Trim Healthy Mama: Practical Details

Dear Reader,

I posted recently on the theology behind the Trim Healthy Mama diet; now I want to talk about more practical details.

How Easy is it to Get Started?

For me, there are parts of this diet that are not hard to implement because I already had so many of the products they recommend on hand. With one child off gluten, dairy, and soy and another with type 1 diabetes, I already had in my pantry: almond meal, Dreamfields low carb pasta, almond milk, coconut oil, coconut flour, low carb tortillas, xantham gum, (GF) rolled oats, and probably more things I am forgetting.

Even with all these things, however, I still found I had to consider whether to buy some of the other foods and ingredients they recommend or use in their recipes. Some are easy to get, like egg whites in a carton for their low-fat (E) recipes. Some require special ordering, like gluccomanan powder which is essential to make their puddings.

Now they do say you can do the diet without any special ingredients. And the theory behind it (don’t eat fat and carbs together) is pretty simple so I can see that would be true. But at the same time, their suggested meals and their recipes require a lot of these things. So I think that if you are trying to just pick up the book and go, it is tough to do so without buying all this special stuff. Personally, I have looked at a number of recipes in the book which sounded delicious only to say “well, I don’t have that ingredient so I guess that’s a no-go for now.”

The Recipes and Restricted Diets

I have tried a couple of the recipes, some with success (basic cheesecake; yum!), some without (cookie bowl oatmeal; just a gelatinous mush with still hard oats for me). As others have said in reviews I read, I wish they would just give the recipes in a normal format. They give them in a narrative style, adding heir own comments and tweaks which are nice to read but it would help if they just started with the recipe and then added those things later. My own feeling having certain food restrictions in the family is that it is easy to do this diet gluten-free, but it is hard to do it dairy-free. A lot of their recipes involve dairy. I am also off chocolate because it gives me headaches, and I find it very hard to do it chocolate free too. All their desserts and treats, and even some breakfast, which sound really yummy contain chocolate. When I leave out the chocolate, everything ends up peanut butter flavored. And I like peanut butter but I don’t need everything to be that way. (Now back when I could eat chocolate, I would have been happy to have everything I ate taste like it, but those days are gone for me.) Soy-free, by the way, is super easy because THM is anti-soy.

So for me at this point, I would say the implementation of this diet has been a little hard. I had a house guest for a whole which made it tough to go out, buy special things, and think about organizing my meals differently. And I realized that a lot of our favorite dishes are not THM friendly, meaning they include things like brown sugar and potatoes or they combine carbs and fat. And though I have read reviews which say the contrary, I did not think the book was very helpful in telling me how to tweak recipes I already use.

What Can’t I Eat?

Another claim THM makes is that it is about what you eat when, but does not eliminate foods. This is not really true. Here are some of the things that are, if not totally eliminated, at least minimized or discouraged:

1. Some oils– they use butter, olive oil, and coconut oil, all of which I already had so that’s not too big  a deal to me. But no vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.

2. No white or wheat breads (or cakes or cookies, etc). They do allow sourdough bread and rye bread as these are low on the glycemic index. They also allow sprouted grain breads like Ezekiel bread.

3. No blood-sugar raising sweeteners. This includes refined sugars but also honey and agave nectar and maple syrup. They allow stevia, xylitol, and truvia.

4. No potatoes. This is huge around here. Potatoes have been a staple of our gluten-free diet. And I know sometimes I can substitute sweet potatoes which I don’t mind, but the kids will only stand for so much of that.

5. No corn. Not too big a problem but we did eat tortilla chips, corn bread and taco shells.

6. No bananas. This is fine with me as they give me headaches any way. But others seem to be quite put out by this one. Other tropical fruits like watermelon and mango are also limited.

Do I have to limit calories or count things?

Which brings me to another point. These tropical fruits are limited because they are high on the glycemic index, meaning they raise blood sugar fast. As a  parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, carbs, blood sugar and the like are not new territory for me. But the whole philosophy behind this diet is that blood sugar should be kept as stable as possible and I wonder if this is really necessary for those who do not have diabetes and are not at particular risk for it. Some variation in blood sugar is natural.

I wonder also how they are figuring the effect of certain carbs on blood sugar. For instance, carrots are banned from their S (fat) meals. This is no doubt because they have a high glycemic index, meaning they raise blood sugar fast. But because one must eat so many of them to raise blood sugar, they actually have a low glycemic load which is a more accurate measure of how they will affect blood sugar. Combining foods also affects glycemic load. I suspect they know this and that this is behind their assertion that protein should accompany all meals. Both protein and fat slow down the absorption of carbs and therefore the rise in blood sugar. So even a really fast acting food like watermelon, if my daughter eats it after a fatty meal like pizza, will not cause her blood sugar quickly. A child with type 1 is like a little test tube for experimenting with these things. We can see how bad foods are for all of us by how they affect her body which has no insulin response of its own left. And fatty foods, any restaurant foods really, will still be with her up to 8 hours later. So I am a little wary that one could say they are doing the THM diet but end up eating a lot of fatty foods that are stressing out the body’s insulin responses quite a bit.

Which brings me to what I think is my last point, that this diet is not just “eat this way and you can eat as much as you like.” It is mean tot not keep you hungry which is good, but it is not a license to indulge either. They say that if your weight loss is stalled you need to do things like look and make sure you are not overeating on things like nuts which while healthy are also fatty and high calorie. So while they are not having you count calories, it is not like you get off scott-free and never have to worry about them either. On carbs they are even stricter. Again they wouldn’t have you count, but an E meal which is the most carb-laden kind is not supposed to top 45 grams of carbs. That is a cup of regular pasta or two pieces of bread. There are some in-between kinds of meal like an S-helper (a basically fatty meal but with a bit extra carbs) which is supposed to contain no more than 15 grams of carbs.

All in all, I guess I am a little wary of the philosophy behind all this. It seems strange that we must be taught how to do something as basic as eat. Yet, I also know that Americans seem to be failing at it so I suppose we do. basically, where I come down is, I am not entirely convinced, but I would like to see if it works.


37 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Karen on September 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for another good review/discussion of this book…..I think I’ll stay on the fence about buying it – maybe someone will PaperBackSwap theirs and I can get it “Free”! *L*

    The idea of minding what I eat with what is intriguing to me. I can remember back to the Eat Well, Live Well days – and the mantra there was to always eat a protein with a carb. I can’t remember what they said about the fats.

    I would just LOVE to find a doable “diet” that would help me lose weight (just about 15 pounds), keep it off, and be healthy — hard to do when you’re dealing with Hashimoto’s, too.


    • I am not familiar with East Well, Live Well. This is actually the first diet book I have ever read. I don’t think THM is doing anythign radically new though. They have maybe put it together in a new way and most probably added the biblical connection and thereby marketed to a certain audience but the ideas themselves are not new.


      • Posted by Karen on September 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm

        “Eat Well, Live Well” was the title of a diet book that some of my family read and did – successfully- some years ago.

        Thanks for explaining to Brandi to fat-carbs-protein thing. That is similar to what the EAt Well, Live Well people said.

        I would just love to find a “diet” (way of eating) that didn’t involve buying expensive or strange things.


  2. This is so interesting to me. Do they explain why the try to keep carbs and fat separate? I ask because the easiest way to keep carbs from negatively impacting blood sugar is to serve it with a good fat (which also causes the body to absorb more of the nutrients in the carb-containing food). This is the first I’ve heard of separating carbs from fat (protein from carbs is a popular food combining method, for example).

    I wonder if their focus on the blood sugar issues stems from the idea that “most” overweight people are insulin-resistant? There are some studies that seem to “prove” this though I don’t know how much credence to give them. Hmmm…

    I always enjoy your blog, Nebby. 🙂


    • Brandy said my thoughts: I was under the impression that good fats were essential to absorbing nutrients, and that having some fat in a meal even out your blood sugar.

      Is this mainly a diet for weight loss, or is it supposed to be a life-long thing that generations could follow and be in excellent health?


      • It is not just for weight loss. They are very clear that it can and should be a life long way of eating and that it will help people who don’t need to lose but have other health issues. It did kind of make me wonder if they have just found a great way to expand their (buying) audience by saying this is a diet for not just over weight people. But perhaps that is the cynic in me.


        • Posted by kate on June 10, 2014 at 10:44 am

          They have you add one teaspoon of healthy fat (butter or coconut oil) for each carb- E – meal. Also, the reason for the no fat/carb together is it is considered a ‘double fueling’ for your body and your body will store one or the other and you won’t burn fat (ketosis).


    • Their argument is that you lose weight when you only burn one girl at a time. Fat and carbs are used as fuel; protein isn’t (they say). But I do know that if all you give your body is protein it will burn it and your blood sugar will rise. Either fat or protein in a meal slows down absorption of carbs and therefore has less on an effect on blood sugar. They say that if you eat fat and carbs together the fat will be stored as body fat.


      • Posted by Karen on September 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm

        So, no fat and carbs at the same time? (I think I’m glad no one sees the bowl of ice cream I’m eating right now! *L*)

        And pair a carb with protein. And pair protein with a fat?


  3. Karen-Yes, that is basically it. As One gets to their goal weight or if you are pregnant or nursing there are mixed meals that do combine fat and carbs. In the base plan though when you are not combining them, you get 1 tsp of fat on a carb (E) meal or about 5g of carbs in a fat (S) meal. There are also fuel pull meals which basically have neither (just protein and veggies it seems).

    In theory one could do this plan without special foods but their recipes sure seem to use them.


    • Very interesting. I will be waiting to see if this diet “gets big” or fizzles out.
      I’ve been pregnant or nursing or both for the last 5+ years with no sign of stopping soon, and not trying to lose weight or keep it off, so it sounds like the principle of not eating fat and carbs together is not really for me anyway.


      • Actually, the authors have about 13 kids between them and have a lot to say on pregnancy and nursing. There is also a long chapter on female hormones. While weight loss is not a goal in pregnancy, they would say their diet is great for quick healthy weight loss while nursing.

        Btw, I was pregnant and/or nursing for almost 7 years.


  4. I have a friend who is going to let me borrow her book. I’m curious about it – she lost a lot of weight “easily”, she said, and I believe she was nursing at the time. There are before/after photos on the THM facebook page and group and I think some mentioned pregancy. There are websites with THM recipe sections (Stacy Makes Cents is one), so you can, in theory, try it without buying the book. I’m a bit wary, though, because I want to understand it completely before jumping in. I do need to lose weight and am insulin-resistant myself, so could be it would work for me.


  5. […] I am or have been reading. I did a couple of posts earlier on THM, Trim Healthy Mama (see here and here). My general take on it is that I bet it helps in a lot of cases but there are aspects of it, […]


  6. […] about its theological basis, I have been trying the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating (see also this summary of what THM is). So far, I would say it is helping me. I do not have  a lot of weight to lose so […]


  7. […] once again is my attempt at making one of my old standby recipes Trim Healthy Mama friendly (see this summary of what THM is). This is an adaptation of the chicken pot pie recipe I had been using for a […]


  8. […] once again is a Trim Healthy Mama recipe. These muffins are dense but tasty. They make a nice breakfast or […]


  9. […] family has enjoyed this gluten-free popover recipe for a while now. Since embarking on the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating, I wanted to rework the recipe to fit that plan. I have also created an Italian version. The beauty […]


  10. […] had a craving for cheesecake, especially pumpkin cheesecake (a perfectly acceptable breakfast on the Trim, Healthy Mama diet, you know), but I didn’t want to take half an hour or more to make it. So instead I came up […]


  11. Posted by makingahouseahome on May 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Hi there!! My husband is a newly diagnosed type 2, so I was looking into THM. Not a good choice?? Do y’all just do basically low carb with your type 1 child????

    This is a whole new world to me and I feel clueless!!



    • So type 1, especially with a growing child, is a bit different. But even for that I think blood sugars are easier to manage if one tries to eat low carb. I do think low carb is a good choice for type 2 adults. And while I don’t think the THM diet is the only way to go, I do think it is a good option. It is an easy way to do low carb. There are carbs allowed sometimes, but never mroe than 45g at a time, and there are lots of recipes which make you non-carb meals yummy. I know when my brother was diagnosed with type 2, they gave him very little info initially. I would encourage you to read up on it on your own, especially on what changes you can make on your own with diet and exercise.


  12. […] I find to hard to find a Fuel Pull breakfast (for more on the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating see here). I am not a big egg eater and egg white omelettes appeal even less.I saw the basic idea for […]


  13. […] flavor thanks to the spices. Mine were if anything too moist. If you are not familiar with the Trim Healthy Mama jargon, fuel pull means they are low in both fat and […]


  14. […] stuff. I buy it online and use it in many things. It is good stirred into yogurt. If you are on the Trim Healthy Mama diet, this is an S snack. If you are counting carbs, the cookies work out to about 3g of carbs each. […]


  15. […] celery and peppers. I did throw in some potatoes but avoided eating them myself. If you are eating THM, that would make it an S meal. If you used a low-fat meat like white-meat chicken and some more […]


  16. […] a regular flavoring for me. Sometimes pumpkin is nice too. It is actually fairly hard to be on the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating without chocolate.  So many of their recipes call for […]


  17. […] whip recipe, but it relies upon cottage cheese instead of cream cheese which makes it fat-free. In THM terms, this is an E breakfast or snack. I don’t use measuring cups if I don’t have to […]


  18. […] an only slightly modified version of Maria Mind Body Health’s biscuit mix. If you are on the Trim Healthy Mama Diet, this is an S […]


  19. […] As it currently stands, it uses a little millet flour which gives it some carbs. If you are on the Trim Healthy Mama plan and want to keep it an S meal, you should only eat 1/6-1/7 of the recipe and stick to no carb […]


  20. […] ice at the end because I like my shakes/smoothies cold and I hate to have to wait. If you are on the THM diet, this is, I believe, a fuel pull […]


  21. […] have been toying with the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) way of eating for a while and it has helped me in some ways though I don’t have a lot of weight to lose if […]


  22. […] do you do if you are having a JUDDD down day or a THM Fuel Pull day and the kids are eating pizza? Here is one answer. I found this zucchini pizza-like […]


  23. […] muffins. These are gluten-free and low-carb and have some extra protein added in. If you are on the THM diet, they are an […]


  24. […] haven’t been adhering strictly to the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) way of eating (WOE; don’t you love acronyms?) in recently months. I still have it in […]


  25. […] greens, onions, cabbage, etc. Because of the molasses it is not no carb so if you are using it in a THM S setting you will want to make sure you don’t overdo the […]


  26. That login process was something… I just wanted to say thank you. I was looking for details on what oils were acceptable for the Trim Healthy Mama diet.


  27. […] for being hard to mess up. This recipe is gluten-free, low carb,  sugar-free and is you are the Trim Healthy Mama diet is an S snack (or dessert or, let’s face it, […]


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