was INCREDIBLE!! I loved how flat the burger was and nicely grilled. The fries and salad were good too.

For dessert, we got Gigi’s Cupcakes to celebrate Grammie’s birthday. These were SOOO GOOD! Tons of frosting. The Youngers were happy : ) We cut them into quarters so we could try a lot of different flavors.

The next morning we snuggled around the house for a while. This is funny: on Sunday night my sister and parents asked each other who got Emerson up for the day that morning. No one claimed to have been the one to get her out of her crib. So they turned to her to ask her who got her up. “Mazen did!” she said.

I had blueberry PB toast for breakfast.

Matt and I went for a run while everyone else walked. We covered about 3 miles in their beautiful neighborhood.

B was happy despite not napping all morning!

And Mazen would have stayed there all day!

We ordered lunch from Siggy’s, which was also fabulous. (We did a lot of take-out because of the kids instead of going out to lunch.) I shared a pulled chicken sandwich and a quinoa salad with dad.

We had a little rest period before getting dressed up for dinner out. Charlotte has gotten so much cooler since I left. It’s so weird that I recognize certain names of places but overall the city felt so different. I wish I’d had a little more time to go see my old neighborhoods but the city is huge! It feels like ages since I lived there.

We went to Pizza Peel for dinner which was very kid friendly. The place was hopping and had a nice green for the kids to play on outside. I had a Birdsong Brewing Jalapeno beer – very unique!

Fried pickles to start. They were super crispy!

We shared a few pizzas for the table. The creative toppings were so good.

B is very much in love with Gertie the Goose these days! Grammie held him for the second half of dinner and he did well overall.

The cousins had a joint bath when we got home. This is the BEST smelling shampoo! After the kids went to sleep, we had more desserts!

On Sunday morning our group was up and packed so I could hit the road during first morning nap. I had a blueberry yogurt bowl before I left with PB, banana, and honey.

I had hoped that B would sleep better on the return trip, but he did not. I think he’s just at an age where he doesn’t like his infant car seat too much. Which is OK because I’m not driving anywhere far with him for a very long time 🙂

Happy McDonald’s boy!

We made it home in about six hours (ugh) and then Thomas and Nona greeted us so I could run to my soccer game. I needed to run outside in the sunshine so badly after that long trip! I hit up Whole Foods on the way home and picked up groceries for dinner. I found this dressing made by Cava and it’s SO good!

Lemon currant arugula pizza + homemade salad with said dressing, gouda, and red peppers.

Hope you guys had a great weekend!

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Clean Eating Mushroom Soup Mix Recipe

This clean eating mushroom soup mix is perfect for intensifying the flavor of any mushroom based soup or dish.

A while back, I graduated from a plant-based culinary school. It was an online program and it was incredibly challenging. I learned a lot.

Clean Eating Mushroom Soup Mix Recipe

One of my favorite takeaways was mushroom powder. Simply putting some dried mushrooms through a spice grinder until you have a nice, fine powder is a fabulous way to really bring out the mushroomy flavor of any dish that is focused on mushrooms. It’s truly wonderful!

One of the things I learned is that this can make a very simple mushroom soup mix if combined with just a few other ingredients. Add this to some broth, toss in some fresh mushrooms and you’ve got yourself a very nice, basic soup base with some fine mushroom flavor.

Clean Eating Mushroom Soup Mix Recipe

I use about 1 tbsp. of this mix for every 3 to 4 cups of broth. But you can adjust this to your liking by adding more broth or more soup mix. Easy!

I’ll be sharing a soup recipe that uses this mix very soon just in case you need an idea for ways to use this. But truly, any dish that needs a nice, mushroom flavor will benefit from the addition of some of this powder.

Note that if you don’t have a spice grinder, you can also do this in a food processor, or even a high-powered blender. The resulting powder may not be quite as smooth, but it’ll still taste and work the same.

Clean Eating Mushroom Soup Mix Recipe


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Clean Eating Mushroom Soup Mix Recipe

A wonderful, mushroomy dry mix that will enhance the mushroom flavor of any dish you add it to! 

  • 1 oz. dried mushrooms
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Place the mushrooms in a spice grinder and grind them until they are a fine powder. 

  2. Combine in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and use as needed.

Please note that the nutrition data given here is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.

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