Meal Prep Friday: When healthy eating goes too far

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.


How healthy is too healthy?


Is there such a thing as eating too clean? Or being too strict with your diet?


What if you really do like healthy food?


And, really, c’mon now, how could eating healthy be so bad for you in the first place?


Enter: Orthorexia


Essentially defined as:


An obsession with healthy eating…When trying to ‘be healthy’ actually goes too far.


It may sound absurd—“too far”—after all, isn’t the vast majority of our country experiencing the complete OPPOSITE problem (overweight, out of shape, sedentary lifestyles, overconsumption of processed foods and sugar, Diabetes, obesity)?


The primary concern with a disorder, like orthorexia, occurs when an otherwise manageable and balanced life becomes…unmanageable, unbalanced.


Orthorexia often manifests innocently—an individual discovers the power that eating ‘clean’ does provide for health and feeling AMAZING…however, if not aware, the adherence and commitment to living a healthy lifestyle can easily go OVERBOARD to the point that the person his or herself actually becomes disconnected with true health.





  • They feel better;


  • Perhaps have more energy;


  • Maybe even receive compliments and feedback from others about their discipline to such a healthy lifestyle;


  • It’s out with the crappy junk foods, the take-out and the Standard American Diet that the majority of the society is on (like crack);


  • And in with the organic fresh fruits and veggies; grass-fed organic meats; single-ingredient foods; and adherence to a healthy-living food philosophy (like Veganism, Vegetarianism, Paleo, Bodybuilding Diets, Juices and more);


  • Working out is a means for building strength; improving and progressing their performance; feeling amazing in their own skin


But, before long, the individual’s love and desire for healthy living can turn into an addiction, that has the person on edge if they (or life) are unable to control their food or exercise.


They begin to:

  • Lose touch with how they feel;


  • Lose touch with what balance really is;



  • Isolate or disconnect from social relationships, outings and events (because they can’t partake in the food; or relate to the others);


  • Experience great anxiety around food situations they can’t control (i.e. eating out, vacations, not having ‘their food’ to eat if ill prepared for the day);



  • Exercise because they ‘have to’ (exercise becomes a chore);


  • Make odd requests or overthink food (i.e. ‘Can you please make sure that chicken you cook does not so much as touch a drop of vegetable oil in the back?’; Calling restaurants ahead of time or looking at menus ahead of time for their grass-fed and organic options; Researching food on the Internet);



  • Count and track macronutrients daily to stick precisely within an allotted carb-fat-protein range;


  • Obsess about the latest in healthy living and eating (Continually expanding or exploring various dietary lifestyles; trying new diets; constantly changing their beliefs around healthy eating based on the latest research or newest fad);



  • Frequently talk about dietary preferences and healthy eating


In other words: Healthy living and eating does go too far.



And ‘healthy living’ can look different for multiple people.


For some, ‘healthy living’ is aligned with:


  • A bodybuilding style mentality: Strict 5-6 small meals a day of egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast, a scoop of protein powder in water for snack, chicken and broccoli for lunch, salmon and broccoli for dinner, and a fat free Jell-O cup for ‘dessert’; Cardio workouts for 45-minutes in the mornings followed by gym weight sessions for 90-minutes in the afternoons; And no carbs WHATSOEVER after 12 p.m., noon.


  • Or, a raw vegan ‘way of life’—Feeling pure with fresh juiced fruits and veggies in the morning, followed by a kale salad with lemon juice and pinenuts at lunch, and a hearty vegetable soup for dinner; Paired with long exhilarating morning hikes, rock-climbing excursions or hot yoga sessions on the daily


  • Or, strict vegetarianism in the name of the animals! Plenty of fruits and veggies and vegetarian sources of protein (occasionally eggs, nuts and seeds, and tofu); A thriving yoga practice or running regime; Fun with cooking tons of great vegetarian recipes;



  • Or, a Paleolithic methodology—Grains, legumes, dairy are the devil; Primal fitness through sprinting, lifting heavy things and walking long distances; Eating their food with their hands;


  • Or, the Standard American ‘Diet’ Mentality: 1200 calories per day, opting for the low-fat or low-sugar options on the shelves as much as possible; Choosing Diet Coke vs. regular soda; Getting their 30-60 minutes of exercise in daily on the elliptical or treadmill;


  • Or athletic performance and a LOVE for exercise: Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make us HAPPY. And therefore, the more the better right? So we pound it…hard. This may occur out of pure training purposes (training for a marathon, Iron Man, competition) or simply out of aesthetic reasons (“I want to look good naked”).


And on and on.


And while NONE of these one ways is inherently ‘BAD’ in nature (after all, each person is pursuing health)…they all can go BAD…very BAD…when one’s life becomes (I’ll say it once again), unmanageable.


Unfortunately, this ‘gray’ mentality can easily sneak up on anyone of us who truly aspires to lead healthy lifestyles.


So where does the separator lie? What separates a genuinely healthy lifestyle and mindset, from an orthorexic mentality and lifestyle?


The answer is NOT black or white. It really comes down to the individual.


It’s really all a matter of checking in with yourself.


What does BALANCE look like for you?



Has your life become unmanageable in any areas in particular due to your food and/or fitness patterns?


Does anxiety frequently creep in when faced with a change to your nutrition or fitness routine?


If so…take a DEEP breath, first and foremost.


It is OK if and when you do feel this way, or if you do experience these symptoms.


And the best part?


It does NOT have to be this way.


You can actually have your cake AND eat it too when it comes to healthy living (while keeping sane).


And it doesn’t mean you have to make yourself eat a cheeseburger and French fries in order to prove to yourself (or anyone else) that you are ‘over’ this obsession with healthy living and eating (in fact, I find, often times, those who struggle with orthorexia do not really feel deprived from such ‘splurges’ or feel like they are denying themselves foods that others may easily crave, like sugar, or grains, or take-out).


What it DOES mean is that there is FREEDOM in the mind and in your daily life to not feel so weighed down by rules or mandates.


Things like:


  • You are not a lesser person or your body is not any less healthy if you so happen to eat a food off Whole Foods hot bar that was cooked in some canola oil on the ingredient label;


  • If you don’t get your full workout in that day—you are NOT a failure, nor do you have to work twice as hard the next day in the gym to pay your pentence (you can move forward and go on);


  • If you planned to eat a veggie burger and broccoli for lunch, but you happen to be out with a friend at the mall, and she asks if you’d like to grab a bite, you CAN go ahead and go with the flow (knowing you can always have that veggie burger another time);


  • If you really want an almond butter cookie made with some raw honey in it…you CAN have an almond butter cookie (regardless of vowing to cut out all sugar at all times);


  • If the group fitness workout was not as hard as you thought it would be, you don’t have to ‘make up’ for it by sticking around to do extra because you ‘have to’ or have to restrict to compensate for not working as hard;


  • If you wake up feeling tired off of 5-hours of sleep, you don’t have to go run that 10-miles you had originally planned on running;


  • You can go out to a restaurant and do your best to order some sort of meat and veggie dish, without requesting to inspect the kitchen or the hands that prepare your food to make sure it has no contaminents whatsoever;


  • You can buy the regular grade A chicken breast, over the organic free-range chicken this week as you are watching your budget;


  • You can bite into an apple in the breakroom at work—even though it was not labeled at organic a



You get the picture…I’LL SAY IT AGAIN: YOU CAN BE FREE.


Here’s a handful of THRIVE’s key tips for coming back to balance from an orthorexic mindset:


  1. What would healthy me do? WWHMD? I ‘preach’ it often. Check in with yourself. What would the genuinely healthy version of yourself do in this situation? The genuinely healthy you who has a BALANCED approach to wellness? Embody her and make decisions as she would make (or not make) when it comes to how you act, respond and integrate healthy lifestyle choices into your daily routine.


  1. 80/20. Eating is NOT a game of perfection. We eat thousands of meals throughout our lifetime. Chances are, not one of us can be or will be 100% as far as any of our rules, or beliefs about healthy vs. unhealthy. So…reeeeelaxxxx, Remind yourself, on balance, you will aim to fuel your body with healthy eats that energize you and make you feel great; but that ‘20%’ of the time is a buffer zone! A little dirt never hurt (similar to immunity and illness—you actually need some of that ‘dirt’ to build up your immune system). Consider your 20% of ‘not caring’ as necessary for your MENTAL HEALTH and BALANCE if anything.


  1. Get educated—but not overly educated. Knowledge is POWER! And knowledge and education about how food works to fuel and energize us is fascinating (heck, I didn’t study nutrition for no reason!). Sometimes though, education can suck us in. the world wide web alone has millions of resources and articles and blogs for us to read up on the latest in health news. It cracks me up too how some health stories can be considered ‘breaking news’ (like this story that ran on the Today Show several weeks ago about the latest in the battle of ‘Low Carb’ vs. ‘Low Fat’ Diets). Definitely get educated…but put a cap on it too. You know you’re going overboard when you are continually shifting or being influenced by various diet philosophies, findings and beliefs; or you are spending a vast majority of your time (‘free time’ and work time) reading, learning and obsessing over food and health.


  1. Find Other Things that Bring You Life. Being in the world of health and nutrition for a career, I, like many, can easily find health and wellness to be a hobby—something I genuinely love doing, and empowering others to embrace as well. However, I keep balance by reminding myself to find ‘life’ or joy in other things in my life as well—like my writing, and volunteering in the community (with the homeless, kids and nursing home), and getting outside in the great outdoors, and exploring Austin, and sitting in cool coffee shops and reading, and people watching, and spending time with friends…do things, and find hobbies outside of food and/or fitness as well. It makes for a more balanced life.


Meal Prep Friday


It’s Friday, which means I am sharing a few fun recipes with you to whip up this weekend during your meal prep for the week! (And a couple you can even enjoy while watching weekend football!)


Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin spices are finally back lining the shelves! (Along with Jac-o-Lanterns and Halloween/fall décor…crazy?!). Even though it’s still 90+ degrees here in Texas, we can still get in the fall spirit!




  • 5 Eggs
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree (pumpkin only)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil or grass-fed butter (softened)
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp honey or a few drops of stevia extract



  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Place all ingredients in medium sized bowl
  • Mix until smooth and well incorporated with a whisk or immersion blender. (If batter is too thick, add a little water to thin, but don’t let it get runny at all)
  • Pour batter into greased muffin tins.
  • Bake for 12-18 minutes (muffins) until lightly browned and set in middle.


White Chicken Chili (Indigestion Free)


Chili typically is known for lots of kick and indigestion (from tomatoes and chili powder). Avoid both of those—without sacrificing the taste with this recipe.



2lbs chicken breast

Sea salt, to taste

1 onion, chopped

4 celery ribs, sliced

8 cloves garlic, sliced

1 (13.5 oz) can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

3 cups organic chicken broth

1 yellow pepper, seeded, sliced

3 yellow, Hannah Jane Sweet Potatoes, diced (or Parsnips)

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon cumin



  • Season the chicken breast with sea salt and brown in a

10.25-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

  • Transfer browned chicken to a crockpot along with onion,

celery, garlic, coconut milk, chicken broth, yellow pepper, potatoes, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and oregano. Stir to combine everything and top off with a pinch of sea salt.

  • Add lid and cook on high for 6 hours.
  • Using 2 forks, shred the chicken breast and spoon into bowls.
  • Top with a pinch of sea salt.


Turkey Sliders with Avocado Slaw



For the burgers

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • onion powder & garlic powder, to taste
  • sea salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1-2 tsp coconut oil (for cooking on stove)


For the slaw

  • 1 small head of cabbage or bag of cabbage, chopped (or broccoli slaw)
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste




  • Add all your ingredients for your burgers in a large bowl.
  • Shape into 4 burger patties.
  • Heat up a large skillet under medium heat with coconut oil and add your sliders. Flip after about 4-5 minutes, when lightly browned on one side
  • Cook to desired done-ness.


  • Add all ingredients for the slaw (other than the cabbage) to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  • Pour your avocado “mayo” on the cabbage and mix.
  • Top off with a bit of salt and pepper.
  • Place slaw on sliders and eat up!
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