Expert Series: Common Sense Nutrition

It usually happens to me about once/week. Someone will ask what I do (read more about that here)… I tell them I’m a dietitian… and then they act all shocked and shaken when I pop a French fry in my mouth! Or they want to know exactly what I eat so they can do the same.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), I’m definitely held to a higher standard… I’m sure people think I eat grass-fed organic non-GMO plant-based wheatgrass all day long. And when they see me enjoying a juicy hamburger or a fat chocolate chip cookie (gasp!), they act like their world has just been turned upside down.

Common Sense Nutrition Tips | Levelheaded Life

So, how do I do it? How do I stay healthy and satisfied with what I’m eating, but not eat tree bark all day long? Here are 5 ways I eat what I want, while still staying healthy.

1. If I want junk food, I have to make it myself.
Carrot Fries

Whether its cookies, chips, or ice cream… if I’m going to eat it, it has to be made in my home. You won’t find me buying these items from the grocery store very often. Convenience makes eating junk food easier than it should be. By not keeping cookies in the house, I force myself to decide how badly I really want them. Is it worth taking the 45min-1hour to bake them? This also means that when I do make them, I give myself the freedom to enjoy as many as I want. I’m not going to stress about eating 3 cookies because I know I don’t eat them very often. (Check out my amazing cranberry white chocolate cookie recipe here… the secret ingredient will surprise you!)

This also helps with fried foods, like chips and French fries. Since I don’t own a deep fryer, if I’m making homemade versions of these, they’re going to be baked… which I don’t have to feel guilty about at all. (And it gives me freedom to experiment with things like carrot chips and carrot fries!)

2. When I eat food prepared outside my home, half my plate is non-starchy vegetables.



When I eat food from a restaurant, I make sure half my plate is non-starchy vegetables, like this. This helps lighten up the meal I’m eating and I can feel better about not knowing exactly how something was prepared. This also means, salads are generally off limits… surprising, right? Most restaurant salads are actually loaded with meat, cheese, and calorie-heavy dressings… so much so, that most of the plate/bowl is the toppings and not the fiber-filled greens. Try making a salad like this at home.

3. Eat a hearty plant-based breakfast.

Overnight Oats

There’s something about eating a big breakfast that makes me feel like I’m splurging a little. Eating a big satisfying breakfast also keeps me full until lunch, ensures I don’t get weak or light-headed mid-morning, and helps me not get tempted to snack. I also find when I eat a bigger breakfast, I end up not eating as much throughout the entire day as well. Some great make ahead plant-based breakfasts include: smoothies, overnight oatmeal, or warm chia seed pudding. I like getting to fill up, and not feeling like I have to limit myself.

4. Plan, plan, plan.


When forced to make a spur-the-moment decision, odds are we’re going to choose poorly compared to if we had had time to plan ahead. Planning your meals and snacks at the beginning of the week ensures not only that you’ll eat healthy, have groceries on hand, and not go over budget, but it also helps you be able to plan to splurge a little. Yes, you read that correctly. Plan to let yourself splurge. If you know a celebration, birthday, etc. is coming up and you want to eat some really good, but not-so-good-for-you food, make a plan to help you “be good” the rest of the week. Download my free meal planner here.

5. If I have a craving, I eat it.


Rather than depriving myself of something I’m just dying to have, (read: chocolate), I let myself have a little and be done with it. The longer I wait, the worse my “splurge” ends up being usually. I also always try to follow point number 1 above. Or I try a healthier version of something like this 150-calorie chocolate shake.

For more healthy (and delicious!) recipes check out Milk & Honey Nutrition on Facebook and Instagram. If you are interested in more information on what Milk & Honey Nutrition can offer you and your family, (like nutrition coaching, meal plans, grocery store tours, cooking lessons, and more) check out!

Expert Series: I’m SO Addicted To…

Three Donuts and Text: Levelheaded Life - Expert Series: Addiction

Think of the first friend you made on the first day of school.  It might be pre-school, high-school or medical school.  It’s a memorable experience; the first time you feel connected to someone on a level that goes deeper than the surface.  Today’s expert was my very first friend at Florida State.  It was my first class at my new school (I was a transfer student) and the professor hadn’t shown up yet.

A girl who embodied what my Texas brain considered as the perfect Florida Girl (blonde, tan, friendly) and I struck up a conversation before class.  We ended up having a lot in common and throughout the semester shared hairdressers’ phone numbers (I gave her mine, it didn’t work out); nursing broken hearts with pizza, pink champagne and musicals (my heart, the pizza was her idea) and building a lifelong friendship.

I feel so lucky to call this accomplished woman a friend. She has dedicated her life to understanding and helping people with addiction and I’ve asked her to help us understand a bit better about how addiction plays a role in the choices we make every day. Here’s Lindsey to tell you a little more about it herself!


Hi. I’m a therapist. I work with individuals who have substance use disorders, or as you may hear more frequently, addicts and alcoholics. I love what I do. I must mention that although I assess, diagnose and treat substance use disorders by day, I am taking off that hat right now. If you want to learn more about substance use disorders, I encourage you to visit the American Society of Addiction Medicine website.

Today the focus is on the general term you hear thrown around, “addicted”. We are going to look at what that word means and how it may be a barrier to you reaching your goals.

First, let’s define “addicted”. Oxford dictionary defines addicted as, “physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects”. So, what does this mean? Let’s break it down using caffeine as an example.

Simply stated, being physically dependent on a substance means that you will experience physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the substance. If a person drinks several cups of coffee during the day and abruptly stops, this will most likely result in a headache. That’s a physical withdrawal symptom. They don’t last forever. If that person decides to stick with their decision to eliminate caffeine, the headaches will eventually go away.

Being mentally dependent means that you believe you need the substance to function in a desired way. How many times have you heard someone say a variation of, “Don’t even try talking to me before I’ve had my 2 cups of coffee in the morning!”. That person holds a belief that they are more irritable or not as focused before they have their morning dose of caffeine.

You may be thinking, “what’s the big deal about being addicted to caffeine?” The answer really depends on you. If you set a goal to stop drinking caffeine, I imagine it is important to you and being physically and mentally dependent on caffeine can derail your progress, if you let it.

What do I mean by saying, “if you let it?”. I am referring to your thoughts, more specifically, self-talk. Self-talk is automatic and it has quite the impact on whether or not we reach our goals. You have an external event, that event is followed by an interpretation of the event and self-talk, which then motivates a feeling and reaction.


Let’s put this in real life terms.  It’s the day that you committed to eliminating caffeine from your diet. It’s mid-morning and you’re at work when a headache comes on (external event). You think about how good coffee tastes and say to yourself “I’ll never make it through this day with a headache like this!” (Interpretation of the event and self-talk). You feel irritated and drive to a nearby coffee shop to get a coffee (feeling and reaction).

The problem? You set a goal to eliminate caffeine but you didn’t follow through with your commitment. Your reaction may have alleviated your headache (physical dependence) and dissolved that irritation (mental dependence) but this is a short-term reward.

Speaking of rewards, let’s briefly talk about dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in your brain that is mainly responsible for feelings of pleasure. We feel pleasure in response to food, water, sex and nurturing. You also feel pleasure when you set a goal and follow through with it. That’s because as you make choices that work towards your goal, your dopamine increases. Do you feel more motivated when you can see progress towards your goal? Yes! That is dopamine at work! Pleasure is a reward that motivates you to continue the behavior.

We set goals for a reason. When we make choices that don’t align with our goals, we do that for a reason, too. Most of the time it is to feel better in the moment, as you saw outlined in our caffeine example. So, knowing what we do now about self-talk, how can we make choices that are aligned with our goals? Challenge that self-talk.

How we experience an event is greatly influenced by our self-talk. So, if we have negative or fearful self-talk, we can challenge that and it will impact our experience. Let’s take another look at the caffeine example.

It’s mid-morning and you’re at work when a headache comes on (external event). You think about how good coffee tastes and say to yourself “I’ll never make it through this day with a headache like this”. You recognize this negative self-talk and challenge it by saying to yourself, “This headache is temporary. I can do this” (Interpretation of the event and self-talk). You feel hopeful, take something for pain relief and drink a soothing cup of tea (feeling and reaction).

When you get through that headache, you feel pride that you did what you said you were going to do. Dopamine! The pleasure you experience is motivation for you to continue the behavior, which leads to achieving your goal. More Dopamine!

Remember: achieving your goals is a process, it’s not always easy and it takes time and effort. You are human and there will be times that you stumble or make choices that are not aligned with your goals but that is not an excuse for giving up. You set goals because they are important to you so giving up will only result in feelings of disappointment.

Don’t get in your own way.  As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Although we focused on caffeine in this example, the process discussed can be generalized to whatever it is you are struggling with. I want to make sure to mention that if you are concerned that you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol or illicit substances, ask for help. Although helpful to know, this post is not intended as treatment for a substance use disorder.

Lindsey E. Komara, LCSW

5 Free Apps to Get You Fit, Fast

Smartphones are a waste of time.  Pretty much everything we use our phones for are time wasters.  Candy Crush?  Facebook?  Snapchat?  A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME.  I know you’re running to the top of your apartment building right now to throw your useless phone off the roof but wait!  It’s actually pretty amazing that we have a teeny device which takes the place of a camera, radio, wallet, atlas and alarm clock all at once.  Wouldn’t it be crazy if we had to carry that stuff around all the time?  Or if you’re as old as me – you remember when you did have to carry all that stuff around and should thank your phone more often.  Also, call your mother.  And get off my lawn.

Here’s the kicker: Not every app is a time waster.  There are so many out there that can help you become a better human.  Not all apps are created equal, however.  I slaved away at this keyboard day and night to sort through all the fluff for you (you’re welcome) and made a list of the 5 most necessary free apps to help you get fitter, faster. Physically and Mentally!

My Fitness Pal

my fitness pal

My Fitness Pal is my very favorite health app.  It’s main function is calorie counting but it does so much more than that.  You can also use it to track your macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein).  It has options to track food, workouts, weight, how much water you drink and you can update your status if you want.  My favorite part is the social aspect of the app.  People can’t see your food diaries unless you make them available, but it does tell your friends when you’ve lost weight, when you work out and how often you log.  You can like and comment on the notifications, so you can be supportive of your friends who are on the same journey as you.  In the food tracking section, you can scan the bar code on the food and it will automatically upload the calories for you.  It’s amazing.  This is an absolute must-download.


Diet Bet

What’s better than losing weight?  Losing weight and get paid for it.  The basic premise of DietBet is that you pay a certain amount of money up front, usually around $20 and the money from each person who joins the bet goes into a pot.  Sometimes the pots get up to thousands of dollars!  You agree to lose a certain percentage of your weight in a month.  At the end of the month, the pot gets split between all the people who lost the weight!  They have built-in rules and requirements so you can’t cheat.  This is actually a lot of fun.  If you’re a competitive person, this is the app for you.

Interval Timer

Interval Timer

For beginner runners or for people who are using the Jeff Galloway Walk/Run training program, this is an easy to use, reliable interval timer.  It has a function where you can get access to your playlist through the app, which is really nice because you don’t have to switch back and forth between apps to change your music while you’re running or walking.  The app queues you at the beginning and end of each interval.  It’s a very useful app.



Runkeeper is my absolute favorite running app.  It uses the GPS on your phone to track how long your runs or walks are.  If you’re an advanced runner, it has a setting for pacing and it will queue you to let you know how you’re doing against the pace you’ve set.  There is also a social aspect to the app as well and I get a popup anytime a friend goes for a run.  It’s another good way to encourage your friends and get some encouragement yourself!

Stop, Breathe, Think


Stop, Breathe, Think is a guided meditation app.  I truly believe that you can improve yourself and your outlook on life through meditation.  Science says so too.  This app is really cool because it starts with a “check in” where you think about how you’re feeling right at the moment.  It then has you choose 5 feelings (anxious, happy, hopeful, etc.) into the app from lists they have provided.  After that, the app suggests guided meditations based on your feelings.  Each meditation is about 5 minutes.  I like to do it at night before I go to bed, but you could use it to center yourself in a stressful situation or in the morning as a positive start to your day.

Do you have any apps you use that aren’t in the list?  Let me know in the comments!

The 5 Hottest Diets Revealed

Cutting board with a measuring tape on top


I was talking with my mom the other day about our eating habits and we ended up discussing the different styles of eating for people who diet.  It’s an age old story, we all know someone who is constantly talking about the latest diet trend.  While we were on the phone, she asked me, “So what is paleo and what does clean eating mean and what’s the difference?” Since she brought it up, I figured that if she has the question, she’s probably not the only one.  The 5 main styles of dieting that I hear the most about are Low Fat, Low Carb, Clean, Paleo and Gluten Free.  I have laid out a little background and common diets associated with each style. All eating plans have their own benefits and drawbacks. It’s really up to you as an individual to figure out what works best for your body and lifestyle.

Low Fat

Low Fat diets are exactly what they sound like and the most recognizable in the group.  They’re eating plans that restrict calories from fat and are basically what most Americans consider “Healthy Eating.”  It is recommended that the average person have 30% or less of their daily calories come from fat and these diets adhere to that standard. Components of a low fat meal would include vegetables, low fat dairy, pasta, whole wheat bread, fish and other lean meats.  No-no’s are egg yolks, butter, cheese and fried foods.

Low fat dieting became very popular in the 80’s when experts began to recommend reducing saturated fat as a means of healthy eating. Low fat diets have been proven to reduce cholesterol, improve heart health and help people lose weight. (Just stay away from the processed foods.)

Low fat diet examples: DASH, Volumetrics, Ornish

Low Carb

Low carb diets grew in popularity with the advent of the Atkins diet. Characterized and popularized primarily by excluding bread, pasta, sugar and starchy vegetables and allowing seemingly endless amounts of meat, cheese, and other fatty foods to lose weight.  Remember when this was oh so popular in the early 2000’s?  I’ll admit, I tried it.  I couldn’t give up bread though. Me and low carb diets were just not meant for one another.

Severe low carb diets like the original Atkins program cause your body to go into a state called ketosis, which causes rapid weight loss but has been proven to have other possibly harmful side effects. Today, most low carb diets have been altered and include more healthy carbohydrates and focus on lean proteins instead of meats high in saturated fat.

Low Carb Diet Examples: South Beach, Weight Watchers, Atkins 40


Clean eating meal plans are less about controlling what specific macronutrients you put in your body and are more about being mindful about where your food is coming from. The idea is to eat “real” foods in their state that is closest to how they are found in nature. This means eliminating processed and refined foods.  As I talked about in my last post, processed food is basically anything that comes in a can or a box.  Examples are pasta, hot dogs, frozen pizza, etc.

Acceptable foods are, non processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, farm fresh eggs. Minimally processed foods are unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice, frozen fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed, hormone-free dairy and oils.  The key here is to avoid weird stuff in your food. Think yes to tomatoes, no to ketchup.  No preservatives, no additives, no hormones. Keywords to looks for are free-range, organic, grass fed, and hormone free.

Clean Diets:  Eat-Clean Diet


The paleo or paleolithic style of eating is similar to clean eating in that it’s an attempt to return to eating natural foods.  Paleo takes it one step further and encourages people to “eat like cavemen,” which essentially means that you wouldn’t eat anything that a caveman wouldn’t have access to.  The idea is that agricultural process has come so quickly to the human race, our bodies haven’t had enough time to evolve and adapt to eating processed foods like sugar, wheat and processed oils. People who eat this way believe that that inability to adapt is what is causing many of our common “food related” diseases like cardiovascular disease, type-II Diabetes and obesity.  Good foods are the same as clean eating, just take out anything that’s not meat, vegetables, or nuts. The same keywords that apply to clean eating apply here as well, free-range, organic, grass-fed and hormone free.

Paleo Diets: Whole30, Nom-Nom Paleo

Gluten Free

Gluten Free is the buzzword-iest diet in the list I think.  Gluten free diets came to the nation’s attention because of a disorder called Celiac disease.  Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  People who have Celiac disease can’t eat things like bread, pasta, or beer without having a severe intestinal reaction. (What a bummer!)  So, specific gluten free diets were created to tailor to Celiac patients.  Somewhere along the line, people figured out that if you don’t eat gluten, you will lose weight.  This actually has more to do with the fact that you aren’t putting a lot of processed, simple carbohydrates in your body than your body’s ability to digest gluten.  As with any popular diet, the food industry has blown the gluten craze way up, creating lines of gluten free cookies and cakes and pasta and pretty much every processed food you can imagine.  I’m going to give you my honest opinion here.  Unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor and you have Celiac disease (trust me: if you did, you’d know it), there is no reason to pretend you are allergic to gluten.  If you feel better when you don’t eat a ton of processed food and grains?  That’s because you’re a normal human.

Gluten Free Diets: Gluten Free Living

Have any of you ever tried these eating styles or the specific diets?  Have questions?  Let me know how in the comments!

Grocery Store Survival Guide

This guide will help you become a healthy grocery shopping ninja!

Let’s talk about grocery shopping.  Everyone has to do it (unless you’re Donald Trump, probably) and if you’re not careful, it can be a huge roadblock on your journey to eating healthy.  This used to be a HUGE issue for me until I learned a few simple tricks to getting out of the grocery store without ending up with a cart full of Rolos. Because of that, I’ve put together an easy to use survival guide that will help you become a grocery shopping ninja!

Start with Healthy Recipes: Make a List!

Grocery shopping actually starts at home.  Going in with a gameplan is the #1 most important strategy you can have.  The good news is, with the beautiful lovechild that blogs and Pinterest make, we have TONS of healthy recipes available right at our fingertips.  I have a lot of favorite blogs for healthy meal ideas but my go-tos are Skinnytaste, Picky Palate’s Skinny Palate Section and Gimme Some Oven.  Check out my Good Food, Good Life board for lots of tasty, healthy recipe ideas!

Now take those recipes and MAKE A LIST.  This is so crucial!  If you’re just cruising around the store with no plan, you’re going to end up with potato chips and pizza rolls.  (Which are delicious, but let’s face it, not the best choices you can make.)  I usually make my lists in the morning before work after that first cup of coffee when my brain is really running on all cylinders.  You can use a grocery list app or just plain old paper, but make sure you do it!


A long-lived grocery store enemy is hunger.  Scene: It’s Monday night, you didn’t get your shopping done on the weekend, so you’re heading to the store after work.  You’ve had a long day and you need to pick up a few things for the week.  The problem is that you haven’t eaten since lunch.  All of the sudden you get into the store and those iced cookies (you know the really soft ones with the sprinkles?) start looking like manna from Heaven and you pop a dozen into your cart just to snack on while you shop.  Sound familiar? No? Just me?  I’m really a sucker for those damn cookies.  Anyway, pretty soon you’re loading anything and everything into your cart and you’ve veered so far off course you can’t find your way back.  Trust me, it’s science.

My trick to avoiding going all Supermarket Sweep in the store is to keep a snack in my bag or in my car.  If you work in an office, keep some healthy stuff at your desk.  Ideas for healthy snacks here, here and here.  Eat something before you leave work or on the way to the store and you’re golden.

Shop the Outside

This may be the tip that you already know.  If you’re looking for healthy food, stay on the perimeter of the grocery store.  Generally, supermarkets pack all of the high calorie, high dollar items in the aisles and leave all of the healthy, affordable stuff on the outside.  Grocery stores have a built-in reason to influence you to shop the center.  They want you to spend as much money as possible while you’re there!  Why do you think the eggs are all the way at the back?  The supermarket planner guy is hoping that you’ll walk down the aisles (instead of around the outside) and add a bunch of nonessential stuff to your cart.  And it works!  To avoid this trap, stick to the outside where you can get fresh meat, dairy and produce without getting sucked into the world of boxed food that awaits inside the aisles.  If you do have to go in the aisles (for spices or canned food) go back to #1 and STICK TO THE LIST.

Steer Clear of Advertising

Advertising is another grocery store trick to get you to buy things that aren’t the best for your health  You never see advertisements for carrots or lean ground beef.  The reason is, that those advertisements are paid for by food companies who want you to buy their processed food products.  This is the stuff you see advertised on television and on all of the flyers that you get with your newspaper and it’s really just not that good for you.  Examples: chips, boxed mac and cheese, frozen foods, etc.  Most processed food (the stuff in the middle of the grocery store) is engineered to be as tasty and addictive as possible.  One of the real reasons that Americans have trouble choosing healthy food; and the reason I started this blog is because the food industry has really messed up what we consider “health food.”  This targeted marketing is especially effective on children.  I could honestly talk about this all day, but we’ll leave it for another post.

To put this point in action: When you see an advertisement for something that you think seems tasty and healthy, do your research.  You can look up the ingredients online or just read the label while you’re in the store.  If the ingredient list has a lot of crazy stuff that you feel like you probably studied in your high school chemistry class, put it back on the shelf.  Then head back to the perimeter where it’s safe.

Shopping Services

This section is close to my heart.  There are actually places out there that will do your grocery shopping for you.  This is the best way to avoid purchasing things you don’t need because you don’t even have to go into the store at all!  My current favorite is Wal-Mart Grocery Pickup.  You sign up for an account, search for the stuff on your list, add it to your cart, pick a pickup time and then just show up at the store at your allotted time.  Someone will come to your car and even help you load your groceries!  I can imagine this being very helpful for moms with small children.  As long as your order is over $30, there is no charge for the service.  Amazing!

Another option (not available in my area yet) is Instacart.  This one seems nice because they will shop lots of different stores for you and then deliver it to your house.  I believe there is currently an offer that will get you $10 off of your first order.  If you’ve used instacart and have an opinion, leave it in the comments!  I’d love to hear about it!

Ok, you have the tools to grocery shop like a pro and you’re a certified grocery store ninja.  Now get out there and shop!