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Thursday, May 26, 2016

What are trigger foods? The good, the bad, and the yummy. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

By Dr. Jon Thomas, DC, PSc.D, Board Certified Chiropractic Physician.

One of the things I talk about frequently with NutriMost patients is trigger foods. Within medical research trigger foods have been studied widely involving migraines, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, acid reflux, gout, and even obesity! One key is to understand what is meant by “trigger” food.

Weight watchers has a very helpful definition of trigger foods. “A trigger food is a specific food that sets off a course of overeating where control is lost. The most common trigger foods are calorie-dense, highly palatable foods that are often combinations of sugar and fat (e.g. ice cream, cookies) or fat and salt (e.g. nuts, potato chips, French fries).”

Trigger foods go even deeper then this! It has everything to do how foods relate to your metabolism! Understanding what foods YOUR body metabolizes well and what ones disrupt your bodies functions is key, especially important for anyone endeavoring to lose weight.

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Recovering alcoholics sometimes say that one drink is too many and a hundred drinks are not enough. Trigger foods can be like that. One Oreo cookie leads to another, and another, and another, until finally the package is empty. And then it’s time for a run to the grocery store.

Is there any hope for a hardcore Oreo addict? There is once they understand how the food impacts them and what alternatives are available that don’t affect them in the same way. Many people eat trigger foods and don’t realize its impacts as it affects how the metabolism functions and shifts the body into fat storage. This imbalance leads to excess fat storage resulting in being overweight and obese.

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The food could be chili cheese French fries, pizza, chocolate chip ice cream, or grandma’s biscuits and gravy, but the result could be apparent or not. In fact, some of these foods may have no impact at all and be safe “indulgences.”

“It's basically encoded in our DNA to binge on salty, fatty, and sugary foods or on various combinations of the three. Back in the day, foods with high levels of these nutrients (and ergo, lots of calories) were rarely found in nature, so when our hunter-gatherer ancestors discovered them, they ate them to completion to ensure they wouldn't, you know, die of starvation later.” The Foods You're Most Likely To Binge On, Stephanie Eckelkamp, Prevention Magazine

How can people deal with trigger foods?

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Most human beings are vulnerable to one or more trigger foods. Many of us know exactly what those foods are or we can figure it out. For example, if you grew up eating every morsel of chocolate you could find on Christmas morning and you’ve been doing that ever since, chocolate might be a trigger food for you.

Change starts with awareness. Make a list of the foods that you know you have difficulty with every time. Whether its that you can’t stop at just one, or you observe bloating and weight gain after eating them. Those foods could include salmon, hummus, pizza, doughnuts, tortilla chips, peanuts, Girl Scout cookies of any variety, fried chicken, Chinese food, pasta, cheese, chocolate cake, vanilla cake, pineapple upside down cake – the list of possible trigger foods could go on and on.

Make note of variations in form that change the way you react to a food. For example, someone might lose control when eating salted peanuts, but might not have a problem at all with unsalted peanuts. Or, perhaps muffins with chocolate chips are a problem while plain muffins are not.

After you have begun to identify your trigger foods, you can start taking steps to avoid them. First, stop buying foods that cause problems for you. That sounds incredibly simple, but there are people who know which foods are a problem and continue to keep those foods in the house. Even though they have a problem every time they eat it, they keep it around. Don’t do that if you don’t have to.  

If someone else in your home likes your trigger foods and keeps them around, you might not be able to keep them all out of your house. If possible, have those stored either out of sight or somewhere behind healthier foods.

The NutriMost program educates people about trigger foods. It also helps people to identify their own trigger foods and to develop strategies for avoiding them. If you’d like to find out more about NutriMost.


In this article, I have discussed trigger foods, how they work, to recognize them, and how to avoid them.

If you have a comment about this article, please leave it in the comments section below. If you know of someone who might benefit from the information in this blog, please share it with your friends, colleagues, and on social media.

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At Vibrant Life, we address all of the key elements to add vibrance and vitality to your life. This includes nutrition, chiropractic care, and fitness. If you need to consult with a chiropractor about your neck, back, or any other health concern, please contact our office to set up an appointment.

Dr. Jon Thomas is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician. His practice, The Vibrant Life Health Center, is located in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville. His interest in health and fitness started early, and his athletic pursuits have included BMX racing, Professional Snow Skiing, Water Skiing, Baseball, Weightlifting, and Martial Arts. After studying and learning from some of the top health experts throughout the world, Dr. Thomas dedicated his life to helping people of all ages to transform their lives. The objective for each patient is to initiate the body’s healing and to work progressively toward a body that functions optimally. Dr. Thomas is seen regularly on TV on First Coast Living, where he discusses the transformations of his patients. He also speaks at events throughout the community and writes informative articles to improve the health of residents throughout Jacksonville.


  1. The real problem is that supermarkets are set up to broadcast trigger food everywhere you look. They should be required to put the Surgeon General's warning on the aisles that contain cookies and ice cream.

  2. It's too bad that sometimes when things taste good, they're actually bad for you.