COUNTING CALORIES 101: My List of Low Calorie HEALTHY (yet, tasty) Foods and Other Tips for Easier Weight Loss

Once upon a time, I lost a crap ton of weight and lived happily ever after. The end....

Nope not quite. Over the past few years my weight has slowly crept up until I was 35 pounds up from all time low weight. This was my wake up call that something was not right. At 175 pounds (30 pounds up), I announced that I was done trying to lose weight and I was just going to maintain...then I gained 5 more pounds. So I went back and looked to see what in the world I was doing so different then. And, SURPRISE! I was actually paying attention to what I put in my mouth! Every single day!

I am shocked at how far I had come from these basic principles that led to my huge weight loss. I am a total science nerd and am always researching the latest studies that prove this and that about nutrition and fat loss. I had become my own science experiment. Going from Frutitarian (all fruit, Lord help me!) to no carb because there is REAL science that backs all this up, and everything in between, I kept creeping higher and higher up.

In the process, I had stopped eating as many unprocessed, whole foods. HOW does this happen?!

Well, it does and all you can do is get back on track and try again. So now I'm 7 pounds down from my (post-weight loss) all time high of 180 pounds by just doing these annoyingly basic things that I began my blogging career screaming from the rooftops. 

Now that I'm all hardcore back into counting calories, I want to share my list of foods that I rely heavily upon (along with a few other tips). And I want to start by saying that these are NOT all perfect foods!! Not by a long shot. However, all have some redeeming quality that makes them a staple in my diet.

A huge rule with any eating plan is that you not only want to feel good but actually enjoy the food you're eating so that you can do this for life! The other side of this rule is to find foods that you don't enjoy TOO much to the point where you're tempted to overeat on them. Those are best left out of the house and reserved for special someone else's house perhaps.

I'm going to leave off the most obvious list of all and that's non-starchy veggies! Find at least a small list of low calorie veggies that you love and put them into rotation. At the moment, I am digging a sliced cucumber with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt on it for only 45 calories. I love to make giant salads with pickled veggies mixed in for a punch. I splurge on some tasty dressing, even if it costs me 120 calories because I know it will make my giant (and I mean GIANT) salad delicious and I am a creature of pleasure. If it's not tasty, I'm not going to keep eating it.

Proteins are so important for weight loss. They satisfy you for little calories and help you body hold on to muscle (and even sometimes still build it) instead of burning it during weight loss.

-Shrimp. Love it!! Something like 85 calories for 10 of the medium ones.

-Sunwarrior Blend Protein. 100 calories of clean, vegan protein that is quite tasty! Sometimes I like to mix it up in the blender with a tbsp. of natural peanut butter, water and ice for a delicious, satisfying shake that's under 200 calories!!

-Boring Old White Meat Chicken. I honestly am not a huge fan of white meat. I prefer dark meat but ooooomg!! It's so many calories. So, while it's actually a very healthy choice from a nutrition standpoint (healthy fats), it can make creating a calorie deficit kind of hard so save the dark meat for special occasions and when you're in maintenance mode. In the meantime, you will need two things to make your boring old chicken pretty darn tasty: a super yummy seasoning mix (I'm really digging Adobo at the moment) or cook it with hot sauce for buffalo chicken. Add it to a salad with carrots, celery and sprinkle of blue cheese and you have "hot wing salad". The second thing you need is a meat thermometer! I promise you, chicken is waaaay tastier when you haven't overcooked it to the point of work boot material.

-Cottage Cheese. A lot of people turn up their nose at this one and, trust me, plain cottage cheese makes me gag. But mixed up in a salad with a little ranch dressing, I've got a protein packed, AMAZING tasting salad. Don't be my 7 year old....try it!

-FARM Eggs!!! There are a lot of foods that I will tell people to just buy regular but this is one that, if there's any way you can, you want to splurge on the farm fresh eggs. The creamy orange yolks will be an entirely new experience for you if you're used to conventional eggs. Not to mention they are packed full of Omega-3's which have been shown to assist in weight loss. My favorite way to have my eggs is over easy and on top of a giant plate of cooked veggies. Yes, right over top, so it's like a warm, creamy gravy. Again, don't knock it 'til you've tried. A giant plate of cooked, non-starchy veggies with two eggs on top is around 200 calories and will make you SATISFIED!!

Always watch your portion sizes on carbs! All people are different but most people with weight problems have a hard time consuming a lot of carbs and keeping their blood sugar regulated. Always pair complex carbs with protein. At the VERY MOST, you want no more than 3 times the carbs as protein. So 10g protein, max 30 g carbs. But a 1:2 ratio is even better! Find your "carb tipping point" by starting with just a couple bites of COMPLEX carbs and see how you feel. You can slowly add an extra bite or two at a time during the coming weeks. You know you've passed your carb tipping point when you feel tired and/or hungry almost immediately after a meal.

-Ole Low Carb Xtreme Wellness, High Fiber Wraps. Okay, this is officially the ONLY mention you'll see of wheat on this list. As a general rule, I think wheat greatly hinders weight loss efforts and I try to avoid it. Now, that being said, I have been known to slide these babies in from time to time and here's why. First, they are only 90 calories and pretty freakin' big! Second, they have NINE grams of fiber!! Fiber helps satisfy you (not to mention, exercise is not very fun when you're constipated). If you just NEED to wrap something up, use these gems.

-Boiled Sweet Potatoes. This is not the most amazing thing in the world but it's pretty darn tasty for the amount of work it takes. Cut a sweet potato into 1 inch slices. Put it in boiling water until soft and then salt it with some Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Very tasty! It's also great to go on top of salads the next day to add and sweet and creamy texture.

Because this is real life!

-Attune Probiotic Chocolate. Here's what I love about these dark chocolate bars (other than the fact that they are AMAZING tasting). They have 80 calories, only 6g of sugar AND 3 grams of fiber! Bonus? They have live probiotics!! Don't know what probiotics are and why you WANT lots of them now??....educate yourself immediately! Unhealthy guts make for dumpy butts....Oh! I am SO coining that phrase! Don't you guys steal it!

-Zen Evo Dark Chocolate. These little bars are around 40-45 calories and a little pricey. But I love them because they have things like green tea extract and raspberry ketones in them (depending on the version you get, like "Energy" or "Fit"). So I always feel like they curb my appetite a little and the caffeine seems to offset the slump I sometimes feel after eating sugar.

-Full fat ice cream!! Mind your portion size, but a 1/2 cup serving usually runs 150 calories. I emphasize full fat because the fat and protein in ice cream will actually slow the absorption of the sugar which helps prevent cravings for seconds. With all these types of foods, chew slow. Let the food roll around on your tongue. This helps start the whole digestion process and sends signals to your brain and belly that you're satisfied WAAAY sooner than if you're just inhaling without chewing!

-Raw macaroons. This has been one of my favorite finds lately! Find macaroons with really good, healthy ingredients. Most of these will range 75-100 calories. What I love about them is that, in addition to tasting amazing, they have protein, fat and fiber, and less sugar than most desserts. This helps that sugar crash AND (for me anyway) it is so satisfying I can actually eat only one and not want more....this is nothing short of a miracle for someone like me! Find a flavor you love but don't LOOOOVE to the point where you need more than one to be satisfied.

Drinks (when you're sick of good old fashion water!)

-Kevita. I loooove my Kevita! Starting as low as 5 calories per serving, it is full of live probiotics and all kinds of other health boosting goodies. Sweetened with stevia leaf extract, it has a subtle sweetness that's all natural. Best part (other than being healthy)? Due to the fermentation process, it is naturally carbonated. I will warn you, things like Kevita and my next recommendation are acquired tastes but most people grow to love and crave them after a while.

-Kombucha. You want to be careful with this one because a lot of manufactures will add sugar. I generally go with the brand Synergy because their kombuchas start as low as 30 calories per serving. This is another gut healthy, naturally carbonated drink.

-Water w/ REAL stevia leaf extract. You can experiment with this by adding mint leaves, lemon, cinnamon, cucumbers, etc. Just watch out for sugars in things like fruits and fruit juices. Even though it's natural it will still affect your weight loss either by extra calories or cravings.

Extras and Things to Make Everything Tastier

-Feta Cheese. Okay, definitely not a perfect food but that's okay! 1/4 c of feta is 70 calories or less and will make any meal amazing while adding some protein!

-Parmesan Cheese. Just like feta, parm can make any meal amazing and it takes even less calories to accomplish this with Parmesan. But, keep in mind, you want to use these cheese as a garnish for a giant meal of veggies! The veggies will be what will fill your body, nourish you and keep you satisfied. The cheese just makes your mouth happy while you get those veggies in.

-Fresh Garlic! It's a pain to chop so I will do a whole one at one time and put it in a tiny mason jar. It makes anything delicious and you can top any veggies with fresh chopped garlic and Parmesan cheese, stick it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes and you'll be in heaven!!

-Egg Drop Soup. I'm so glad I finally tried this. The calories seem to range from 50-75 per cup and it's soooo good and filling because it has some fat and protein.

-Bone need to just look this one up! It can become your new best friend!

-Spices!!!! We know this but it's like we don't KNOW this!! Look for fairly clean ones with words you can recognize in the ingredients list and then invest in some good spice mixes (I mentioned earlier, Adobo is one I really like at the moment).

-Pink Himalayan Sea Salt....again, look this up! It's healthy!

-Real Vanilla Extract (and other 100% pure extracts)

-REAL (ceylon) cinnamon...Know the difference!

Things That WILL Make You Hungrier

-Artificial Sweeteners...even too much stevia can cause cravings because, even though it's natural, it still is sweet and sends the message to your stomach that food is on the way so approach with caution.
-Excessive Carbs
-Stress or lack of sleep
-Commercials about food!!!

...avoid these things whenever you can

Things That Can Curb Your Appetite

-Exercise (especially high intensity)
-Fiber! Fiber! Fiber!
-Moderate consumption of healthy fats
-A good night's sleep
-Small amounts of natural occurring caffeine
-Big bulky foods like leafy green salads and broth based soups
-Getting enough nutrients!!! This one is HUGE! Your body will keep sending you the hunger signal if you're not giving it what it needs in terms of nutrition.
-Spicy foods (for some people)
-Sour foods (for other people)

Other Calorie Counting Tips for Weight Loss

-Really pay attention to those carbs! They can destroy your efforts. 
-Find big foods w/ little calories to keep you full and nourished! Stretch that calorie budget! Make it a game!
-Aim low! Only aim to lose about a pound a week. Creating too big of a deficit WILL set you up for disaster! Don't be the hare, be the tortoise.
-Speaking of aiming low, enter all your exercise in at 50%. Meaning, if you did Zumba for 60 minutes, only log 30. This is something that was just recently brought to my attention! Machines and apps drastically overestimate the amount of calories you're burning because they don't deduct your BMR (as in, the calories you would burn anyway, even if you didn't work out, which are already factored into your daily calorie allotment).
-Stay hydrated. Adequate water will give you energy, help you exercise harder and prevent false feelings of hunger.
-25g of fiber per day
-PLAN AHEAD! Try using an app like to log your calories. Plan all your calories the day before whenever possible.
-PLAN YOUR CHEATS TOO!! Twice a week, plan to eat those extra 500 calories that you're usually creating a deficit with. This will do two things, it will give you a chance to eat those things you've been resisting AND it will help keep your metabolism high. You don't want to go long periods of time with a calorie deficit every single day. Your body will lower your metabolism and burn more muscle to compensate. So, yes!! Absolutely cheat, but plan it ahead of time and only eat as many calories as you can while not changing weight in that day. Want more calories on a Saturday? Get up and work out hard so you can bank those calories and eat them later! I went for a 5 hour hike last Saturday and burned an extra 1000 calories!!! I enjoyed pizza and ice cream that night and still had a calorie deficit when I went to bed. 
-Don't lie and don't guess. In the beginning you need to measure everything. 501 calories is all it will take to move from losing weight to gaining it in any given day. And 500 calories is way less than you may think! It could be a couple packets of honey mustard from Bojangles and some salad dressing you didn't eyeball very well.
-Eat small, frequent (protein and fiber rich) meals. There is actually some controversy around this one lately to the point where I stopped doing it. And, guess what!....I gained weight!! Yes, eating frequent causes your body to always have some insulin present. But guess what going too long without eating does to an overweight person....makes them eat everything in sight! You need to eat BEFORE you get very hungry. However often that is! Sometimes I eat 8-9 times a day! Just don't eat dumb, non-food items like 100 calorie snack packs or you WILL overeat your calorie limit at the end of the day.

And most importantly....

Count ALL Calories....SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!!!!!!

This is the number one reason people counting calories don't lose weight. You can eat perfectly for 4 1/2 and COMPLETELY destroy all your efforts and even GAIN weight for the week by throwing down on the weekend with no regard for what you're eating. Plan your weekends too! Count those calories. Want to pig out?! Go for a 5 hour hike!!! Realize that the calories still count, even when you don't feel like counting them!

The "100% All Natural" LIE

Do you pay extra of your hard earned money to buy 100% natural for yourself and your family? If so, please take 4 minutes to watch this easy to understand and entertaining video that will open your eyes to what the food industry is doing to us! Get informed. Get mad! Change! Knowledge is power!!

No More Fear: Living Wide Open

I read an article yesterday about tick bites and how horrible they can be. And I get it! I totally believe they can be horrible! However, much more horrifying to me were the responses by readers saying things like "this is why I never go outside"and "guys, PLEASE don't go outside or into the woods, it's just not worth it!" 

It got me thinking all day about this mentality that seems to be rampant (in America especially). We have become SO afraid! I am convinced this is mainly because of the constant news coverage on all things horrifying. It skews our perception of just how often those things actually happen! So many of us are walking around in this chronic state of fear that SOMETHING is going to kill us! 

Here's the scariest part of all....we are so busy being afraid of dying that we don't even realize that we are in hiding. We are actually hiding from truly LIVING!

How do I know this? Because it's how I used to spend my life. By the time I turned 20, other than work, I spent my life almost always indoors, watching tv, eating and....hiding. I didn't want to get hot. Or dirty. Or stung by a bee. I always felt confused when people talked about how miserable the temperature outside was because, I thought, "it's a short walk from the indoors to your car and back again. What's the problem?" 

Finally I reached a point in my early thirties where my fear of dying (or discomfort in general) was replaced by this overwhelming fear that life was passing me by while I stared at various screens and hid from anything uncomfortable....and the discomfort had snuck into my life anyway! I was morbidly obese, in chronic pain, always depressed and could barely climb steps without feeling like I was going to pass out. I couldn't hide from death anymore, it had found me and was circling around me like a dark, menacing shadow. And it would be a death of the most miserable kind. Slow, maybe over years. Whether it would be heart disease, diabetes or some other preventable disease, I KNEW it was coming. I could feel. 

Well, one thing is for certain. When death finds me now (if it can even keep up with me), it will have to take me out hard and fast because I am living the shit out of life! I crave sunshine and sweat and dirt and even bee stings! I crave feeling alive. I push my body to the point of exhaustion and every muscle in me screams "I am alive!". 

I am done with hiding. I am standing in the great big wide open where life can take me out at any moment and, when it does, I'll have no regrets about whatever causes it because I am living from my heart now and every second is precious. 

So my message to anyone reading this. Stop hiding, start living. Cause, guess what, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! Until that day, be the boss. I know that fear of discomfort. Push through it. When you make yourself uncomfortable you grow in ways you can't ever imagine and you are too busy being fully immersed in your own life to think about the "what ifs" very much. In the beginning I always asked myself the following questions when I thought about doing something and then fear started to bubble up inside of me and threaten to stop me....

Is it likely to kill me?

If the answer was no, my next question....

How soon can I do it?