Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Beginner’s Guide to MyFitnessPal

One of the questions I hear the most from our nutrition clients is how to best count and track macros easily and efficiently, and I almost always refer them to the MyFitnessPal (MFP) app. I’ve used MFP for quite a long time, so I have first-hand experience with how powerful a tool it can be for helping you stick to your plan while working towards a healthier lifestyle. Let’s call this blog post a “Beginner’s Guide to MyFitnessPal.” 

If you’ve never used a tracking app before, it can be a little daunting and a bit confusing to set up. That’s why I decided to create this mini-tutorial to explain how MyFitnessPal works and how to effectively use it. I hope it’s helpful to those of you who are just starting out or who need a little refresher. I promise that once you begin using MyFitnessPal, it will become second nature. You won’t even have to think twice when logging meals and snacks. Plus, having a central place to track your macros and store your go-to meals makes it much easier when you’re out and about. It’s one less thing to think about!

Below is a quick how-to guide for getting your MyFitnessPal account ready and customized to your personal goals. Trust me, with a little practice and patience, you will be an MFP expert in no time! Now, let’s get you set up for tracking success. Here’s my Beginner’s Guide to MyFitnessPal. I hope you find it helpful! 

Beginner’s Guide to MyFitnessPal

Getting Started with MyFitnessPal

  1. Download the MyFitnessPal app (the basic version is free) from the Apple app store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android).
  2. Once downloaded, open the app and sign up for an account. You can do so using your email address, Facebook, or Twitter credentials (using Facebook or Twitter is a little easier).
  3. You will be prompted to answer a few questions to set up your profile. Questions include your goals (lose weight, maintain weight, gain weight), activity level (not very active, lightly active, active, and very active), gender, date of birth, height, current weight, and weekly weight loss goal.
  4. This is where things get a little tricky. MFP creates a plan for you based on your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), which is basically a fancy way of wording the number of estimated calories you burn on a daily basis. Since MFP uses a calorie-based approach rather than macro-based, you will need to manually enter your own calories and macros. I personally think MFP underestimates calorie needs (by a lot), so I recommend calculating your macros in 5 easy stepsOnce you get to this screen, you can click “Continue.” I’ll explain how to manually enter your macros next.

Should you eat back the calories burned from exercise?

**A quick note about exercise: MFP allows you to track your activity, but the calories you burn during exercise are automatically added back in for the day. For example, if your daily calorie goal is 2000 for the day and you burn 300 calories, MFP will increase your calorie goal for the day to 2300. If your goal is to lose body fat, then you should not add them back in. (If you’re training for an endurance event, like a marathon or triathlon, then working with one of our nutrition coaches will help you determine your calorie needs.)

Here’s why we don’t recommend adding back exercise calories: When you calculate your macro goals, it should take into account your activity level as well as a calorie deficit. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to make sure you’re in a deficit when you “hit your macros” for the day. Adding those calories back puts you at maintenance or even above maintenance, which will not help you get to your goal.

How to manually enter your macros into MyFitnessPal

  1. On the home screen of the app, click on “More” at the bottom. Once you’re there, click on “Goals.”
  2. Under “Nutrition Goals,” click on “Calorie, Carbs, Protein, and Fat Goals.”
  3. Now enter in your calorie goal, and adjust your carbs, fats, and protein according to the percentages that have been calculated for you. Unless you have the premium version of MFP (more on that below), you will need to round up to the nearest 5% increment for your macros and will not be able to enter grams. This isn’t a huge deal, but if you want more accuracy, the Premium version is the way to go. Personally, I’m quite “flexible” with my macros, so I think the percentages work just fine! 

How to enter your food into MyFitnessPal

  1. Head back to the home page. Click on the “plus” sign at the bottom of the page. Click on “Food” and select the meal you are logging for. Let’s go with breakfast!
  2. Click on “Add Food”. You can do this one of three ways:
    1. Directly search for the food on MFP.
    2. Scan the barcode of the food if its packaged.
    3. Manually enter it.

I use a combo of all three options, based on what I’m eating. For example, for home-cooked meals, I’ll often add each ingredient individually and adjust portion sizes accordingly. For packaged food, I’ll just scan the barcode. And if I’m out at a restaurant, I’ll scan the database to see if they have a similar dish already in the database. I don’t stress if I can’t find the exact food. It just needs to be close enough! (You also have the option to “Quick Add” food if you have the premium version, where you can quickly add your calories, carbs, fats, and proteins as well as the time you ate the food.) Once you adjust the serving size based on the portion you’re eating, click on the “check mark” on the top of the screen.

While this process might appear to be tedious at first, the more you do it, the easier it will become. MFP will begin to track patterns based on what you’ve eaten. So when you type in a food, it will make suggestions according to what you’ve logged before. You can also repeat favorite meals with the “copy to” and “copy from” option. This definitely makes tracking easier if you’re eating the same foods from day-to-day. 

How to view your daily macros in MyFitnessPal

  1. Head back to the home screen, click on “Diary,” then click on the “Nutrition” button at the bottom of the screen.
  2. At the top, you will see tabs for “Calories,” “Nutrients,” and “Macros.” Both “Macros” and “Nutrients” show you similar information, just in different formats. “Macros” shows a pie chart with a percentage of each macro that you’ve eaten so far, while “Nutrients” shows you the gram break down and how many macros you have left in order to stay aligned with your goals.

And that’s it! You’re ready to get started!

While this is a basic tutorial meant to get you up and running with the free version, my biggest piece of advice would be to sign up for the Premium version. You can learn more about why here. The basic gist, though, is that the Premium version allows for way more customization. You can add your macros in grams instead of percentages (so they’re more accurate), set different calorie goals for each day, and allocate a certain amount of macros for each meal or snack. Additionally, you can customize the nutrient dashboard to display all three macros. At $49.99 annually (or $9.99 per month), it’s well worth the price!

Though I personally love MFP and know many clients have found success with it, I understand that it might not be the best or most intuitive app for everyone. If that’s the case, there are other apps you can consider such as MyPlate, LoseIt, Cronometer, and MyMacros+. Remember, there’s no “right” app to track. It’s whatever works for you!

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Dear Mark: CBD Edition

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll be answering your CBD questions from the past few weeks. CBD, or cannabidiol, is exploding in popularity, but there are many unknowns. People have a lot of questions and there aren’t many definitive or comprehensive guides, so today I’ll do my best to make sense of it. We’re all piecing things together based on limited data—which, I suppose, is the fundamental human experience.

Let’s go:

What’s the difference between hemp and CBD?

Hemp is a (recently legalized) industrial form of cannabis used in the production of paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, and overpriced Bob Marley shirts sold along Venice Beach. Hemp seed can be eaten (and is a fantastic source of magnesium, one of the best). Hemp is the plant.

CBD is cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in both hemp and cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD won’t get you high.

Due to legal issues, most big name online retailers won’t allow sellers to list “CBD oil” or “CBD” products, let alone CBD content. Descriptions like “full spectrum hemp extract” often mean CBD is present in the hemp oil, but it’s tough to know exactly how much. I recommend investigating the product, searching for the company that makes it, and seeing if they give more explicit details on their website. Even then, make sure the company is the actual seller on Amazon or else you may end up with a counterfeit product sold by wholesalers.

The best bet is to buy directly from the product website.

Is there oil for diabetics??

Although there aren’t any human trials that give CBD to diabetics to see what happens, there are some reasons to think it could be helpful:

Lowering stress. As stated in previous posts, CBD is an effective anti-stress agent. Stress is awful for anyone with diabetes. It increases blood sugar levels. It induces insulin resistance. And if you’re a stress eater, it can increase cravings for high-carb junk food that you really shouldn’t be eating in the first place. In other words, stress exacerbates all the physiological conditions a diabetic is already experiencing.

Improving sleep. Perhaps the most popular use of CBD is to improve poor sleep. Just about the best way to induce some serious glucose intolerance is to get a bad night’s sleep. A diabetic already has poor glucose tolerance; it’s pretty much the defining characteristic of diabetes. What’s worse, a bad night’s sleep has been shown to make a person more susceptible to the allure of junk food.

Inadequate sleep is a strong and independent predictor of type 2 diabetes risk. The less sleep you get, the higher your chance of developing diabetes.

Anything that reduces stress and improves sleep will improve a diabetic’s health. If CBD does that for you, it’ll probably help someone with diabetes. So in a roundabout, not direct way, CBD oil has the potential to help reduce the risk of diabetes and improve the symptoms.

Good MDA folks … does anyone have any experience using CBD oil in lieu of an SSRI to help with anxiety and panic? I’m using CBT techniques to deal with anxiety and panic episodes, and cutting back on my dosage of my SSRI with the intent to eliminate over the next couple of months. I was considering giving CBT oil a try (organic, full spectrum), starting out with just a drop or two and building up to a therapeutic dosage. Also, does CBT oil cause fatigue for anyone? It’s the last thing I want to happen as it’s a big reason I want to eliminate taking the SSRI?

Give it a try, making sure you keep your doctor in the loop.

There are several parallels between anti-depressants and CBD. Both antidepressants and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid receptor systems in the brain. Both antidepressants and CBD can stimulate neurogenesis and counter the depression-related reduction in brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

Any compound that’s used for sleep has the potential to increase fatigue. Sleep is fatigue at the right time. Fatigue is sleep at the wrong time. In an Israeli study of 74 pediatric epilepsy patients using CBD to quell their seizures, 22% reported unwanted levels of fatigue, so it’s a common complaint. Just consider that these were kids taking fairly high dose CBD to quell seizure activity, and that you may not have the same issue taking lower doses at a higher body weight.

Does CBD oil break my fast?

The dosages involved in most CBD oils include at most 1/8 teaspoon of carrier oils, so that’s not enough calories to impact your fast in any meaningful sense.

I haven’t seen any evidence that CBD itself inhibits or impedes ketosis, autophagy, or fat-burning. So, no, there is no indication that CBD oil breaks your fast.

How do I figure out how much cbd is in hemp oil?

As I indicated earlier, it’s impossible to know unless you buy a hemp oil that explicitly states the CBD content.

CBD oil is so expensive. Are there any other options for getting CBD?

You could make your own. It’s actually legal to buy “CBD flower,” which basically looks exactly like the cannabis or weed you’d buy on the street or at a legal dispensary, only it contains little to no THC and tons of CBD. One recipe I saw involved slow-cooking an ounce of the CBD flower in a cup of coconut oil for 8 hours, then straining out the solids. Whatever method you use to cook it, it requires fat, as cannabinoids are fat-soluble.

Here’s a place you can buy CBD flower online. (Note: I don’t have any experience with that company or any other that markets CBD flower or CBD products, so buyer beware.) There are many such places. Just search for them.

CBD is everywhere these days. Should I definitely use it?

Not necessarily. Like anything, it has its uses, there’s great potential, and as new research comes out I foresee the discovery of new modes of action and new applications. However, in all fairness, it’s being overhyped when promoted as a cure-all or panacea.

For what it’s worth, I’m not using it myself. I don’t feel the need, haven’t felt a “CBD deficit.” Don’t assume it’s yet another essential supplement that you simply must have. The basics are the important things—sleep, food, exercise, community, love, micronutrients.

CBD is best used for people who have an established need for it. Chronic pain patient who wants to stop using so many opioids? Great candidate. Kid with epilepsy for whom keto and meds aren’t working? Give it a try. Anxiety and insomnia? Better than just going with narcotics right off the bat. (But as always, work with a physician for any medical issue.)

That’s it for today, folks. If you have any more CBD questions, write them down below and I’ll be sure to answer them!



Rudnicka AR, Nightingale CM, Donin AS, et al. Sleep Duration and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Pediatrics. 2017;140(3)

Mcneil J, Forest G, Hintze LJ, et al. The effects of partial sleep restriction and altered sleep timing on appetite and food reward. Appetite. 2017;109:48-56.

Fogaça MV, Galve-roperh I, Guimarães FS, Campos AC. Cannabinoids, Neurogenesis and Antidepressant Drugs: Is there a Link?. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2013;11(3):263-75.

Tzadok M, Uliel-siboni S, Linder I, et al. CBD-enriched medical cannabis for intractable pediatric epilepsy: The current Israeli experience. Seizure. 2016;35:41-4.

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Meet Coach Lauren Creasy, RDN, LDN

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Meet Coach Tina Haupert, PN Level 1

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Mother’s Day Revolved Around Food

My boys treated me to THE BEST Mother’s Day on Sunday. Much of the day involved eating, drinking, and be merry. Let’s just say Mother’s Day revolved around food… and, of course, spending time with my boys. I actually think it was my favorite Mother’s Day yet!

The morning started with all sorts of awesomeness, including a Mother’s Day song that Quinn sang to me as well as a bunch of presents – golf lessons, a shark koozie, and Hershey’s Kisses. Quinn said part of my present was also tucking me in the couch with his stuffed animals (“Tiny Eagle, Pinch-y, Bobo, and Daffodil”) and blankets (“Geet and Noonie”) and eating chocolate. The kid knows me so well! 🙂

Speaking of knowing me well, Quinn also made me this:

After that, we headed to Lucky Finn Cafe for breakfast. It’s one of my favorite places, so it was an easy choice for Mother’s Day! 🙂

And, of course, I couldn’t ask for better company.

I ordered the “Figgy” sandwich (fig spread, cheddar, bacon), which was incredible. Yummmm!

Quinn ordered an almond croissant and house-made chocolate milk.

Almond croissant versus Quinn – haha!

Quinn and I also shared a special Mother’s Day cupcake.

Cupcake cheers! 🙂

After breakfast, we drove home to clean up the house, meal prep, and do laundry. Around lunchtime, we headed to Whole Foods for the second part of my Mother’s Day celebration. We bought a bunch of supplies for another “Euro Party Night,” which obviously meant that we needed to stop at the Euro Mart for some cured meats.

Our party also included a tasty white wine blend from Scout & Cellar and white chocolate toffee cookies from Barnes & Nobles. Holy yum!

Mother’s Day pretty much revolved around food and spending time with my boys, which is exactly how I wanted to celebrate the day. I hope all of the moms out there had a wonderful day as well!

Question of the Day

Moms, what was the best part of your Mother’s Day? 

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Meet Coach Christina Lombardi, MS, RD

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2019 Food Trends: What You Need to Know

The past year has brought about many new nutrition trends: coconut oil by the tablespoon, celery juice for breakfast, matcha flavored everything, golden coffee and tea, and CBD tinctures. What is worth taking and what should you approach with caution? My dietetic intern Emily analyzed five nutrition trends over the past year, sharing some tips and advice to keep in mind. (Hint: the answer is always variety and real food!) 

five food and nutrition trends for 2019


Coconut oil has been at the forefront of nutrition trends over the past several years. It has been hailed for its anti-inflammatory effects from the presence of lauric acid, its natural moisturizing abilities, its anti-microbial properties, and its stability when cooking at high temperatures. Although coconut oil does have some really great properties and health benefits, it is still a saturated fat and here is what you need to know:


  • Any saturated fat in excess can lead to high LDL and low HDL levels, wreaking havoc on your cardiovascular system. Consume in moderation just as you would any other saturated fat
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil provides significantly more polyphenol antioxidants than coconut oil. Try interchanging the two reap all of the benefits.
  • Try using virgin coconut oil. This is made from fresh coconut oil and will retain more of is beneficial properties.


The celery juice trend claims it can lower blood glucose, lipid levels, and increase the number of antioxidants to fight cancer. Yes, celery does contain antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols, but how much juice does one need to drink to make this claim legit? The jury is still out. Here is what you need to know:


  • Our juicing machines are our stomachs. Eating the stalk is just as beneficial and it provides more roughage.
  • Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. One food source alone is not the answer.
  • Celery Juice does provide the body with a lot of vitamins and minerals, but it is not a magical potion. Drink for enjoyment and its added benefits!


Like coconut oil, matcha has also taken a seat at the forefront of trends. The green powder is not only used in beverages, but now is being added to desserts and baked goods. It is used as a cancer fighting and weight loss agent, a detoxifier, an anti-anxiety remedy and so much more. As part of the green tea family, it does offer benefits, but to what extent? Here is what you need to know:


  • The green tea is high in polyphenols and catechins, such as EGCG. This does provide the body with significant antioxidant activity, but it is important to also incorporate a variety of foods into your diet to provide your body with primary, secondary, and tertiary antioxidant activity levels.
  • An 8-ounce cup of matcha contains 170mg of caffeine. While this may not be as much as coffee, it is still important to know when decided to consume a lot of this tea.
  • Matcha is not going to detoxify your entire body. No food has the power to do this and this is why we have a liver.
  • Sustainable weight loss should come from a healthy lifestyle, incorporating exercise and variety of different whole foods in the diet. Enjoy matcha as addition to your avocado toast, but don’t look at it as a quick fix.


The “golden” coffee trend has put turmeric in the lime light. The antioxidant in turmeric, curcumin, is thought to treat a variety of different health conditions. Is adding a little bit of turmeric to your smoothie, cup of joe’, or tea making a difference? Maybe or maybe not. Here is what you need to know:


  • There are no guidelines for how much turmeric you should be ingesting or what specific amount is needed to benefit health.
  • Try adding turmeric to your meals for enjoyment, such as chicken curry, you get to eat a great meal AND get some of those benefits. Win-win – like turmeric granola!
  • Don’t get to obsessed over one spice or herb. Incorporate a variety into your diet to increase health benefits and receive several different antioxidants.


CBD, a compound derived from the industrial hemp plant, has hit the ground running claiming to have incredible anti-inflammatory properties. As this is a fairly new concept, more studies need to be completed to understand its effects on health and if it can be used in the medicinal world.


  • Not all products are created equal. Research the product and the company to know that it is quality.
  • The FDA does not regulate the production of CBD oil. Again, do your research.
  • Consult a healthcare provider if you are taking medications for other health issues as CBD oil may cause interactions.

Sidebar: More on CDB in its own post coming soon!

What are some trends that you have found beneficial or completely crazy over the past year?

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Clean Eating Date Butter Recipe

This date butter is wonderfully sweet and wholesome spread for your morning toast!

If you’re looking for something to add a little flare to your morning toast, this cinnamon date butter could be the… Read more →

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