Simple Strategies: Dietary Do’s

Simple Strategies Part 1


Weight Challenges

Have you tried various weight loss approaches without the ability to initially lose or keep off the weight?  Well, you’re not alone, because many “diets” are meant for only short-term use. Let’s talk about weight improvement protocols that produce long-term results by changing how your body reacts to foods and stressors. 

Non-Diet & No-Weigh Practitioner

Before I go any further, I’d like to clarify that I don’t focus on weight loss in my practice. I see excess weight as a symptom of a greater issue that needs to be addressed. I don’t offer quick-fix diets, calorie counting, or weigh-ins. Instead, we utilize the functional nutrition approach to uncover reasons for weight concerns and create goals to address causes. Very often, my clients experience weight loss as a pleasant side effect of health improvement.

Evidence-Based Tips

It’s no surprise that what you eat can dramatically affect how you feel and whether or not you can lose excess weight. Choose foods to lower the insulin response and improve gut health to have the greatest impact.  The main evidence-based approaches that promote weight loss include the following:

  • Improving Dietary Choices
  • Adjusting the Eating Window
  • Increasing Lean Muscle Mass
  • Decreasing the Stress-Cortisol Response


We’ll take a closer look at effective weight improvement strategies in a 4-part series.  Today, we’ll talk more about Dietary Do’s.

Personalized Nutrition

Please keep in mind that this is a general Dietary Do’s guide that will apply to individuals without a chronic health condition.  If you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or an autoimmune disease, adding high-fiber or probiotic-rich foods may be problematic. In this case, you will benefit from personalized nutrition services.

Mindful Food Tracking

Pay close attention to foods consumed and emotions surrounding food. Track your food and beverage consumption accurately for at least 3 days through the free version of I highly recommend Cronometer because their software focuses on micro-nutrients as wells as macro-nutrients. Always consider food quality over calories because calories alone don’t reflect how your body reacts to the foods you eat. 

Being aware of your eating patterns while fully present when you eat, rather than multi-tasking or mindlessly eating, is called Mindful Eating. Intuitive Eating is a complementary practice that allows you to tune into your body’s needs. I’ll talk more about this during the Reducing the Stress-Cortisol Response blog. 

Is Your Current Nutrition SAD or RAD?

If you’re like most Americans, you probably eat a Standard American Diet (SAD) with a lot of processed carbohydrates (crackers, chips, breads, cereals, etc.) and processed sugars (juices, sports drinks, muffins, granola bars, sweetened yogurt, dressings and condiments, etc.). These processed foods are low in natural fiber and nutrients. They have depleted nutrient value, increased caloric load, and addictive properties. Processed foods increase appetite, resulting in more consumption of starchy, salty, and sweet foods.

Even some boxed foods we consider to be “healthy” may cause blood sugar spikes that hijack your metabolism. Processed sugars and starches cause foods to be quickly digested, raising blood sugar and insulin rapidly. In turn, these foods can increase appetite soon after eating while feeding the less favorable strains of bacteria and yeasts in your gut.

Enter the Renewed American Diet (RAD)

In addition to adequate hydration by drinking purified water, here are five simple tips to improve energy and mood, and ultimately your weight:

  • Choose organic foods whenever possible to minimize exposure to pesticides and herbicides that act as endocrine disruptors, contributing to imbalanced hormones that alter thyroid function, methylation, detoxification, and body composition.
  • Choose complex carbohydrates that come primarily from whole vegetables and fruits and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.  Notice the continued emphasis on “whole” foods, meaning it hasn’t been altered or processed.
  • Ensure you’re eating enough healthy fats. Choose foods such as avocado, olives, raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds, and wild Alaskan salmon. Cooking oils include avocado oil and coconut oil, which both do well with high-heat cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is fantastic for cold salad dressings.
  • For healthy protein sources, focus on sustainable, low-mercury fish, organic pasture-raised chicken, and organic pasture-raised beef in moderation. Add high-fiber plant sources such as legumes, working up to at least one plant-based meal per day. Beans, which are high in prebiotics for gut health, increase satiety (or fullness signal) by slowing digestion.
    • Slowly incorporate beans into your diet to allow your gut flora time to adjust. Non-digestible sugars in beans, such as raffinose, may contribute to gas and bloating when you first add these to your diet. Like oligosaccharides in breast milk, these sugars aren’t meant for you. It’s food for your gut flora to help the “good guys” grow and become more dominant.
  • Choose gut-health promoting foods. Add prebiotics, fiber-rich foods like beans and vegetables. Include probiotics such as cultured and fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso soup.
    • Gut health, which reflects the balance of healthy bacteria and yeasts in our gut, directly affects food cravings, appetite, and weight loss. Incorporate whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally high in fiber, nutrients, and probiotics.
    • Probiotic pills alone can’t populate the gut or replicate the diversity found in fermented foods. Taking probiotics daily while eating a low-fiber diet won’t provide the undigestible starches, or gut “foods,” needed for the good bacterial strains to multiply.  Eat to feed your microbiome!

Inclusive Eating

Does this mean you must significantly restrict foods and avoid all “treats”?  You certainly can enjoy the occasional snack food and still see big results.  The frequency and quantity of processed foods are what matter most. 

If you focus on fiber-rich, nutrient-dense foods at least 80% of the time, you will likely see improvements in body composition.  However, clients who struggle with symptoms of insulin resistance* may need a stricter approach to successfully reset the insulin response. Ask me how I can help you with that.

In my next Simple Strategies blog, we’ll talk about modifying meal timing to balance sugar handling and improve symptoms.

Author: Laura Farnsworth, MS, CNS, CN, Integrative & Functional Nutritionist at


* Insulin resistance:  A condition that contributes to weight gain when insulin receptors don’t work effectively to lower and use available glucose, the body’s fuel source,

Here’s a fascinating TED Talk with Dr. Peter Attia discussing how insulin resistance may precede weight gain and type 2 diabetes:

Boucher, J., Kleinridders, A., & Kahn, C. R. (2014). Insulin receptor signaling in normal and insulin-resistant states. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, 6(1), a009191.

Dhingra, D., Michael, M., Rajput, H., & Patil, R. T. (2012). Dietary fibre in foods: A review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 49(3), 255–266.

Fallah, Z., Feizi, A., Hashemipour, M., & Kelishadi, R. (2018). Effect of fermented camel milk on glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, and inflammatory biomarkers of adolescents with metabolic syndrome: A double-blind, randomized, crossover trial. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 23, 32. doi:10.4103/jrms.JRMS_1191_17

Paniagua, J. A. (2016). Nutrition, insulin resistance and dysfunctional adipose tissue determine the different components of metabolic syndrome. World Journal of Diabetes, 7(19), 483–514.

Polak, R., Phillips, E. M., & Campbell, A. (2015). Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clinical diabetes : A publication of the American Diabetes Association, 33(4), 198–205.

Roberts, C. K., Hevener, A. L., & Barnard, R. J. (2013). Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance: Underlying Causes and Modification by Exercise Training. Comprehensive Physiology, 3(1), 1–58.

Sears, B., & Perry, M. (2015). The role of fatty acids in insulin resistance. Lipids in Health and Disease, 14, 121.

Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: Mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417-1435.

van Baak, M. A., & Mariman, E. (2019). Dietary strategies for weight loss maintenance. Nutrients, 11(8), 1916. doi:10.3390/nu11081916

Watanabe, D., Kuranuki, S., Sunto, A., Matsumoto, N., & Nakamura, T. (2018). Daily yogurt consumption improves glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in young nondiabetic Japanese subjects with type-2 diabetes risk alleles. Nutrients, 10(12), 1834. doi:10.3390/nu10121834

Ye, J. (2013). Mechanisms of insulin resistance in obesity. Frontiers of Medicine, 7(1), 14–24.

Zhang, X., Browman, G., Siu, W., Basen-Engquist, K. M., Hanash, S. M., Hoffman, K. L., … Daniel, C. R. (2019). The BE GONE trial study protocol: a randomized crossover dietary intervention of dry beans targeting the gut microbiome of overweight and obese patients with a history of colorectal polyps or cancer. BMC cancer, 19(1), 1233. doi:10.1186/s12885-019-6400-z

blog posts