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Surprising Factors Affecting Hunger, Satiety and Food Cravings  

science behind hungerTo provide an example, let us consider a client who has a child they believe to be addicted to processed foods – sugary cereals, peanut butter and jelly on white bread, pizza, fast food, and all kinds of sodas and salty snacks. The more their child eats, the hungrier he got. The child is eating too much and was overweight as a result. Learn about childhood obesity and diabetes.

Maybe he’s not hungry for calories, instead, he may be hungry for nutrition. Even though he is eating all day, he is still not getting what he needs. The food he eats is mostly processed, and rich in simple sugars but deficient in nutrients. Sugar is fuel for cells, but they need vitamins and minerals to do their jobs properly. This child was fueling his body, making his cells work, but not giving them the raw materials needed; he was craving more and more food because his cells were starving for vitamins and minerals. He was suffering from malnutrition. This child is on a very inefficient diet and needs to eat a lot of food just to get enough nutrients to operate his body.

We might begin here by recommending a change, to reverse the formula. If you are thinking that foods rich in nutrients and low in calories are called for, then you are correct!

We could recommend an eating strategy that does not take out any of this child’s favorite foods, but rather added nutrient-rich foods, especially vegetables and whole grains to the diet. We also might suggest lean choices of meat and plenty of exercise. We could suggest home-cooked food that might appeal to her child. He could still have his favorite peanut butter, but on a celery stick instead of white bread with sugary jelly. He could still eat pizza, but homemade pizza with vegetable toppings. So both the parent and child need a change. This is where your work as a Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach is vital. Getting a child who is hooked on sugar and processed foods to eat natural foods can seem impossible, but we leave the parenting aspect out of it, applying only the hard science to the situation.

Like a lot of people, your client may be filling up on sugary foods and becoming sick and overweight. The body is smart. It tells you when you are not feeding it properly. If you feed it fats, oils, and sugar, it is going to send you messages that it needs more food. It needs protein; it needs vitamins; it needs minerals. But if we are not accustomed to eating vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense foods, our body will not decipher this message as a specific craving for something healthy. Therefore, some will respond with the hunger signal, grabbing foods we find easy to acquire, satisfying, and often, less healthy. Most people don’t realize that they keep eating because their bodies are hungry for quality nutrition.

Contracting and Expanding Foods

Our body naturally wants to be balanced. The food we eat is a major contributing factor to the overall balance of the body. Certain foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, have mild effects on the body. Other foods, such as meat, milk, sugar, and salt, have more extreme effects on the body, throwing off its natural balance. This struggle eventually leads to a craving for whatever the body needs to regain balance. These extreme foods can be divided into two categories: contracting and expanding.

Contracting Foods

The most common and powerful contracting food is salt, which many of us consume regularly in large quantities. Salt is used commonly as a preservative, especially in artificial junk food. Other extreme contracting foods are animal foods, including beef, pork, ham, hard cheese, eggs, chicken, fish, and shellfish. When we eat too much of these foods, we create an imbalance and quickly feel bloated, heavy, sluggish, and mentally slow. As a result of eating contracting foods, the body naturally craves expanding foods as a way of maintaining balance.

Expanding Foods

The predominant extreme-expanding food is refined white sugar. Expanding foods provide feelings of lightness, elevations in mood and relief from blockages and stagnation. However, refined white sugar also causes rapid elevations in serotonin, followed by rapid declines. When serotonin levels fall, we typically experience feelings of depression, low energy, anxiety, and loss of concentration. We crave extreme contracting foods to balance the equation and again find ourselves in the throes of the ping-pong diet, using one type of extreme food to alleviate the effects of the other.

Our bodies can enjoy a certain quantity of extreme foods without creating too much imbalance. But when we exceed our personal limit—and it varies with everyone—there are consequences. If we eat extreme foods daily, our body will become exhausted and depleted as it frantically tries to rebalance itself. To get out of this cycle, we need to help clients deconstruct what they are craving and seek out less extreme, healthier alternatives that satisfy. Here are the 4 types of hunger.

Primary causes of cravings

  1. Your client is under-dehydrated.

Roughly 70 percent of an adult’s body is made up of water so inadequate water content will send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration manifests itself as a pang of hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is to drink a full glass of water.

  1. Your client has nutritional deficiencies.

To operate at our optimum capacity, we need to nourish our bodies every day with a variety of macronutrients and micronutrients. If the body doesn’t get enough nutrients, it will send messages in the form of cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition can lead to cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like sugar or caffeine.

  1. Is your client hormonal?

When females go through menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings. Sometimes it is beyond our control, ladies, but we can always opt for healthier options to satisfy our temptations.

  1. There are underlying emotional issues.

Staying in an unhappy relationship, feeling lonely, being disappointed with a partner, being stressed,or uninspired by career, lacking a spiritual practice, or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong kind) may all lead to emotional eating. In these cases, food serves as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food. Would one go to that fridge at 11 pm and grab that chocolate ice cream if they were with the loving partner who would tell them how much they care about them? Probably not. Would one go for that donut at 3 pm if they were immersed in the interesting project they were working on? Probably not. It is always good to look at all areas of our life and be aware that sometimes it’s not the food we desire but other forms of nourishment: love, inspiration, friendship, fulfilling career, movement, hobby, or a feeling to belong somewhere.

  1. You have a yin/yang imbalance.

Some foods have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods possess more yang qualities (contractive). Consuming too many yin foods or too many yang foods will cause cravings to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods and vice versa.

Hunger and Binging

Sometimes cravings come in the form of extreme hunger. We don’t know what we’re hungry for; we only have this primal feeling of being starved. Most people avoid hunger at all costs, and many develop habits of overeating and/or constant eating just to avoid ever feeling hungry. When we habitually overeat, a high proportion of our available energy is always directed towards digestion. If we eat when we are not hungry, we compromise our digestion of the food. You may want to consider the idea, almost heretical currently, that it’s okay to be hungry now and then. We’re not talking about a drastic form of starvation dieting—just an experiment to see how it feels. It’s not going to kill you, and it may make life more interesting.

On the other hand, many people today try to go hungry all day, ignoring the body’s cravings for food. This habit creates the “binge eaters’ diet.” To lose weight, these people skip breakfast, go off to work, maybe grab a mid-morning cup of coffee to keep going, and then settle on a salad for lunch. Somehow, they make it through the afternoon, but by the time they get home in the evening, they discover that they are ravenous. The hectic activity of the workday may have distracted them from urgent messages emanating from their stomachs, but as they slow down, they realize, “I am so hungry” Then they overeat heavy foods at dinner until they feel stuffed and uncomfortable. The next morning, they start the cycle over again, not eating breakfast because they feel full from last night’s binge, which is still undigested.

We want to discourage trying to override natural instincts. Of course, it helps to have discipline around food, but trying to control the body by using the mind is very challenging in the long term. For one thing, the head often makes mistakes. Remember when you went shopping for a fantastic new outfit and spent a lot of money but never wore the clothes? Another mistake our head can easily make is to decide, “This is the right diet for me. I can handle this one.” Our bodies don’t really care what our heads think. Our bodies are built to survive and thrive. Our head can say, “I am not eating this food because it is fattening,” and the body may cooperate for a while. At some point, though, it will start delivering nudges, with quiet messages like, “Okay, we need some more fat in here, to keep the brain thinking and make me feel satiated.” The next thing we know, we succumb.

Learning to listen to our body is essential. The longer you ignore the body’s messages, the more extreme the backlash. Just as a crying child will use increasingly extreme measures to get attention, the body will heighten our cravings and create disease if you don’t listen to it.

Crowding Out

One solution to cravings that can be quite effective over the years is to add more to your diet rather than taking away from it.

Most nutritionists give their clients a list of foods to avoid and foods to eat, which explains why so many people are turned off by nutrition. People think they’ll have to give up their regular diet and start eating things they know are “good” for them but that they don’t enjoy. Taking away people’s favorite foods is like taking heroin away from a heroin addict. The food is giving them something they need. One of the most effective methods to overcome habitual consumption of unhealthy foods is to simply crowd out these foods. The idea is, that it’s hard to eat five fruits and vegetables a day and binge on ice cream at the end of the day. Likewise, it’s hard to drink eight glasses of water a day and be an alcoholic. The body can only take so much food. If we fill the body with healthy, nutrient-dense foods, it is only natural that cravings for unhealthy foods will lessen substantially.

By eating and drinking foods that are good for our body earlier in the day, we leave less room and desire for unhealthy foods. This method is most evident when we increase our intake of water. Really, it’s that simple. We can quickly begin to cut down on other liquids provided we stay well hydrated with water. Our need for water varies, so clients should listen to their body (not their thirst sensation) to determine how much is needed to drink in a day. Not only will water crowd out more unhealthy drinks, it may also improve health in other ways.

Just as drinking water crowds out unhealthy beverages, eating healthy foods can crowd out junk foods. Vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals and can be eaten in abundance without gaining weight. When we increase our intake of nutritious foods, such as dark leafy greens and whole grains, our body will have less room for processed, sugary, nutrient-deficient foods. And the best part is that once we add these foods into our diet, the body will naturally begin to crave them. The trick is to help clients organize their life so that they always have access to these healthful foods, especially when snacking at work or when traveling. This requires we look at our client’s whole life to help in the most efficient way possible.

Body Love and Embodiment

Physical health is the foundation of our lives. Once we free ourselves from extreme foods, the healing mechanisms of the body can be harnessed to overcome our deeper physical and emotional issues. That’s when healing miracles happen. When clients learn how to deconstruct their cravings, they can reclaim the sense of balance and bodily harmony that they were seeking through indulgence or willpower.

Our bodies are like crying babies. The child is crying but it can’t talk, so the mother has to figure out what has disturbed her child. Did it hurt itself, not get enough sleep or wet its diaper? Is it teething or does it have allergies?

The mother goes through a process of elimination until she finds the real problem. It’s a similar situation with the body; it can’t talk, but it can send messages through discomfort or food cravings that need to be decoded. If we acknowledge and accept our cravings, they will point us towards the foods and lifestyles we need. For example, if we have a headache, we might try to figure out what caused it before taking an aspirin. Maybe we worked too much in front of the computer yesterday? Or maybe we lack water? How have sleep patterns been?

We can, and must, develop dialogue with our bodies. They’re talking to us all the time and their messages are too important for us to ignore. Remember, our body loves us unconditionally. It does everything it can to keep us alive and functioning. We can feed it garbage, and it will digest it for you and turn it into energy to fuel life. We can deprive it of sleep, but still it will get us up and running the next morning. We can drink too much alcohol, and it will process it through our system. It does its best to allow us to live the life we came here to live. The real issue in this relationship is not whether our body loves us, but whether your client has love for their body. In any relationship, if one partner is loving, faithful and supportive, it’s easy for the other to take that person for granted. That’s what most of us do with our bodies, and the Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach works to change address this. Working to understand signs our bodies give is one of the best places to have clients begin to build a mutually loving relationship with their own body.

Foods to Consider Avoiding

Humans love sweet things. Even before we started refining sugar, we sought out foods with sweet tastes. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in foods such as grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit. When unprocessed, sugar contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and proteins.

These molecules enter the bloodstream, where they are burned smoothly and evenly, allowing the body to absorb all the good content.

Refined table sugar, also called sucrose, is very different. Extracted from either sugar cane or beets, it lacks vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and thus requires extra effort from the body to digest. The body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb sucrose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, it creates deficiency. It enters swiftly into the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the blood sugar level, first pushing it very high and then dropping it extremely low; this causes fatigue, depression, weariness, and exhaustion. We feel happy and energetic for a while and then suddenly, inexplicably, we find ourselves arguing with a friend or lover.

Sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for two reasons:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more.

2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings, and fatigue.

Today sugar is found in many of the usual suspects, like cakes, cookies, and candy. But you will also find it in canned vegetables, baby food, cereals, peanut butter, bread and tomato sauce. It is often disguised in fancy language, labeled as corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, glucose or fructose. Even some so-called healthy foods contain sugar. A lemon poppyseed Clif Bar has 21 grams of sugar or 5 teaspoons. Compare that to a chocolate-glazed cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts, which has 14 grams of sugar or 3 teaspoons. You may think an afternoon cup of coffee only has a little sugar, but a 16-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino contains 44 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons – that’s like eating three donuts. Over-consumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an explosion of blood sugar regulation problems and of course, type 2 diabetes.

Then there is the condition known as hypoglycemia, literally meaning “low glucose levels in the blood.” Glucose is a type of sugar that provides energy to every cell in the body. Our bodies normally maintain blood glucose levels within a narrow range. When this homeostasis is lost, hypoglycemia can result. A poor diet, especially one with an excess of refined sugars, can cause a gradual breakdown in our body’s ability to manage blood glucose. When this happens, blood glucose levels may initially spike after a meal (hyperglycemia) and then crash to abnormally low levels several hours after the meal (hypoglycemia). This roller-coaster effect is implicated in the onset of type 2 diabetes. It may take years for hypoglycemia to develop into full-blown diabetes, but the sooner you intervene the better.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include faintness, dizziness, sweating, anxiety, and hunger.

About 25.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 8.3% of the total population have diabetes. More than 17,900 children are diagnosed with diabetes each year. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and more and more cases are diagnosed every day. Type 1 diabetes, known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, typically develops in childhood or early adulthood. With this condition, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. When a person without diabetes eats something that creates glucose in the blood, the pancreas produces insulin in order to maintain blood sugar balance. Insulin acts as the gatekeeper, allowing the proper amount of glucose into the body’s cells to be utilized as fuel. People with type 1 diabetes must rely on daily injections of insulin to keep their blood sugar from getting too high.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops much later in life, though recently it is on the rise among children and adolescents. In fact, type 2 diabetes was commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes until the rates of children diagnosed with the condition skyrocketed. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is still capable of producing insulin, but the cells in the body are less responsive to it. One of the most alarming statistics in medicine right now is the rate at which Americans are diagnosed with this type of diabetes, which is far more prevalent than type.

When people lose the ability to maintain a steady blood sugar level, the entire human organism is affected. A healthy body exists in a state of homeostasis, maintaining a steady balance within all systems that ensures smooth functioning for the whole organism. Take body temperature for example. Somehow the body knows how to maintain a temperature of 98.6 degrees. If we get overheated, we perspire to cool down; if we get too cold, we shiver to warm up. Many systems in the body are designed to maintain this status. We know when to urinate, so our bladders don’t swell and explode. We know when to stay awake, so we don’t drift into slumber while driving and crash.

The body maintains these interlinked systems by itself, for itself, without any need for conscious control. Maintenance of blood sugar is controlled by the hormonal system, which is interconnected with many other vital body control systems, including the sexual reproductive system, adrenal glands, thyroid and pineal glands. The breakdown of blood sugar regulation can lead to the breakdown of other systems, until the entire organism is out of whack.

But sugar isn’t the problem. The problem is the vicious, addictive cycle we have created by eating processed sugar, feeling the rush, crashing, and then taking in more sugar to begin the vicious cycle again. If we are on a healthy, balanced diet, nourishing ourselves with milder forms of sweet vegetables, we don’t need a big sugar hit from a candy bar or soda to boost our energy level.

Increasingly more people have begun to understand the need to find alternatives to sugar, creating a demand that has led to the creation of artificial sweeteners, like saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet). Although these products have been linked to serious health problems, such as cancer, public demand for sugar alternatives continues to increase. So, manufacturers continue to explore other options. Sucralose is one of the newer substitutes to hit the market under the brand name Splenda. It has become the nation’s number-one selling artificial sweetener in a remarkably short period of time.

Brown Rice Syrup

Also called rice syrup or rice malt syrup, brown rice syrup is a sweetener derived from brown rice. It is made by fermenting brown rice, breaking the starches down with certain enzymes, and then reducing the substance until it reaches a syrup-like consistency. Broken down, brown rice syrup is basically pure glucose.

Date Sugar

Date sugar is made with dehydrated dates that are ground to resemble granulated sugar. Because whole, pitted dates are used to make the sugar, the presence of fiber leaves a tiny grit to the sugar that won’t dissolve in hot liquids or baked goods. It has a sweet, butterscotch-like flavor that’s much more nuanced than brown sugar, although it shares a similar appearance.


Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance made by honeybees and some related insects. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants (floral nectar) or from secretions of other insects (such as honeydew), by regurgitation, enzymatic activity, and water evaporation. Bees store honey in wax structures called honeycombs. The variety of honey produced by honeybees (the genus Apis) is the best-known, due to its worldwide commercial production and human consumption. Honey is collected from wild bee colonies, or from hives of domesticated bees, a practice known as beekeeping or apiculture.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in late winter and early spring. Maple trees are tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. Most trees can produce 20 to 60 liters (5 to 15 US gallons) of sap per season.

Molasses is a Viscous Product

resulting from refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. Molasses varies by amount of sugar, method of extraction, and age of plant. Sugarcane molasses is primarily used for sweetening and flavoring foods in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Molasses is a defining component of fine commercial brown sugar.

Sweet sorghum syrup may be colloquially called “sorghum molasses” in the southern United States. Molasses has a stronger flavor than most alternative syrups.


Panela or rapadura is unrefined whole cane sugar, typical of Central, and of Latin America in general, which is a solid form of sucrose derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice.


Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay. The active compounds are steviol glycosides, which have 30 to 150 times the sweetness of sugar; these compounds are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable.


Sucanat is a natural cane sugar that is made by extracting the juice from sugar cane and then beating it with paddles to form granules

Vegetable Glycerin

This is a clear, syrup-like liquid that has a sweet taste and no odor. It’s obtained from vegetable fats found in carrier oils, such as soybean oil or coconut oil. It’s also water and alcohol soluble

Splenda claims to be the perfect sugar substitute, as sweet as sugar with no calories, no surge in insulin and no side effects or long-term health damage. But some health advocates say it is no better than the pesticide, DDT.

Splenda is a synthetic compound discovered in 1976 by British scientists attempting to create a pesticide. Sucralose is made from sugar in a patented five-step process that substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three atoms of hydrogen-oxygen, converting sugar into a fructo-galactose molecule. This type of molecule does not occur in nature, and therefore our body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. So, although sucralose tastes like sugar and sweetens like sugar, the body does not know how to assimilate it, which is why it has zero calories. Questions about the safety of sucralose have been raised, but it’s too early to determine its negative effects. Long-term studies are needed. One can assume it would not enhance health.

From a holistic point of view, it makes more sense to go with naturally occurring sweeteners, rather than artificial products. However, switching from white to brown sugar or coarse turbinado sugar is also not the answer.


We stop short of saying that we should not enjoy the wide range of dairy products available in modern society, but it is worth acknowledging that dairy is not an essential part of the human diet, and, in fact, most adults around the world do not consume it at all. Some can’t because they are lactose intolerant, which means they lack the digestive enzymes needed to digest dairy.

Even people who can digest dairy typically consume too much. Dairy products, especially cheese and ice cream, are loaded with fat and cholesterol that contribute to clogged arteries and heart disease. The Harvard School of Public Health even sites a possible increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancer in those who consume 3 cups per day, as the government recommends. In addition, dairy has been cited as a significant contributing cause of the following ailments: menstrual pains, asthma, brain fog, mucus and awide range of allergies with symptoms such as skin conditions and mood swings. Many people never realize that their problems are caused by dairy sensitivity and take various medications instead of addressing the underlying issue. A brief break from consuming dairy often leads to surprising improvements in many health conditions.

Modern methods of dairy processing are cause for concern. The typical cow produces milk for about 300 days after giving birth.5 In an attempt to keep daily production levels high throughout this time, the industry began widespread use of bovine growth hormone, or BST, a controversial, genetically engineered growth hormone that is injected into cows to increase milk production. The manufacturers of BST claim the hormone has no adverse side effects on animals or humans, but many experts disagree. Canada and the European Union have banned its use.

In order to maximize milk production, dairy cows are kept pregnant most of their lives on both commercial and organic farms. During pregnancy, female cows’ hormones like, estrogen and progesterone, go sky-high, and these hormones are present in their milk. There is both a concern and evidence that high hormone content in dairy products is linked to high rates of breast cancer among women in developed western countries. It is perfectly acceptable to recommend dairy alternatives for female clients who regularly consume significant amounts of dairy products, make this decision with your client. At the very least, promote consumption of organic dairy products, as to improve intake quality and reduce the quantity of less-desirable ingredients.

We encourage eating – or drinking – organic products. Studies show that organic milk contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E and antioxidants.6 Unfortunately, even organic dairies can be controversial. Horizon Organic Dairy, the largest U.S. supplier of organic milk, is owned by Dean Foods, the largest processor and distributor of milk in the United States. Horizon has been accused of not enforcing the standards necessary to be labeled organic. On genuine organic dairy farms, cows are raised on open pastures, fed grass, and not given extra hormones. Experts say the cows at Horizon are raised in pens and fed mostly protein and grains.

Dairy Alternatives

  • Soy Milk
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Almond
  • Oat
  • Coconut Milk
  • Cashew Milk

Some producers of the dairy alternatives listed have been accused of manipulating and abusing the organic labeling criteria, misrepresenting their product, and misleading health-conscious consumers into buying it. Although the milk from the Horizon farms may not be the best possible quality, it is still better than the milk produced at conventional dairy factories, with thousands of cows pumped up with antibiotics and confined in small spaces. Organic milk costs up to twice as much as regular milk, but most people prefer it and do not mind the increase in price.

Contrary to popular belief, dairy does not prevent osteoporosis or bone fracture by boosting calcium intake. In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that countries with the highest intake of dairy, such as the United States, Sweden and Holland, have the highest incidence of osteoporosis and fractures, while countries with the lowest dairy intake, such as Japan and South Africa, have the lowest rates of osteoporosis and fractures.7 Harvard University’s landmark Nurses’ Health Study followed 78,000 women during a 12-year period and found that those who consumed the most dairy broke more bones than those who rarely consumed dairy. Healthy bones need calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper, manganese, zinc and many vitamins. An excess of calcium without these other vitamins and minerals can increase the likelihood of fracture. Vegetable foods high in calcium, such as collards, bok choy and sea vegetables, also contain an abundance of magnesium and other minerals. Eating a good number of green vegetables, whole grains and sea vegetables can provide all the essential calcium needed for the human body, without the added negative side effects of dairy.

For some people, dairy is an emotional issue. It’s a food that provokes a lot of feelings and attachment, possibly stemming from early memories of breast- feeding. If you have an emotional response to the idea of reducing or eliminating dairy from your client, it may be helpful to examine the source of these emotions. This is where good questions will help the CHNC immensely. Perhaps dairy is providing your client with nourishment outside of the protein, fat and minerals, nourishment that is not about secondary food nutrition. If so, try to think of other ways you can recommend getting this nourishment.


Excessive meat eating has been implicated in many types of chronic disease. Advertising and high-protein diet books emphasize the need to eat more and more meat. This advice is dangerous. Any kind of mass-produced, factory farmed, commercially grown meat—whether it is beef, pork or chicken—is loaded with hormones and antibiotics that are designed to generate the maximum amount of meat per animal, and therefore the maximum amount of profit for the producers. When you eat the meat, you eat the hormones and antibiotics. These animals are also subject to life in unnatural and confined environments and are fed processed diets.

Red meat is full of saturated fats and has no fiber and no phytochemicals. Commercially raised chickens are not a good alternative. These animals spend their lives in tiny cages, crammed with thousands of other birds, which leads to major stress and disease outbreaks. These chickens contain excessive levels of antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones, all of which are fed to them in an attempt to keep them healthy and fat while confined in these unnatural conditions. Moreover, the fat levels of commercially raised chickens are more than three times the level of their free-range relatives. Organic, free-range varieties may cost two or three times as much as commercial chickens, but the price is worth it. Remember, too, that animals raised in factory farms suffer, and this suffering is passed on to those who consume their meat. I’ve already discussed how humans take on the qualities of animals we consume through Cross-Species Transference, and we also take on their pain of being reared in cruel conditions. For many people, eating meat is a question of ethics. Some vegetarians and vegans are adamant in their belief that eating animals is inhumane. Other people feel as strongly about their need to eat meat to feel healthy. Let clients choose whatever protein source feels comfortable for them. We can promote a vegetarian diet, but not all clients will take the suggestion; still, you will observe vegetarian-type people become healthier (a subjective rating) by incorporating small amounts of organic meat into their diet. To be fair, you will also see heavy meat eaters become healthier after reducing the amount of meat in their diet.

Bearing all this in mind, you may opt to generally recommend clients limit meat eating to a few times a week and supplement their diets with other protein sources such as eggs, beans, and whole grains. If your client is a regular meat eater, choose organic meats whenever possible. Many stores and restaurants now offer meat from small, local farms that have been raised in humane ways without the use of chemicals and antibiotics.


Millions of Americans jump-start their days with a cup of coffee, and then drink another cup or two or three throughout the day. Starbucks stores and others have proliferated throughout the country and throughout the world. More and more people try to move faster and faster to keep pace with the increasing demands of modern society. Not surprisingly, coffee represents 75% of all caffeine consumed in the United States. If sugar is America’s number-one addiction, then coffee ranks a very close second. Caffeine is a drug, and we are a nation of drug addicts.

This being said, here is an alternative perspective ab out coffee.

Drinking coffee isn’t just a matter of personal taste. It has become a cultural habit, an entertainment, and a form of comfort. It’s warm, it’s foamy; and it tastes good with sugar, chocolate powder or cinnamon on top. It’s an enjoyable social moment, a ritual, and a symbol of dynamic, busy, working people.

Coffee producers spend a lot of time and money to reassure the American public that drinking coffee isn’t bad for their health, including a general statement that up to three cups per day causes no health problems whatsoever, and may in fact even prevent diseases such as cancer and diabetes.9 Caffeine, the essential ingredient, is said to enhance alertness, concentration and mental and physical performance, and its negative side effects are downplayed. But coffee does have some health risks. It inhibits the absorption of essential minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as B vitamins. Many studies have also linked heavy coffee consumption with higher risks for miscarriages, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Coffee is, essentially, an adrenaline delivery system that jolts the body’s central nervous system. In the short term, this jolting action wakes us up and gets us going. In the long term, the constant and unnatural stimulation of our nerves creates stress levels that damage the resilience of the immune system, which protects against disease. Coffee is part of a stress cycle. We need coffee to keep up with the pace of modern life, and coffee itself helps to create the nervous energy of this pace.

Americans drink 400 million cups per day, making the United States the world’s largest coffee consumer. More than half of American adults consume coffee daily, and the average consumption is about 3 cups per day. Coffee is simply a drug in a mug, presented in a more socially acceptable way than having a hypodermic needle stuck in the arm. The question is: Why would a normal, healthy person in the prime of his or her life not be able to get through the day without an injection of adrenaline? People like to talk about the aroma and the flavor of various coffee brands, just as they are enthused about certain vintage wines, and it’s true to a point. But if you’re knocking back a bottle of cabernet a day, it’s not just the taste that’s attracting you. It’s the same with coffee. If you’re drinking two or three cups a day, you have an addiction. Drinking water and healthy snacking throughout the day can help to crowd out coffee, boosting energy levels through sound nutrition rather than adrenaline rushes.

Caffeine should be given up slowly. Caffeine withdrawal is not fun, and people often report headaches and mood swings. You could always recommend quitting by slowly reducing the number of cups of coffee drank each day, or by diluting full-strength coffee with decaf. Crowd out coffee by frequently drinking bottled or filtered water throughout the day. Rediscover the delights of drinking tea. Green and white teas contain a much lower amount of caffeine and can be a great way to get over the withdrawal headaches.

For heavy coffee drinkers, use what we called vision – have them consider what life would be like without coffee and who they are without coffee. Think about their natural state as a person without all that coffee speed. They may sleep better, have more time to get places or take a closer look at what other foods might really help energize them. Have you ever driven, ridden your bike or walked through the same block in your neighborhood? Wasn’t each experience completely different? Bring a comparison into your dialogue: create a vision for your client. You might describe slowing down in life to riding a bike instead of driving or even walking instead of riding a bike. In each action we become more connected to our surroundings and we see things with a new perspective. Instead of consuming coffee, you may safely suggest the following instead:

Coffee alternatives

Black Tea
Green Tea
Oolong Tea
Pero White Tea
Yerba Mate


Salt is not inherently bad. Throughout history, people have used salt to season and preserve their food. A good quality sea salt can contain up to 92 minerals and can be considered a dietary supplement. Sodium acts as an electrolyte and assists in regulating cell function, while chloride supports potassium absorption and helps regulate body fluids. The health problems associated with overconsumption of salt are from the refined, processed, white sparkly salt found in prepared foods and in the table salts so many Americans use at home.

The USDA recommends a daily sodium intake of about 2,300 mg and no more than 1,500 mg for people who have a family history of hypertension. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium. The average adult American consumes nearly 4,000 mg of sodium each day. Most medical experts agree that diets high in sodium are a major cause of high blood pressure as well as pre-hypertension, both of which significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Today, about 65 million Americans have high blood pressure and another 45 million have pre-hypertension. While excessive salt intake is not the only reason for these alarming statistics, it is a significant contributing factor.

A recent study reports that high-salt diets cause 150,000 premature deaths a year in the United States.

Restaurant foods, fast foods and processed, packaged junk foods contribute to most of the sodium in our diets. One serving (half a cup) of Campbell’s Chicken noodle soup has 890 mg of sodium and one slice of cheese pizza, from a Pizza Hut 12-inch pan pizza, contains 570 mg. If you have a full cup of canned soup, you’ve already reached your recommended daily sodium intake and you’re almost halfway there with two slices of cheese pizza. Healthier versions are not always better.

It is important to use a high-quality, natural sea salt for cooking. This is a better choice than poor quality, refined table salt. For the most part, people today use processed, sparkling white salt that is stripped of the trace elements and minerals in high-quality sea salt. Food companies also put additives—such as sugar and potassium iodide—into refined salt. Potassium iodide is added to reduce iron deficiency and thyroid disease, but it’s been linked to the recent increase in hyperthyroidism among Americans. All this processing takes place to make salt less expensive and a prettier color, as natural sea salt has a brownish tint.

Using high-quality sea salt in limited quantities is a healthier and tastier way to get minerals and satisfy the body’s cravings for salty flavor. Watch out for highly processed sea salts, which usually list magnesium carbonate as an ingredient. Look for sea salts that are free of coloring, additives, chemicals or bleaching. They should have a reddish or brown tint.


It is hard to find a person who doesn’t like chocolate. Whether dark or light, sweet or bitter, chocolate has a widespread appeal in our culture. Americans consume almost 12 pounds of chocolate per person each year. The Swiss consume the most chocolate worldwide at about 22 pounds per person. Chocolate comprises several raw and processed foods that originate from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. The beans have an intense bitter taste. Cacao is high in iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B, C and D. It can also provide protection against cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. The Mayan, Aztec and Olmec civilizations in Mexico and Central America first took these beans and mixed them with chili powder, honey or vanilla to make a drink, creating chocolate. They considered chocolate a divine food. In Steve Gagne’s book, Energetics of Food, he writes that both the Mayans and Aztecs referred to cacao as a “food of the gods.” Other research shows medicinal uses for chocolate, using it primarily to deliver medicine. Cacao flowers were also used to treat fatigue and cacao paste was used to treat poor appetite.

Here’s a perspective that says chocolate can be good for you (in certain circumstances).

Of course, commercially produced chocolate does not contain many of these natural nutrients, nor does it have the same spiritual connection, although some people do create daily rituals around Hershey’s or Godiva. One of the reasons chocolate has a bad rap is because most chocolate sold in supermarkets has high amounts of added sugar, fat, trans-fats and preservatives. Long regarded as a sinful, addictive, and fattening temptation, chocolate provides a natural feel-good high.

Part of why we love chocolate is that it helps release serotonin in the brain, which produces feelings of pleasure. This pleasure may also help explain intense chocolate cravings. Its melting point is also slightly below our body temperatures, so it really does melt in our mouths. Try finding an organic brand with a high percentage of cacao. In a world that is becoming increasingly contracted and stressful, chocolate gives people a sense of lightness, expansiveness, comfort, and relaxation. In some ways, it’s a really good food for people who are trying to gain weight.

The issue of whether chocolate is good or bad really comes back to bio-individuality. Remember one person’s food is another person’s poison. Some people are so addicted to chocolate that they may need to reduce or eliminate this food. For others, indulging in a small amount of high-quality organic chocolate every now and again can really be an enjoyable part of life.


You will want to learn about starting or advancing a career with our professional training courses including, the Spencer Institute Holistic Nutrition Coach Certification, NESTA Fitness Nutrition Coach Certification and NESTA Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist Certification.