Pumpkin Pie Cake – THM (S)

First things first, this post contains more links than I typically use. I do not participate in affiliate programs and the links are included only for your convenience.

I know, I know. I claimed I’m not a chef and I’m not. I’m not a baker either (despite it being my late great-grandfather’s occupation). So what’s with another recipe, you ask? Well, it’s all things pumpkin season and my mother makes this pumpkin pie cake that our entire family loves. It’s an upside-down cake of sorts–pumpkin pie-type filling on the bottom with a crust on top. The problem? Besides calling for 1 cup of suger (Yikes! I can just feel the blood sugar spike reading the recipe.) and sweetened condensed milk for the pumpkin filling portion, it uses a boxed yellow cake mix, which has more sugar and refined flour, to make the crust topping. Since beginning THM four years ago, I’ve counted her pumpkin pie cake as one of those once-a-year “cheat” things I have at Thanksgiving and call it an “off-plan personal choice” in moderation. But this year, I got a wild hair to see just what would happen if mixed two recipes from a couple of food blogs together. I used the cake (pumpkin) portion of the Pumpkin Cream Cake* from Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen (which you should also make because it is AWESOME!) and used Sheri Graham’s Vanilla Cake Master Mix* in place of the boxed cake mix. I keep a double batch of Sheri’s Vanilla Cake Master Mix in the pantry because I make my Fun-Sans-Fetti Cake Batter Dip with it, but in the recipe below I’ve just included the individual ingredients in case you don’t have the mix on hand. Well, the results were exactly what I had hoped for! Since my kids tasted it and proclaimed it to be as good as the real thing, I wanted to share.

With homemade THM-compatible ice cream

I do want to add a caveat though, while this is a health-IER recipe than the original due to removing the sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and cake mix, it is still pretty calorie-dense. There are over 2-1/2 tablespoons of butter in each serving. And, as THMers know, counting calories isn’t necessary, but you don’t want to abuse them either. You won’t want to make this a frequent dessert so as to avoid calorie abuse, but it is a great sugar-free treat for special occasions like Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pie Cake Recipe – THM (S)


For the pumpkin pie “filling”:

  • 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 2/3 cup THM Super Sweet Blend
  • 2 cans of pumpkin, 15 oz. each (or one 29 oz. can)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups THM Baking Blend (or 1 cup coconut flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the crust topping:


Preheat oven to 350º. Spray 9×13 cake pan with coconut oil cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together softened butter and sweetener. Stir in pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well. Add baking blend, baking powder, and spices, stirring to combine thoroughly. Pour this mixture into prepared 9×13 pan and spread out.

In a separate bowl, combine oat fiber, coconut flour, whey protein powder, sweetener, salt, baking powder, and glucomannan. Mix well. Sprinkle this dry mixture over the pumpkin. Drizzle 1 cup of melted butter over dry cake mix. Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving. Serves well with homemade whipped cream or THM-compatible ice cream.

As written, this recipe serves 12-15. It can easily be halved and baked in a 9×7 pan for 45 minutes to serve 6-8.

Click here to print this recipe

* Many thanks to Sarah Criddle and Sheri Graham for letting me share all or portions of their recipes in this post. Please visit Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen at https://mrscriddleskitchen.com and Sheri Graham at https://sherigraham.com for more great recipes.

Fun-Sans-Fetti Cake Batter Dip – THM (FP or E)

First things first, this post contains more links than I typically use. I do not participate in affiliate programs and the links are included only for your convenience.

My apologies. This post is very long for what is effectively a recipe equivalent to boxed mac & cheese. There is a good reason for that and if you follow the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating you’ll want to read the whole post.

For her recent birthday, my 14-year-old daughter requested Funfetti Dip instead of a traditional cake. As she and her friends whisked the bowl of goodness off to the basement with a box of Aldi-knockoff Nilla Wafers, I started some wishful thinking. Funfetti Dip is YUM but not very healthy. Boxed cake mix, frozen whipped topping, vanilla yogurt, and vanilla wafer cookies are a simple carb recipe for blood sugar disaster. But what if… I recalled a THM-friendly cake mix recipe. Hmmm… Oikos Triple Zero Greek Nonfat Yogurt is on-plan. I wonder… Good old-fashioned whipped cream is an S… Sprinkles for the ‘fetti are tricky but I can worry about that later… Off to the kitchen I went.

My first attempt involved THM-compatible versions of all three ingredients: Sheri Graham’s Vanilla Cake Master Mix*, a single-serve container of Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Greek Yogurt, and some homemade whipped cream.

Pretty, it wasn’t since the ‘fetti’s main job is decoration and I still didn’t have a sub for that. But it did not disappoint in flavor! However, who wants to make whipped cream every time you want a quick snack and the fat in the whipped cream was probably bordering on crossover territory. So I tried it with just the yogurt and cake mix. Viola! Quick. Easy. No fat to be troubled by. I wouldn’t even really call it a recipe. Once you have a batch of cake mix made up and stashed away, it’s about as simple as a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. Now, what to eat it with… Obviously not vanilla wafer cookies. Needs to be something FP… I gaze into the fridge. Not my standby chip substitute of sliced cucumbers or celery. Hmmm… Eureka! Strawberries, of course!

And I’ll confess, sometimes I just eat it straight up with a spoon. Tastes like cake batter. For a snack, I stick to eating half the batch with berries. The other half gets put in the fridge for a snack the next day. Sometimes though, I have it for breakfast. In that case, I eat the entire batch with 1/2 cup of berries and about 1/4 cup of homemade granola.

Breakfast Version

This categorization of this “recipe” is going to be a little touchy for some THMs. Here’s why: it doesn’t really fit neatly into S, E, FP, XO categories and you can start numbering yourself right into the looney bin. HOWEVER, I believe it will illustrate the very concept of food freedom you can embrace as part of THM. If you’re not a follower of THM and are just after a yummy and healthy snack feel free to skip all this and go straight to the recipe section. If you are a “mama”, take a deep breath, keep an open mind, and let’s break this down.

The base of this recipe is Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Greek Nonfat Yogurt. It’s considered an FP food. The other main portion of this is Sheri Graham’s Vanilla Cake Master Mix. It is also considered FP. So, the question in the back of a THM’s mind is, “When combined, do the carbs or fat in them push them into E or S territory at all?” Since there is no fat to speak of in either part, it wouldn’t go into S. That leaves the carb question. And here is where I will push some “mama’s” buttons and open myself up to some criticism. I don’t care how many carbs are in it combined. <GASP!> How can I be that blasé about it? Won’t all my progress on THM be lost and I’ll end up back at 225 pounds? Maybe, IF I were that indifferent to the status of everything I ate. But here’s the deal: most of what I eat fits nicely into S, E, and FP boxes, so this one thing that doesn’t isn’t a big deal. All the ingredients are on-plan. I know that there are carbs in the yogurt and cake mix and that together the amount of carbs may push it close to E territory but because there is no healthy carb source it can’t really be E by itself. If I add a cup or more of berries (or 1/2 cup or more of blueberries) it could be E because now I have healthy carbs. When I have it for breakfast with berries and granola it is certainly an E. As I said, there is no fat so I know it’s not S and therefore can be a crossover. Because I know these things that are the basics of the THM way of life, I make sure I keep it at least 3 hours from any other meal or snack to avoid crossing over or fuel stacking. And, I don’t eat it every day. It’s a good treat, but as with all things, moderation is key. Therefore, no problem not knowing exactly what it is or what its numbers are. I know it doesn’t mix fuels because of the lack of fat, and that’s all I need to know. (To those THMs cringing at this because I’m not singing “pure” THM doctrine, I get it. I do. This type of thinking is scary. It can easily lead to adopting such an attitude with everything and derailing into old unhealthy habits–see note below. I understand. No need to give me lectures or nasty comments.) If I were really pressed to give it a letter designation, I’d say it’s FP if eaten on its own because there isn’t really a healthy carb source without the berries to make it E. It’s probably E if you add berries. Those are just my personal leanings on the categories though. And again, if you add berries and granola to eat it as a meal, it’s definitely E because of the healthy carb sources in the berries and oats.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ALL THMers: If you are following a THM lifestyle, one should always attempt to identify foods as S, E, FP and pair them appropriately, as I have done with this snack. I’m NOT telling you to throw caution to the wind. I do not want to cause anyone to use this explanation as license to adopt this philosophy with all foods. My purpose in the above explanation is to give an example of food freedom within the framework of THM guidelines. If you know you have a tendency to “let an inch turn into a mile,” to paraphrase my mama, then stick to things that are more concrete in classification. You have to know your personal issues and work THM within those boundaries.

Fun-Sans-Fetti Cake Batter Dip Recipe – THM (FP or E)


In a cereal-size bowl, mix the Greek yogurt and Vanilla Cake Master Mix. Add berries and/or granola on the side. Enjoy!

For a snack, eat half the batch with or without berries. Put the remaining half in the fridge for a snack the next day. For a meal (Yes, you can eat this as a meal. I give you permission—food freedom, baby!), eat the entire batch with 1/2 cup of berries and about 1/4 cup of homemade granola. On its own, with no berries, this recipe is FP. If you add more than 1 cup of berries (or more than ½ cup of blueberries), it will be an E. When adding granola, it is also an E.

Click here to print this recipe. Printed recipe includes Vanilla Cake Master Mix recipe.

To make a batch of Vanilla Cake Master Mix, mix the following ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Give the container a good shake or two before using to remix ingredients.

* Many thanks to Sheri Graham for letting me share her Vanilla Cake Master Mix recipe here. Visit her blog at https://sherigraham.com for more great recipes.

superfood salad photo

Super-Easy, Super-Versatile Superfood Salad – THM (FP)

I’m the laziest chef. In fact, I wouldn’t even go so far as to call me a chef. I’m not even a cook. I taught my kids how to cook right about the time I started Trim Healthy Mama (THM) and haven’t really cooked since. They were 10, 13, and 15 at the time and after about a year of cooking dinners with me, I turned them loose. Each cooks twice per week with no supervision. As homeschoolers, we call it home-ec (or I guess family and consumer science as it is known these days). In fact, as I write this, my youngest, now 14, is whipping up some Fifteen-Minute Focaccia Bread from the Trim Healthy Table Cookbook to go with our dinner salad. But I came up with this salad a few weeks ago and wanted to share. It’s my kind of cooking–minimal ingredients, nothing special, and very versatile–not even actually a recipe.

Part of the beauty is that this salad can be used as either a side dish or as a meal itself. In the amounts shown, this recipe easily serves five as a meal and goes even further when used as a side dish. It is very filling. When using as a side dish, stick to adding things like additional veggies or berries with extras in garnish amounts. If wanting it as a meal, add a protein source like lean deli meat, steak, pre-cooked or canned chicken breast, or a hard-boiled egg or two and then pile on more veggies and extras. At our house, we mix up the salad with the base ingredients and whatever other veggies and garnishes we have on hand and let each person use the dressing of their choice. However, I’ve come up with some variations below that are excellent meals and make good dishes to take to pot-luck type gatherings. It also feeds at least 8 people as a side dish and 5 as a main dish, with enough for a couple meals of leftovers.

And just a little side note: When people say THM is too hard to understand, I tell them hogwash. If my 10-year-old could learn what ingredients make S, E, and FP so can you. I’m not saying that to make anyone feel bad but to encourage them. You can do it.

Okay, now back to business. The base recipe here consists of only three ingredients: cauliflower, kale or spinach, and cucumber. I know, it sounds boring and way too healthy to be considered good, but work with me here. The other thing we should get out of the way before starting is that I tend to cook with handfuls and piles poured into my palm rather than cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons. The written recipes include standard measures in case handfuls and piles make you break out in a rash but if you’re not much on measuring feel free to eyeball things.

chopped cauliflowerThese days, cauliflower is being used as a substitute for all kinds of things like mashed potatoes, rice, and pizza crust. You’ll notice that the things it is being subbed for are the filler items of meals. It functions the same way in this recipe; it’s filling. I use 2 bags of pre-cut cauliflower florets because, well, I’m lazy. Hey, I warned you. But, you can use a regular old head of cauliflower and cut it up yourself if you don’t mind the extra work. That way is more budget-friendly and allows you to use organic or homegrown cauli if those are important for you, but it takes away a bit of the super-easy aspect. You could also use 2 bags of frozen cauliflower florets and just let them sit in the fridge overnight to thaw if you’re so inclined. I take my cauli florets and chop them up to the size of about a quarter using a rocking method seen here. You could also throw them in a food processor and pulse once or twice. The size is a personal preference thing. They can be as big or as small as you want. I find that when they are smaller the salad mixes up better, but you do you on size.

chopped kaleNext comes the kale. If you’re not a big kale fan, you can use spinach. Sometimes I use a mix of both. It largely depends on what we have in the fridge and what is coming out of DH’s garden. If you’re not a big spinach fan either, use whatever salad greens float your boat. I grab 3-4 handfuls of kale, give it a good rinse, shake it off well, and maybe even pat it dry to prevent the salad from becoming watery. Throw it in a large bowl, grab a kitchen shear (scissor) or a clean regular scissors, and go to town chopping it up. Again, how small is a personal preference thing. Add the chopped cauli to the kale bowl.

Finally, the cucumber. I use English cucumbers because they are seedless and less watery than regular cucumbers but either is fine. If using a regular cuke, you will probably want to seed it. You can also use zucchini or again a mix of the two. As with the kale, at our house it sometimes happens that we have one and not the other or a small amount of each. (And yes, this is the way cooking goes when DH or I cook–whatever’s in the fridge ends up in the pot. The kids follow recipes.) Don’t peel it. The peel has lots of good vitamins and fiber and peeling just takes up time. Give it a good rinse and dry. Cut the cucumber in half from end to end. Take each half and cut it in thirds from end to end, then cut the strips into chunks (yes, it’s a technical term). Mix the cucumber in with the kale and cauliflower.  That’s it!

base salad mixture

Now comes the fun part, dressing it. If you’re THM you can dress the salad as either an S or FP. Remember, stuff from the FP list is also acceptable in an S setting but S items do not belong in FP. If you’re not THM that means nothing to you and that’s okay. You can pile on whatever strikes your fancy.

S Options FP Options
Low-sugar dressing of choice
(less than 2g carbs per serving)
Lemon Juice or Vinegar for dressing
(can add up to 1 teaspoon olive oil or
2 teaspoons MCT oil, if desired)
Cheese, any variety Onion
Olives Roasted Red Bell Pepper
Nuts (palmful per serving) Diced Bell Pepper
Steak Tomato
Hard-Boiled Egg Sugar Snap Peas
Other Non-Starchy Veggies
(up to 1/2 cup blueberries per serving
or up to 1 cup of other berries)
Chicken Breast (pre-cooked or canned)
Lean Deli Meat
Tuna (packed in water)



Super-Easy, Super-Versatile Superfood Salad Base Recipe – THM (FP)

    • 2 (10 oz.) bags fresh cauliflower florets (or 1 head cauliflower florets)
    • 3-4 cups kale or spinach (or a mix of the two)
    • 1 cucumber

Rinse and drain cauliflower florets. You can pat them dry to help ensure your salad doesn’t end up watery. Chop the florets into small bite-size pieces or throw them in a food processor and pulse once or twice. You can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and drain kale. Again, pat dry if necessary.  Take a kitchen scissor (or even clean regular scissors will work) and chop the kale into smaller pieces. Like the cauli, you can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and dry the cucumber. Slice it in half along its length. Take each half and slice again along the length twice so each half ends up in 3 long strips. Cut the strips into bite-size pieces.

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl.  You can serve the salad as is with your favorite dressing, try one of the variations or additions listed below, or create your own variation! Feeds 8 as a side dish or 5 as a main dish.

Click here to print this recipe. Includes base recipe and all variations in one document.

Superfood BLT Salad Variation

Superfood Italian Salad Variation

Superfood Greek Salad Variation

Nutrition Facts (based on side dish serving size of 1 cup, a meal serving size is more like 2 cups)

superfood salad base recipe nutriton label

Superfood BLT Salad photoThe BLT version of this salad was born out of me happening upon a BLT pasta salad at our local supermarket. It sounded so good but pasta isn’t very healthy, so I set out to see what I could do with my base recipe. In this application, I blanch or parboil the cauliflower for about 5 minutes to give it less of a crunch and more of a pasta texture. And, I know kale isn’t exactly lettuce but we’re going to call it close enough. If you really have to, I guess you could call this BKT Salad or B”L”T Salad.

Superfood BLT Salad – THM (S)

    • 2 (10 oz.) bags fresh cauliflower florets (or 1 head cauliflower florets)
    • 3-4 cups kale or spinach (or a mix of the two)
    • 1 cucumber
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
    • 1-1/2 pounds thick-cut bacon

Rinse and drain cauliflower florets. Chop the florets into small bite-size pieces or throw them in a food processor and pulse once or twice. You can leave them as large or small as you like. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and toss the cauli in. Boil for about 5 minutes so florets are firm-tender, similar to an al dente pasta. Drain, rinse with cold water and allow to drain further.

While cauliflower is boiling, cook bacon using your preferred method. In this application, I like to bake it on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Start checking on it after 15 minutes to avoid burning. You want it fairly crisp so it will crumble but not overdone so it doesn’t taste burnt. Set strips on paper towels to absorb grease and cool. When cool, crumble.

As bacon is cooking, prep the remaining vegetables as follows.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half.

Rinse and drain kale. Again, pat dry if necessary.  Take a kitchen scissor (or even clean regular scissors will work) and chop the kale into smaller pieces. Like the cauli, you can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and dry the cucumber. Slice it in half along its length. Take each half and slice again along the length twice so each half ends up in 3 long strips. Cut the strips into bite-size pieces.

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl.  Serve the salad with your favorite creamy dressing. Our family particularly likes homemade Dill Pickle Ranch Dressing on it, but even a plain mayo-type dressing or bottled creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese would be great. You can also use the salad wrapped in a low-carb tortilla with some dressing or mayo. Feeds 8 as a side dish or 5 as a main dish.

Click here to print this recipe. Includes base recipe and all variations in one document.


Italian Superfood Salad – THM (S)

    • 2 (10 oz.) bags fresh cauliflower florets (or 1 head cauliflower florets)
    • 3-4 cups kale or spinach (or a mix of the two)
    • 1 cucumber
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
    • 1 cup small pitted black olives or sliced black olives
    • 1 cup cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese

Rinse and drain cauliflower florets. You can pat them dry to help ensure your salad doesn’t end up watery. Chop the florets into small bite-size pieces or throw them in a food processor and pulse once or twice. You can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and drain kale. Again, pat dry if necessary.  Take a kitchen scissor (or even clean regular scissors will work) and chop the kale into smaller pieces. Like the cauli, you can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and dry the cucumber. Slice it in half along its length. Take each half and slice again along the length twice so each half ends up in 3 long strips. Cut the strips into bite-size pieces.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half.

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Dress this version with an Italian vinaigrette or creamy Italian dressing. Feeds 8 as a side dish or 5 as a main dish.

Click here to print this recipe. Includes base recipe and all variations in one document.


Greek Superfood Salad – THM (S)

    • 2 (10 oz.) bags fresh cauliflower florets (or 1 head cauliflower florets)
    • 3-4 cups kale or spinach (or a mix of the two)
    • 1 cucumber
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
    • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
    • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Rinse and drain cauliflower florets. You can pat them dry to help ensure your salad doesn’t end up watery. Chop the florets into small bite-size pieces or throw them in a food processor and pulse once or twice. You can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and drain kale. Again, pat dry if necessary.  Take a kitchen scissor (or even clean regular scissors will work) and chop the kale into smaller pieces. Like the cauli, you can leave them as large or small as you like.

Rinse and dry the cucumber. Slice it in half along its length. Take each half and slice again along the length twice so each half ends up in 3 long strips. Cut the strips into bite-size pieces.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half.

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Dress this version with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing with 2g or fewer carbs per serving or even just a mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Feeds 8 as a side dish or 5 as a main dish.

Click here to print this recipe. Includes base recipe and all variations in one document.

The Prison of Numbers: Part 2 – Clothing Sizes

The Prison of Numbers – Continued (Read Part 1 – The Scale  here)

Jean Size

After the scale, the next number we get all wrapped in is our jean size, or clothing size in general. As a side note, I’m old enough to remember that not too many years ago women defined themselves by dress size. Now it’s jean size. Hmm. Times they are a changin’.
Anyway, using clothing size to justify your self-worth—for better or worse—is almost as bad as using weight. Because women’s clothing sizes are non-standard, they vary widely from one brand to the next. Even within the same brand, and sometimes within the same product itself, sizes can vary widely. Part of the reason for this is the process used to cut the pieces used to assemble a garment can also cause sifts of up to an inch within a single size of a single product. Stacks of fabric are punched out with dies and the natural compression and bending of the stack during the punching process can mean pieces on the top of the stack are smaller than pieces on the bottom of the stack.

Here’s a quick little video about the history and frustration of women’s clothing sizes.

I’ve heard many women wish that women’s clothing was sized “standard” like men’s, meaning that your pant size would be measured by waist and inseam. Shirt size would be your neck or chest measurement. And it would be nice if it could work that way, but owing to the wide variety of differences in women’s shapes, it is possible for two women to have identical waists and inseams but not be able to wear the same size pants because of hips, or lack thereof and other shape factors. That dratted body shape again. The other thing hindering this type of sizing for women would be the stigma women seem to have about telling people things like their waist size. Can you imagine how women would react to having anyone be able to find out their waist size just by being able to look at the tag in their jeans? I don’t think it would go over well. Kind of like hip pockets are often tiny or just flat out missing in women’s pants. Can’t put them in there. They make you look fat. Seriously folks.

Putting letter on clothes instead of numbers is no better. Here are photos of my belts. They are both a size XL. Yep, you read that right. Both are XL. The smallest hole on the one is the same length as the largest hole on the other.

belt1 belt2

In using clothing size as a method of determining our value as a person, we are letting numbers and letters that are quite literally arbitrary run—or ruin—our lives. Sounds silly when I put it that way, doesn’t it?

Coming soon…the final installment of The Prison of Numbers with some thoughts on mealtime math problems…

The Prison of Numbers: Part 1 – The Scale

Let’s face it, we—as a culture—are ruled by numbers. For almost everyone in our western culture, numbers control our emotions and sense of satisfaction with life. Numbers also give us an illusion of control. We believe that if we can control the numbers, we can control our lives. And I’m not just talking dieting numbers. When our bank accounts have more money, we feel content and secure. As the bank balance nears $0 we begin to squirm (and some of us begin to sweat or outright panic). We’re not content with going the speed limit; no matter how high it is, we have to go just a titch faster. The speed limit on a highway I travel regularly used to be 55mph, so I’d drive 60mph. It was increased to 60mph a few years ago, so now I drive 65mph. 60mph was just no longer satisfying. See what I mean?

It makes sense then that we spend a lot of time tying our achievements and self-worth to numbers. We’re conditioned early in life that scoring 100% on a test is better than 75% and often, even unintentionally, those in positions of authority in our lives send the message that the one who scored 100% is a better, more worthy person than the one who scored 75%. And this thinking gets carried into our dieting and body image lives.

The Scale Number

Of course the first number that comes to mind when talking about diet and body image is weight. So let’s get real about that number. The scale is just a number and has no real relation to your size or health (despite all of us thinking it does). It measures your gravitational pull to the earth and nothing else. What weight looks like size-wise is influenced by things like muscle vs. fat and bone density/structure, etc. You often hear people in dieting and health groups say things like, “A pound of muscle weighs less than a pound of fat.” What they really mean is a pound of muscle takes up less room (is more dense) than a pound of fat. One pound of muscle and one pound of fat weigh the same—a pound is a pound the world around—but muscle takes up drastically less room. People who have more muscle than fat are going to appear to weigh less because their muscles take up less room than an equivalent weight of fat.

Likewise, the same weight is going to look different and register as a different clothing size depending on body structure. It is entirely possible for six people to weigh exactly the same thing on the scale and actually look any where from slim and fit to frumpy and obese due to height, skeletal size, “apple” vs. “pear” shape, etc. I would highly recommend reading Teresa Tapp’s What’s Your Body Type? article for more information on body types. And, as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, depending on what your body type and bone structure are, you may never have that flat stomach no matter how much weight you lose. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.  I’m in the boat right along with y’all.

And while we’re beating up on the scale, let’s not forget doctors’ beloved body mass index (BMI). BMI attempts to negate the problem of using weight alone to determine health by calculating a ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms to their height in meters squared. For those of us who haven’t gone metric yet, the equation gets even uglier.  That 703 is just the conversion ratio for getting from imperial/U.S. customary measurements to metric, but it still doesn’t make it pretty.

bmi equation

There are several problems with BMI, starting with the fact that it is based on weight. As we’ve discussed, weight tells us nothing about muscle mass vs. fat mass, body frame size, etc. so basing another measurement on an already flawed measurement is not going to make a better measurement.

We are told by mass media that a higher BMI puts us at risk for certain diseases, namely heart disease and diabetes. The reality is that BMI itself does not put you at risk for or lessen your chances of anything. It’s just a number. The reason BMI indicates risk factors for certain diseases is that the vast majority of overweight and obese people are eating the standard American high-sugar, high-processed foods diet. It is the sugar and processed food that puts you at risk for those diseases, not a person’s weight or BMI. So, the high-sugar/high-processed diet makes you fat (increases BMI because it increases your weight). And the high-sugar/high-processed diet puts you at risk for diseases. The cause of the increased risk is not an increased BMI or weight, as mass media makes it sound by saying increased BMI puts you at risk for heart disease and diabetes. You can be “skinny fat” where you are thin and in the “healthy” BMI range but still be at risk for heart disease and diabetes if you are one of the “lucky” ones who can eat high-sugar/high-processed without putting on the pounds. BMI may be a flashing red light to indicate a doctor should ask some questions about diet and other things to determine if there is a health risk, but BMI itself doesn’t really indicate anything. Like weight, it’s just a number.

Weight is a perfectly valid measurement, but not for what we are using it to measure.  Using weight to measure health and self-worth makes about as much sense as using a ruler to measure how hot it is outside.  We need to start thinking of the number on the scale as how much the earth loves us rather than a commentary on our value, worth, or how healthy we are. That number, or a number based on it, does not tell the whole story about anyone.

Next: a little reality check on clothing sizes in The Prison of Numbers: Part 2

Good Girl Moonshine & Dental Health: Part 2

After reading my pH results on beverages, fellow mamas have raised the question: would it be possible to add a pinch of baking soda to Good Girl Moonshine (GGMS) to neutralize the acid to make it safer for dental enamel while still having the health benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV)?  They cite the tip that you can do this with coffee to reduce its acidity. So, as with many things in my life, this pH experiment has sent me down a rabbit hole.

Please note, I am not a nutritional expert by any stretch of the imagination, just curious. I’m a skeptic by nature, and when I hear things like, “The ACV in GGMS will destroy your tooth enamel! Don’t drink it!”, I start thinking, “Is it any worse than Diet Coke or coffee or is it just fact that vinegar is a known acid that has people freaking out?” And then I end up with science experiments in the kitchen with my homeschooled kids. Then people ask more questions and that leads to more digging. I’m sure someone smarter than me can find more concrete evidence and for every piece of evidence I find to validate one perspective, there is one that can be found to back up the opposite claim. For more on that whole thing, see my I Watched a Documentary… post. What you will see here is a summary of a quick hour’s worth of reading I did before church this morning. It is not exhaustive, and there are conflicting viewpoints on ACV and its uses. You will have to judge for yourself what to believe. The core question I am trying to deal with in this post is whether it is the acid in the ACV that provides health benefits because if it is the acidity of it that provides the benefits then adding baking soda to neutralize the acidity will also negate the health benefits.


apple cider vinegar with the mother jarAbout the only benefit of ACV that I could find a scientific study to back up was that ACV has an anti-glycemic effect. There was one small study done in Japan that showed a potential connection to ACV consumption and weight loss (ACV users lost 1-2 pounds more than the non-ACV users), but I didn’t come across any in-depth studies published in reputable journals other than that. 1  Now, I am not anti-alternative medicine, but I do need more than “it has been used for centuries to cure xyz condition” as proof of a claimed benefit because, let’s face it, just because it has been used for centuries doesn’t mean it is actually what is doing the curing of xyz condition. Correlation and causation are two different things and we often get them confused. So, ACV may or may not do all the stuff listed at various websites, but there isn’t much out there to backup those claims aside from anecdotal evidence. I have tried to include sources from both the alternative/naturopathic health camp and more conventional Western medicine organizations to cover my bases between various types of mamas, however, the alternative/naturopathic claims often lack evidence or sources to back them up.  This means that I can’t say with certainty that their theories on the mechanisms that make ACV effective are indeed accurate or simply educated guesses. Some think the National Institute of Health (NIH) is an arm of the devil himself, while others will only accept NIH endorsed stances.  The sources listed here that come from the NIH PubMed website are simply research journal articles that are indexed by the NIH for searching.  Keep in mind there are probably elements of truth and myth in both camps.

The problem I am running into in trying to get answers for this question is that there is very little explanation of the science or mechanism of why ACV works for things like stabilizing blood sugars and possibly helping with weight loss and digestive health. Even when there have been scientific studies of ACV, they have only studied the outcomes (i.e. weight loss or lower blood sugar) and haven’t studied the how of those outcomes (i.e. if it’s the acid that is causing the improved health benefit, or the “mother”, or other aspects of the vinegar). They are often reported with phrases like “the researchers suggest…” meaning that scientists are speculating at what about ACV is causing the benefits. I suspect that as more studies are done that show a relationship between ACV use and health benefits, researchers will move on to studying the how. But for now, there are many gaps and unknowns.

What the Evidence Says

That said, my gut feeling (no pun intended) is that it is, at least partially, the acidity of the vinegar that causes some of its benefits—particularly the glycemic effects and weight loss. This was backed up in a research study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled “Effect of neutralized and native vinegar on blood glucose and acetate responses to a mixed meal in healthy subjects”, published in April 1995, where researchers noted that white vinegar used as a salad dressing significantly reduced the glycemic response of normoglycemic (non-diabetic, non-hypoglycemic) individuals while neutralized vinegar did not alter the glycemic response. 2

Additionally, a study in the September 2005 edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted a negative linear relationship between the acid level of a meal and the post-meal blood glucose levels (when the meal included more acid, post-meal blood glucose levels were lower). This study also noted that there was a direct linear relationship between the acid level of the meal and the feeling of satiety post-meal. The higher the amount of vinegar consumed with the meal, the longer the person felt full afterward. 3

However, another study in the Journal of Nutrition in March 2000 indicated that there is something about acetic acid (vinegar) that alters the glycemic response that other acids (citric acid and others) don’t do. 4 This does not mean it isn’t the acid of the vinegar that makes it work, just that other acids don’t do the same thing as the acetic acid in vinegar.

Dr. Mercola proposes this about the benefits of the acid in ACV, “One thing that apple cider vinegar is high in is acetic acid. Like other acids, acetic acid can increase your body’s absorption of important minerals from the foods you eat. Therefore, it is possible that drinking a mild tonic of vinegar and water just before meals might improve your body’s ability to absorb the essential minerals locked in foods.” 5

Some have also suggested that ACV helps prevent starch digestion and that those starches in turn will feed the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system, but no mechanism for this process was indicated. 1

Something worth noting is that many of the studies noted above, especially the ones available at PubMed, don’t specify apple cider vinegar but just refer to vinegar or acetic acid.  This would line up with the idea that it is the acetic acid that is the mechanism behind the benefits noted in those studies, as there is nothing else in white vinegar.

Daily Dosage

Several articles pointed to recommended doses of ACV. One article indicated 1-2 tablespoons per day was appropriate for medicinal use. 6  Carol Johnston, an Arizona State University veteran ACV researcher for using ACV to help treat diabetes, recommends 1-2 tablespoons in a large glass of water sipped on at meal time once or twice a day is sufficient.1  One thing I did find particularly humorous given my earlier experiment on the pH values of beverages is that several articles and slideshows cautioned against swallowing ACV undiluted due to risk of esophageal burning or erosion.1, 5  Yes, straight up ACV is pungent and acidic, but no more so than a can of regular Coke, which mainstream medical professionals don’t warn people about (or at least they don’t warn them about the burning potential, just the sugar and other junk in it).


Also noted in a couple of articles was the fact that excessive use of vinegar can reduce potassium levels and interfere with diabetes and heart disease medication, diuretics, and laxatives. 5, 6  It did not specify what would be considered excessive use, but probably more than a couple of tablespoons per day. Other articles, however, pointed out that potassium levels could be helped and recommended using ACV to treat nighttime leg cramps. 8  Upon looking into this apparent discrepancy, it appears that ACV with the “mother” contains potassium (11 mg per tablespoon for Bragg’s brand) where distilled vinegar does not contain potassium and would be potassium depleting. Not much of a concern for THMs, as we encourage ACV with the “mother”, but worth noting. As for the reaction with medications, that is sort of a ‘duh’. Anything can cause reactions with medications, and if you take medications, it is wise to consult with a health professional before taking any dietary supplements or using foods in a medicinal capacity on a daily basis.

The Take Away

That really leaves us back where we started, with no definitive answers. There does seem to be some research to support the acid as being the mechanism behind some of the benefits of ACV, particularly the study that found neutralized vinegar did not perform the same as straight vinegar in stabilizing glycemic levels. 2  Given that a major tenant of THM is to keep blood glycemic levels as stable as possible, it would seem that the tendency for ACV to moderate glycemic response to foods would be one of the main benefits Serene and Pearl have looked at in ACV. Since neutralizing the vinegar seems to take away that benefit it would not be recommended to use baking soda in GGMS. However, “Future investigations are needed to delineate the mechanism by which vinegar alters postprandial glycemia.” 7

My recommendation would be for each mama to evaluate her situation. In my case, I do not drink plain water unless it is ICE cold and it is really hard to keep it that cold in a sippy of some kind (my favorite is a Thermos I have but it is too small to hold much). So for me drinking GGMS is a big part of staying hydrated. In that case, mix it as weak as you can and still get the taste you need to be encouraged to sip, use a straw and aim for the roof of the mouth as far back as possible, and consider using a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acid but not the flavor. If you are more wanting the health benefits of glycemic stability, it seems like it might be better to mix 1T with 8-16 oz water and drink that with a meal twice a day (rinse with plain water after just to be sure the acid is not sitting on your teeth, if you’d like) rather than having a sipper.


1 Manning, Joy. “Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Health.” WebMD. Ed. Elaine McGee. WebMD, 01 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

2 Brighenti, F., G. Castellani, L. Benini, M.C. Casiraghi, E. Leopardi, R. Crovetti, and G. Testolin. “Effect of Neutralized and Native Vinegar on Blood Glucose and Acetate Responses to a Mixed Meal in Healthy Subjects.”European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 49.4 (1995): 242-47. PubMed.gov. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7796781>.

3 Östman, E., Y. Granfeldt, L. Persson, and I. Björck. “Vinegar Supplementation Lowers Glucose and Insulin Responses and Increases Satiety After a Bread Meal in Healthy Subjects.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Eur J Clin Nutr 59.9 (2005): 983-88. PubMed.gov. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015276>.

4 Ogawa, Nobumasa, Hideo Satsu, Hirohito Watanabe, Masahiro Fukaya, Yoshinori Tsukamoto, Yusei Miyamoto, and Makoto Shimizu. “Acetic Acid Suppresses the Increase of Glycosidase Activity During Culture of Caco-2 Intestinal Epithelial Cells.” Journal of Nutrition 130.3 (2000): 507-13. PubMed.gov. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10702577>.

5 Mercola, Joseph. “What the Research Really Says About Apple Cider Vinegar.” Mercola.com. N.p., 02 June 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/06/02/apple-cider-vinegar-hype.aspx>.

6 Khakpour, Dorrine. “Beyond the Hype: Apple Cider Vinegar as an Alternative Therapy.” The Whole U. University of Washington, 07 July 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <https://www.washington.edu/wholeu/2015/07/07/beyond-the-hype-apple-cider-vinegar-as-an-alternative-therapy/>.

7 Johnston, Carol S., and Cindy A. Gaas. “Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect.” Medscape General Medicine 8.2 (2006): 61.PubMed.gov. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/>.

8 “Apple Cider Vinegar: 13+ Health Benefits | Reader’s Digest.” Readers Digest. Ed. Alyssa Jung. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/apple-cider-vinegar-benefits/>.Adapted from Kitchen Cabinet Cures by Reader’s Digest Publishers.

Good Girl Moonshine & Dental Health: Part 1

Many of us are used to sucking on some type of beverage throughout the day–soda, coffee, fruit juice drinks, etc.  My drink of choice prior to adopting the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) lifestyle was caffeine-free Diet Pepsi.  I would drink 1-2 bottles (24 ounces each) of it per day.  The trouble with many of these drinks is that they are loaded with  things that are not good for you and are off-plan in terms of THM–namely artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose–or high sugar content, or both.  To encourage followers of THM to renounce off-plan beverages like soda and remain hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water, Serene and Pearl have come up with a number of recipes they refer to as sippers.  They are flavored waters of sorts that give those of us who don’t do just plain water something to satisfy that water need throughout the day.

One of the sippers is something known as Good Girl Moonshine (GGMS).  Despite what the name sounds like, it’s a non-alcoholic drink consisting mainly of water and apple cider vinegar (ACV).  New comers to THM see the vinegar in the recipe and often become concerned about the acid’s effect on their teeth.  This is a valid concern, and I wondered just how it compared to other common drinks.  My hypothesis was that GGMS isn’t any worse for your teeth than soda, but I didn’t have any data to back that up.  So, like good homeschooling moms everywhere, I turned it into a science experiment for my kids.

pH Primer

Before we look at the acid level of Good Girl Moonshine in comparison to other common beverages, let’s have a little pH primer science review.  pH values always confuse me, so I want to be sure we’re all on the same page.

The pH measures the acidity/alkalinity of substances on a scale of 0 to 14.  Pure water falls at 7, or neutral, on the scale.  And, generally values from 6-8 are considered neutral.  Now for the confusing part.  pH numbers lower than 7 indicate increasing acidity (I know, seems backward to me too).  A pH number higher than 7 indicates increasing alkalinity.  So, battery acid (very acidic) is a 0, while drain cleaner (very basic or alkaline) is a 14.

pH scale


Acids are sour tasting (but don’t go tasting things to determine their acidity–acids are often poisonous).  They also react with bases (or alkaline solutions) to produce water and salts (crystals).  Some conduct electricity and some will react with metals and release hydrogen gas during this reaction.

Alkaline substances or bases taste bitter (again, don’t go putting things in your mouth, it’s dangerous).  They feel slippery when diluted with water (think soap).  Bases can burn skin (again, seems backward to me).

As you can tell, my feeble mind gets all turned around with pH, acids, and bases.  First, there is the number scale.  Seems to me something more acidic should be a higher number and less acidic should be a lower one, but it’s the opposite.  Then, I tend to think of acids as corrosive.  And if acids and bases are opposites that would mean bases are not corrosive.  On an average day when I haven’t been reading about the pH scale for a blog post, I’d probably tell you bleach and drain cleaner are acids because they’re corrosive.  Wrong.  They are both bases.  Fact is, both acids and bases can be corrosive.  Battery acid and bleach are both not something you’d want on your skin.  Bottom line, you can’t (and for safety sake don’t want to) use taste, touch, or smell to identify an acid vs. a base.  About the only way to determine the acidity or alkalinity of a substance is to use litmus paper or an electronic pH meter.

So, now that we’ve all relived junior high science class and have the basic gist of pH, let’s get down to business.


We started out by selecting a variety of common beverages consumed by both followers of THM and the general public.  Please note, several of these are NOT on-plan for THM (noted with an *).  The off-plan ones were included for reference, to put things in perspective, if you will.

Mamas will also notice that we did not test Singing Canary.  The reason we were unable to test that was lack of ingredients to make it and the significant amount of time needed in preparation.  I would imagine that it would be more, possibly significantly more, acidic than GGMS due to the lemon juice being more acidic than ACV.

The recipes for GGMS and Shrinker were made exactly according the the recipes found in the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook.  We used the maximum amount when ingredients were listed with a range (i.e. when 1-2 tablespoons of ACV was specified, we used 2 tablespoons).  For the water in both the GGMS and Shrinker we used distilled water to help ensure it was as neutral as possible.  The coffee and oolong tea were brewed with unfiltered tap water, which where we live is slightly more alkaline than distilled water.  I believe this accounts for the difference between our coffee being a pH of 7 and most reference lists I could find on the web listing black coffee as being a 5.

The tests were conducted by dipping universal indicator pH test strips in the liquids and immediately reading the color in comparison with the color reference included with the test strips.

Our Test Results

True Lemon Raspberry Lemonade

True Lemon Raspberry Lemonade drink mix pH test

pH 2-3

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

apple cider vinegar pH test

pH 3


cola pH test

pH 3

Apple Juice*

apple juice pH test

pH 4

Diet Coke*

diet cola pH test

pH 4


kombucha pH test

pH 4

Orange Juice*

orange juice pH test

pH 4


good girl moonshine pH test

pH 4.5

2% Milk*

2% milk pH test

pH 7


coffee pH test

pH 7

Distilled Water

distilled water pH test

pH 7


shrinker pH test

pH 7

Tap Water

tap water pH test

pH 8

Filtered Tap Water

filtered tap water pH test

pH 8

Oolong Tea

oolong tea pH test

pH 8

*NOT on-plan for THM


I do have to say, I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of the results, except perhaps the coffee.  Though again, the coffee was brewed with unfiltered tap water, which where we live is slightly more alkaline than distilled water and that may account for the difference between our coffee being a pH of 7 and most reference lists I could find on the web listing black coffee as being a 5.

Good Girl Moonshine is slightly less acidic than soda and many juices, in line with my original hypothesis that it isn’t any more dangerous to teeth than soda.  It isn’t a whole lot better, but it isn’t worse.  Of course, this will vary depending on how strong a person mixes their GGMS and if they add any other things to it like True Lemon mixes or flavoring extracts.  It is also important to consider your personal dental health when selecting beverages.  Just like high cholesterol levels, some individuals are more prone to tooth problems due to genetics, poor dental hygiene practices early in life, excessive fluoridation prior to 6 years of age, smoking or prior smoking/smokeless tobacco, etc.  My husband grew up in an area where the water was excessively fluoridated and has soft enamel, pitting, and mottling of his teeth (fluorosis) which makes him more prone to tooth problems.  For people with a predisposition to tooth problems, it is important to carefully evaluate what is appropriate for their individual circumstances.

The bottom line is that the greater the acidity (the lower the pH number), the more dangerous there is to your tooth enamel.  From a tooth perspective, it is better to drink Shrinker than GGMS.  However, you don’t need to give up GGMS completely.  There are a few things you can do to minimize the risk without throwing the GGMS out with the soda.

  • Use a straw.  Even better, use a straw and aim for the roof of your mouth as far back as you can.  By using a straw you will minimize the contact the GGMS makes with your teeth.
  • Mix your GGMS weaker.  I mix mine “full strength” (4 tablespoons ACV to 2 quarts water), but going with the lower amount of 2 tablespoons of ACV will lessen the acidity of the GGMS and still give you health benefits.
  • Do a GGMS “shot” once a day rather than mixing as a sipper.  You can use 1-2 tablespoons of ACV and drink it as you would a shot followed by drinking a glass of water to rinse your mouth.
  • Rinse with water after each sip of GGMS.  This would require lugging two mugs around (one with GGMS and one with water), so it might not be the best solution for some.
  • Do NOT brush your teeth immediately after drinking either GGMS sipper or a GGMS shot.  I know it seems backward from what you’d think would be recommended, but brushing after drinking something acidic actually does more damage than good.  The acid weakens the enamel and then the abrasiveness of brushing the softened enamel will cause more harm.

I hope this has helped other mamas be able to make wise choices about the incorporation of sipper drinks into their THM lifestyle.

Would You Like Some Sugar With That?

iodized salt packed containing dextroseSeriously folks, they put SUGAR in salt!?!?! Never even would have checked ingredients on it if it weren’t for my 11-year-old who reads EVERYTHING.

Perhaps the major principle of Trim Healthy Mama is nixing sugar and its many high glycemic-index (GI) cousins from your diet.  It all seems very straight forward, until you start reading food labels and discovering just how many things sugar is added to.  Things you would never suspect–canned kidney beans, chicken broth, canned diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, …salt.

Please understand:

1. The actual amount of sugar (dextrose in this case) in a serving of salt has got to be tiny. I’m not advocating becoming so obsessed with tiny amounts of off-plan stuff that pretty much everything not grown by yourself becomes off-plan. You can go overboard on label reading and avoiding off-plan items (I know purists would probably disagree) to the point of being in even more of a food prison than you started out in. However, that said, you do have to be aware that using several things that have tiny amounts in them can become one big amount and can become an issue (especially for us Drive-Thru Sues) that affects your THM journey.

2. There are THM no-nos (not just sugar, but that is the biggest offender) hidden in many things you would never even think to check…and in places you can’t check–like the food you order at a restaurant that doesn’t come with an ingredients list.

3. It is also important to recognize that sugar goes by many names.  Its alias list is longer than some FBI files.  Here are just a few of its alter egos:

  • Agave nectar
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Galactose
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Malitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • The list goes on and on…

There are some 56 names for sugar.  Even worse, once word gets out that consumers have caught on to a name for sugar and start avoiding it, the food industry simply petitions the FDA to allow them to change its name.  There have been reports of proposals to change the name of ‘high fructose corn syrup’ to just ‘corn sugar’, ‘HFCS-90’, or ‘isolated fructose’ which, in theory, would give food manufacturers the ability to label foods as “Does not contain high fructose corn syrup”.  In 2012 the FDA ruled that high fructose corn syrup could NOT use the term ‘corn sugar’ instead, but I have not been able to find definitive proof (all I can find are natural food blogs, and I am reluctant to call them reliable channels of news as they often promote half-truths or out right myths and propaganda) that the other changes have occurred, but I don’t doubt they have been talked about.

In the case of Trim Healthy Mamas, it is not just high fructose corn syrup you have to be vigilant for.  ALL forms of sugar are considered off-plan and natural sweeteners like stevia, xylitol, and erythritol should be used instead.  This ban on sugar includes organic sugars, honey, and cane sugars.  The emphasis in THM is not on the “purity” of the sugar (i.e. its organic or non-GMO status) but on the glycemic index of sugars and, in that regard, organic sugar is just as bad for you as non-organic sugar.  High GI foods cause a spike in blood sugar immediately after eating them, then your blood sugar rapidly plummets, and your body’s metabolism and hunger hormones take a beating causing a vicious cycle of spike-crash-crave-feed-spike-crash-crave-feed…lather, rinse, repeat.  Your goal is to keep that blood sugar level as steady as possible be avoiding high GI foods.

So, what’s a “mama” to do?  Gotta check those labels.  Make sure you are checking the INGREDIENTS list and not the NUTRITION FACTS section of the label.  You do not want added sugars in the ingredients list.  Often times there are naturally occurring sugars that will cause the nutrition label to have sugar grams listed.  We are mainly worried about what is in the ingredients list.

In the case of the pictured salt, I would use it.  Like I said, in my opinion, there is such a thing as too vigilant.  Purists would disagree, and I respect their personal THM/food convictions and would ask them to respect mine.  Each mama has to find her personal balance of how much off-plan she is willing to allow.  For the grand majority of my salting needs, I use Himalayan mineral salt, which usually doesn’t contain dextrose (I’ve never seen it contain it anyway, but it is important to check just in case).  In other things, chicken broth or spaghetti sauce for instance, it’s more important to avoid those hidden sugars by finding items that don’t contain them.  I know it can be hard, but the results are worth it.

10-ish Tips for New Trim Healthy Mamas

Almost 5 short months ago, I was where you might be right now.  A friend at Bible study had talked about Trim Healthy Mama a little bit.  I had bought and started reading the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book, and I was about to jump off the cliff.  I had no idea what I was doing, but the alternative was not pretty.  In the months since taking the plunge, I’ve watched other new THMs navigate their first few weeks and the same sorts of things come up over and over.  Here are what I think are the 10-ish main things to keep in mind.

Trim Healthy Mama Plan bookNOTE:  All page and chapter numbers referenced here are from the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book that is pictured here and available at many local book and discount stores, like Barnes & Noble, Target, and WalMart, and at Amazon.com.

1. Trim Healthy Mama is NOT a quick weight loss program

It’s actually not a weight loss program at all but a healthy way of eating for life. Yes, you will hear stories of people who lose 20 pounds in their first month, but you may not, and likely will not, be one of them.  A healthy weight loss rate is considered to be 1-2 pounds per week and not a “turtle” loser or slow loss. You are going to feel tons better even before you start seeing results.  I kid you not, just reading the book alone I felt 10 pounds lighter.  And those first few weeks on plan I’d be sitting in bed reading a book and swear I could actually feel myself shrinking.  Keep at it! Slow and steady wins the race!


2. Read the book

You have to really READ the book. Don’t just skim it. Gwen’s Nest has a handy Quick Start Guide that is a helpful study guide, but there is just no way around having to read the book yourself. If you don’t know the core concepts, it will be hard to be successful over the long term when real life hits.


3. Don’t read the whole book.

Yes, I know, I just told you to read the book and now I’m telling you to skip part of it. However, Trim Healthy Mama takes a while to completely digest (no pun intended) and some chapters will cause beginners to create excessive complications that will hinder progress. You don’t need to know about numbers (see point #6-Don’t Count Anything below) or the nuances of various types of S meals at this point. Stick with the basics.

My recommendation:

Read Chapters 1-9 in the plan book.

Do NOT read Chapter 10. Don’t read this chapter until you’ve been on-plan awhile—I would actually recommend never reading it (sorry Serene and Pearl). If you can’t convince yourself it’s okay to skip the whole chapter, just read pp. 85-86 up to the “Numbers for S Meals” heading and stop. It explains why numbers can be a problem. See also #6-Don’t count anything below.

Skip Chapters 10-28.

Read Chapter 29 – Exercise.  This will give you info on why it’s a bad idea to start THM and a new exercise program at the same time.  If you have been exercising for several weeks or months or longer before THM, keep at it.  Just don’t start THM and join a gym in the same month.

Start by using recipes from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook (if you get it) or blogs like Gwen’s Nest, Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen, and Briana Thomas and use the food lists from the book(s). Pair S foods with other S foods or FP foods. Pair E foods with other E foods or FP foods. Stay simple. Don’t overthink it. The more you cook other people’s recipes, the more you’ll figure out how foods go together and you’ll be able to start tweaking other things to fit THM. If you haven’t yet, join the THM Facebook Group. You will learn a lot of valuable information just by reading the questions of others and asking your own questions.  Be warned though, this group moves fast and you may want to adjust your FB settings so you don’t get all its posts in your newsfeed.

Once you have a good grasp of E, S, FP and are comfortable, you can go back and read the rest of the book (including Chapter 10, if you want).


4. You don’t need to buy THM products or join the THM paid membership site to make the plan work

The plan won’t work any better if you buy THM branded products. It is not like Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, etc. where the whole idea is to make money off you by requiring or strongly suggesting that the program will work better if you buy the program’s products. You do need a few special things like an on-plan sweetener, on-plan flour(s), and coconut oil, but most of these things can be found at your local grocery store.

THM has also launched a paid membership site that has premium content such as how-to videos, articles, a menu builder, some pre-made menus, live chat, and forums. It is pretty reasonably priced–starting at less than $0.30/day, however, purchasing a membership is not going to make the plan work any better for you. The only thing that will make the plan work for you is you learning the principles and making a serious effort. Things offered at the site may be helpful for you (many mamas say the menu builder is a huge time saver for them), but they are not necessary to be effective.


5. Don’t weigh for AT LEAST 6 weeks

Weigh and measure yourself when you start. Also take before pictures. You don’t have to share them with anyone, but you’ll be glad you did after a few months. Now, here’s the big tip. Do NOT weigh yourself again for AT LEAST 6 weeks! The number on the scale only tells you your gravitational pull to earth. I like to think of it as how much the earth loves you. It has no relation to your worth as a person, what size jeans you wear, or even how healthy you are. Same goes for doctors’ beloved BMI. The flaw in BMI is that it is based on weight and since weight doesn’t tell you anything, BMI is worthless as well. It takes a significant amount of time—several weeks–to get comfortable and confident eating the THM way, and if you aren’t seeing the scale do what you want it to in those first few weeks, chances of getting frustrated and giving up are great. Stress also signals your body to hold on to weight. Just fight the urge and don’t do it! You’ll feel the changes and see them in how your clothes fit. Be patient and trust me on this one.


6. Don’t count anything. Not calories. Not carbs. Not fats. Not points.

This is part of that skipping Chapter 10 thing I mentioned above. When THM was originally written, it was written without numbers. The numbers were added in response to some people from traditional weight loss diet backgrounds feeling like they needed numbers. However, after spending 4 months at the THM Facebook page, I’ve seen too many people get so wrapped up in the numbers that meal time and snacks become a big math problem. My personal philosophy is that numbers are just another food prison we can put ourselves into. You can’t sustain counting for life. If you go by the S, E, and FP food lists in the book and maintain reasonable portion sizes, you don’t need to count.


7. FP foods are not freebies

This is a myth I see a lot on the THM Facebook Group page. They are not “freebies” that can be snacked on at any time. Yes, they are low-calorie, low-carb, and low-fat, but doing low-calorie all day will cause low-level fueling or fuel stacking and slow weight loss. The idea is to fill your “gas tank” with calories and then give it time to burn off those calories (and hopefully some more in the process). If you are constantly eating or drinking calories (even small amounts of them) your body is never going to run out of calories and won’t need to go to the backup calories (fat stores) you want to lose. You should wait at least 2-1/2 hours between each meal and/or snack (pp. 79-80).


8. If you don’t like a food, you don’t have to eat it

You eat real food that you like and just pair it as outlined in the book. Don’t like Greek yogurt? No problem. Don’t eat it. There are plenty of other things to eat. Personally, I do not do diet food. No smoothies, no frappas, no trimmies, no yogurt (aside from plain in recipes where it is hidden), no shakes, no Quest bars, no bullet proof coffee, etc. I don’t use protein powder or collagen powder except in recipes that call for it. I eat out at fast food places 3 times a week. I am not advocating that as something everyone should do (I shouldn’t even do it), but that is something that I choose to have in my life and with the better choices of THM principles (like no buns and no fries) I have been able to lose 25 lbs, 2-3 jean sizes, and 2-3 shirt sizes in 4 months. If THM required me to completely give up fast food or eating out and said I had to eat yogurt and salad, I would never have even tried it. There are some things that you do just have to flat out give up, but there are many good alternatives (don’t even get me started on spaghetti squash–way yummier than pasta and so good for you).


9. Stop whining

This point may hit a little too close to home for some and they’ll likely label me a first class word that rhymes with witch. However, I’m big on being real and calling ‘em like I see ‘em. If you look back to my 1 month progress post, you’ll see me whine too. I speak from experience and self-reflection.

The two most common refrains are “Why isn’t the scale moving/moving faster!” and “This is just too much work and you have to buy all these special ingredients!”. You didn’t get fat overnight, so why do you expect to get skinny overnight? Yes, THM takes time and effort. You have to reframe how to think about food and be honest with yourself about what you’re really eating—and what’s eating you. You have to actually cook, at least a couple times a week anyway. As for special ingredients, see #4 above. This idea of “I’m entitled to quick, easy, and painless” is a big part of why our culture is fat in the first place. How bad do you want it? You’ll invest your time, energy, and money in what is important to you. So how important is this to you?


10-ish. Trim Healthy Mama is NOT a weight loss program

Yep, I said it again–thus the 10-ish. If you are looking for quick weight loss without having to think much, THM is not for you. If you need a program that tells you what to eat, when to eat it, and how much of it to eat, either by providing prepackaged food or having you count something (fat, carbs, points, calories), THM is not for you. I am not trying to discourage you from trying THM, but I want you to go into it with eyes wide open.

If you treat THM like a weight loss diet, you will fail. Why? Because when real life creeps in (or smacks you upside the head, as it often does) your “diet” will fall by the wayside and the weight will come back. To be successful, you need to train yourself to eat a different way and a way that you can sustain for life—through vacations, funerals of loved ones, working 60 hours a week, chasing toddlers, driving the mom taxi, and all the other assorted stuff life will throw at you.

I Watched a Documentary…That Stuff is One Molecule Away from…

This had been a pet peeve of mine for a long time.  “Margarine is one molecule away from being plastic!”  Back in the “old” days you got an inbox full of these things, but thanks to social media and blogs, nowadays it is easier than ever to spread myths, half-truths, and outright propaganda about everything, including food.


One thing about Trim Healthy Mama that made it so attractive to me is Serene and Pearl’s very down-to-earth way of tackling food and ingredient myths and facts without hype and extremism.  However, because the THM way of eating is very flexible, there is a very broad spectrum of mamas—from, what Serene and Pearl refer to as, Drive-Thru Sues to Purists.  And, if you follow THM Facebook groups and other forums, you quickly encounter very strong opinions on everything food and nutrition.


Four statements I see regularly that make me cringe are:


1. <some food product> is one molecule away from <some horrible poison>

or a variation on this such as:

<some food product> is chemically similar to <some horrible poison>

<some food product> is used in making <some inedible/toxic product>

2. It’s natural, so it’s safe

3. If you can’t read all the ingredients on the package, don’t eat it.

4. Do your own research

Let me start by saying, many times I actually agree with the underlying conclusion—i.e. that one should eat foods as close to their natural state as possible or that a natural sweetener is better than an artificial one. My beef (no pun intended) with these statements is that they are not logically sound (yes, Data is my favorite StarTrek character) and make healthy eaters appear to be fanatic cult members.


Chemical Similarity is Irrelevant

Using the logic that something is chemically similar to known poisons is not proof that it is bad or even relevant at all. Water and hydrogen peroxide are chemically similar (H2O vs. HO). One I will drink and require to live. The other, not a good idea to drink in large quantities. One molecule, or even one atom, difference can mean a lot in terms of safety. The oxygen we need to live is a molecule containing two oxygen atoms. Ozone, on the other hand, is a molecule containing three oxygen atoms and is dangerous to breathe. So, even if margarine is one molecule away from plastic, that isn’t a valid argument that it is bad for you. A more compelling argument that you should avoid margarine is that it often contains high amounts of trans fat, which will lower high density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and that results in higher low density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, and this may increase your risk for heart disease.


The “Natural = Safe” Fallacy

The justifications of “it’s natural” and “it’s plant based” for foods or supplements being safe is not legitimate either. There are many things that are natural or plant-based that are not safe: tomato leaves, rhubarb leaves, opium, hemlock. oleander, some varieties of mushrooms, poison ivy, just to name a few. The phrase “too much of a good thing” exists for a reason. Nothing is completely safe and too much of anything can be harmful. So, let’s see the “natural” label and its cousins for what they are, marketing hype.



Another popular mantra in the healthy eating world is to refuse to consume anything that contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce. And, on the surface, this is great advice. Eating whole foods—foods that have been minimally processed—is wise. However, once you think about this a little, a small problem develops. Everything has multiple names or labels. Sodium chloride = table salt. Sodium bicarbonate = baking soda. Aspartame = Equal. Sucralose = Splenda. Dihydrogen monoxide. Sounds scary, right? You know it by another name, water. Things can be renamed according to their chemical makeup. Plants and animals are often referred to using Latin-based binomial nomenclature, turning a lemon into Citrus × limon. Just because a name for something is not readily pronounceable doesn’t mean it is “bad” for you. Just because you can pronounce something doesn’t mean it’s “good” for you. I can pronounce antifreeze, but if I see it on the label of a food, I’m not going to eat it.


Googling is Not Research

What seems to be the final defense of many people touting sensational food claims is “do your own research.” This is often used when opposing view points are questioning the hype rather than just jumping on the bandwagon. They’ll tell their challengers to “do your own research” as a polite way of saying “la la la, can’t hear you!” because they don’t want to even entertain the possibility they have fallen for a myth or propaganda. People say they have “done their own research” when what they have done is googled the topic, read a few blogs on it, watched a “documentary”, and decided to believe the ones that agree with the preconceived notion that led them to google the topic to begin with. That is not research. It is a form of confirmation bias and is nothing more than finding internet information (often in the form of propaganda and myths) to support what one already believes is true. Research is reading the actual scientific studies themselves, not what others say about the study. Because for every article that says something is okay, there is one saying it will kill you.  And ultimately, the truth is probably somewhere in between.
There are “documentaries” and blogs/websites by “professionals” out there that are pretty convincing that various foods are going to kill us all. Some of them even target currently popular natural things like stevia. There is also a lot of “research” that says these same things are perfectly safe. The “documentaries” and blogs are produced by people and groups that are convinced that anything not grown organically by oneself, or that has been processed at all, is dangerous and the end of civilization. The “research” is often funded by companies with a vested interest in “research” turning out a certain way—making them/their product/their cause look good or making a competitor/opposing cause look bad—or entities (government, universities, etc.) that have been paid by those companies (in the forms of lobby, grants, etc.).
I am at the point where I believe no information any more. Research and statistics can be manipulated. Often, the research merely shows and association between two or more things, but the mass media picks it up and reports it as if a causation has been established. The internet and relatively cheap technology make it possible for anyone to make a “documentary” with a few thousand dollars or launch a website that looks pretty professional. Do research, but also think critically. Don’t just look for the sound bites that agree with what you already believe. You haven’t made an informed opinion unless you’ve seriously looked at all sides of an issue without bias.


Food Freedom

Eating in response to the stresses of life and making food choices based on “margarine is one molecule away from plastic” hype are equally forms of food bondage.  One of the main tenants of Trim Healthy Mama is that it offers food freedom through sustainable healthy eating choices. You cannot have food freedom if your food choices are tied to emotions.  Emotional eating is not only tied to things we are dealing with such as death, divorce, job stress, marriage trouble, money trouble, sadness, frustration, and joy.  Another very valid area of emotional eating is making food decisions based on fads, hype, sound bites, and junk science. It is important to weigh statements about food safety and selection with a logical, not an emotional, mind. Evaluating food safety from an emotional point of view allows you to be easily swayed when the next fad or hype headline comes along or easily give up your healthier ways because you don’t really understand or believe the why behind the decision.  Looking at the whole picture of a particular food will allow you to make a reasonable choice about its place in your diet.

So How Exactly Does THM Work?

Just in case you’re wondering what Trim Healthy Mama is, here is a quick video of Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett, the authors of Trim Healthy Mama, giving the basics of THM.

There is no way around having to read either the original Trim Healthy Mama book or the newer Trim Healthy Mama Plan book.  It is vital that you understand the concepts discussed in the book so you can make THM work for you.  However, Gwens-Nest.com has a handy Quick Start Guide that is like Cliff Notes for THM.  It can help you get the hang of things as you read (and probably re-read) the book to master the THM lifestyle.

More information about Trim Healthy Mama at TrimHealthyMama.com