As a follow-up to last week’s Wellness Wednesday, I asked Kelly Ferraro, my friend and nutritionist, to share some ideas about Sometimes Foods.

Remember the Lay’s Potato Chip slogan, “You can’t eat just one”?

The folks at Lay’s were right and they knew it. In fact, they made their potato chips that way on purpose. Why is it so hard to limit those types of foods? It’s all about science and brain chemistry. Certain foods are hyperpalatable. Possessing the perfect combination of sugar, fat and salt, they can stimulate feel-good chemicals in our brain. Certain emotions can disrupt the feel-good chemicals, leaving a deficit which can create cravings for foods that can stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals.

Creating these hyperpalatable foods is the goal of food manufacturers. This is referred to as the “Bliss Point”. It is that precise combination of sugar, fat and salt that excites our brain and keeps us coming back for more. The result, of course, is that we overeat these hyperpalatable foods because they are more attractive to the human brain.

We commonly refer to hyperpalatable foods as junk food, treats, snacks, unhealthy and processed. When Kelly and her team coach their clients, they call these Sometimes Foods. This gives some indication of how often we can and should indulge. Sometimes. But what does that mean? Here are some guidelines for managing Sometimes Foods.

  1. Sometimes Foods are calorie dense, nutrient poor foods best consumed in small amounts. Think of them as a condiment. Portion control is extremely important when consuming these foods.
  2. To determine if a food choice is a Sometimes Food, use the following guide:
    1. More than 10 grams of sugar per serving and/or
    2. More than 10 grams of fat per serving and/or
    3. More than 400 mg of sodium per serving
  3. How do you fit Sometimes Foods into your life in a healthy way?
    1. Decide how often you want to incorporate Sometimes Foods into your eating: Monthly? Week? Daily?
    2. Assess your goals. Do you want to maintain your health and weight or would you prefer to get healthier and/or lose weight?
    3. Exchange a Sometimes Food for a grain/starch or fat:
  • 1 Sometimes Food = 1 grain/starch
  • 1 Sometimes Food = 2 fats


Example: You are going out for pizza and want to eat 2 slices (800 calories) of a large pizza. This is equivalent to 16 fat servings or 8 starch servings or a combination of the two: 4 starch servings and 8 fat servings. You would need to save your fat and/or starch servings throughout

the week to accommodate the pizza.


Following is a list of common Sometimes Foods and portions equaling 100 calories per serving.


Alcohol, liquor 1 shot                                French fries 1/2 of a small serving                   Pizza, frozen 1/3 of a slice

Alcohol, wine 4 oz                                      Frozen yogurt 1/2 cup                                          Pizza, restaurant 1/4 of one slice

Alcohol, beer 12 oz                                    Hard candy 3 pieces                                              Popsicles 2 singles

Bacon 2 slices                                               Honey 2 tablespoons                                            Potato chips 10 chips

Banana bread 1/2 slice                             Hot dog with bun 1/2 of one                             Pudding, sugar added 1/3 cup

Bratwurst with bun 1/4 of one              Ice cream, vanilla 1/3 cup                                   Sausage 1/2 of one link

Brownies 1 two-inch square                  Juice, sugar added 3/4 cup                                 Sherbert 1/2 cup

Cake 1/16 of a layer cake                        Maple syrup 2 tablespoons                                Soda, sugar added 3/4 can

Cheesecake 1/12 of a cake                     Muffins 1/2 of a small muffin                            Sweet potato fries 1/3 cup

Chocolate candy 2 small squares         Pancakes 3/4 to 1 pancake                                 Tater tots 5 tots

Cookies 1/3 of one                                     Pastries, fruit-filled 1/3 of one                          Tortilla chips 8 chips

Donuts 1/4 of one                                      Pie 1/3 of a slice


Cutting back on Sometimes Foods while eating a daily diet of nutrient dense foods like water, vegetables, lean protein and fruit gives us a healthy foundation and fuels our bodies properly. It also helps us stay more satiated so we don’t find ourselves reaching for the Lay’s!

If you have questions, please contact Kelly at

From our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training