Mixed Food Container Counts

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“How do I count this food?” is by far the most often question I get asked by my 21 Day Fix challengers.  They’re so hungry for success (pun intended) that they want to do everything right: nail those container counts down to the crumb, make sure they’re doing workouts in the proper order, drinking Shakeology, and so on.

In an ideal 21 Day Fix world, how to measure food would be clear-cut, but some of the best recipes have a myriad of ingredients.  They’re healthy, contain Fix-approved foods, but seem impossible to know how to count.  I will tell you my strategy to measure mixed foods, as well as my coaching philosophy.

Learn to Fly

I want to give my challengers the tools to not just learn how to figure out container counts on their own but work towards a sustainable healthy lifestyle.   Instead of holding their hands all the way through their weight loss journey, I want to teach them to fly.  As a coach, this means teaching them to listen to your their body’s cues, the effects of macronutrients and how to select the best foods for them whether they’re on the 21 Day Fix foods list or not.

Keep in mind that this is a lifestyle.   The 21 Day Fix does a great job of teaching you the basics of clean eating, but you also have to live a little.  I’m not saying you should cheat a lot with your containers and foods you eat, because if you do you won’t see results, but rather don’t get worked up if you eat something that isn’t on the list or don’t nail the exact container.  Part of learning how to live within the parameters of clean eating long-term is a valuable lesson too.

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Serving Sizes

One of the reasons I don’t list container counts on all my recipes is simply that serving sizes vary according to how much of it you eat.  This may sound like a no-brainer, so let me explain.  I am a big proponent of eating according to your body’s cues.  If I’m hungry, I may eat more than when I’m not.  Some lunches I may eat half a green container, other days a container and a half.   If I tell you a serving size is one green container and that doesn’t fill you up, I have done a disservice.  Or, conversely, the same principle applies if you are eating more than you need to. I want my challengers to listen to their bodies.  I tell them to eat only when hungry, and stop when they’re satisfied.

It’s in The Book

Most of the questions my challengers ask are already covered in the 21 Day Fix Eating Plan book.  Be sure to read the book from cover to cover before you start.   Eventually the information inside will become second nature to you, but read it first so you know what information is already there.   Refer back to it frequently.  Not sure how to count things?  Pages 70-71 is KEY to understanding how to measure mixed foods and things not on the list.  This guideline was derived from those pages.


  • If possible, measure your foods in the containers before you mix and/or combine them.  If you’re making a salad, for example, measure the greens in the green container, seeds in the orange, dressing as teaspoons, and so on.  Then, divide the total container count by the number of servings your dish yields.   This is the easiest, most accurate way to count mixed foods.
  • According to the 21 Day Fix Mixed Food guide, most mixed foods are measured in the green container, regardless of whether or not it contains green container foods.  This equals one serving.  HOWEVER – This is only used to measure.  It does not necessarily mean you check off the green container.
  • Make note of the different types of foods your mixed food contains (red, blue, and so on).
  • If your mixed food contains flour/grain/starchy foods such as pasta or breads count TWO yellows instead of one.
  • Use mixed foods/container counts listed on 71 as as reference.  If what you are eating contains similar food groups, cross off corresponding containers.
  • It is acceptable to check off half or third of a container on your tally sheet

Clean Eating Turkey LasagnaEXAMPLES:

Let’s say you’re eating turkey lasagna.  Use your green container to measure your serving.  The main components of the dish are pasta (yellow), meat (red), and cheese (blue).  Cross off two yellows, one red and one blue.  Do not cross off a green container.

Next, let’s use red quinoa salad as an example.  Use your green container to measure your serving.  The main components of the dish are quinoa, chickpeas, and veggies.  This time, check off two yellow (for the quinoa and chickpeas), one orange for the dressing.  I consider the veggies in here a “freebie” and wouldn’t cross off a green.  Also, the feta in the salad is so minimal I wouldn’t count that either.

Bottom line, understand the process and use common sense.

Other Tools to Use

I highly recommend the Fooducate App to my challengers.  Its a great tool to use for analyzing nutrition, but also makes it easy to judge the food’s “healthy” quotient by giving it a letter grade from A to F.  For foods that are not on the 21 Day Fix foods list, anything with an A or A- rating (in my opinion) should also be on the “approved” list.  For example, greens like kelp, watercress and Swiss chard are not listed in the book, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them.  Sometimes a little common sense (along with a little research) is all you need to put into practice.

Feel Free to “Cheat”

Not sticking to the plan 100% is not necessarily a bad thing.  If your body is craving protein, you can and should eat that extra red container.  Whether a turnip or beet is a yellow or green doesn’t really matter.  Eat it.  It’s good for you.   In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a limit on greens.  The first thing I’d advise dropping to get over a plateau is a yellow.  If you are stuffed every day and not dropping weight, go down a calorie bracket.  Knowing when and how to shake up the plan is a good thing.  My point is this:  Your body intuitively knows what it needs.  Listen to it.

Use Common Sense

Keep this in mind:  Success with the program does not always mean following it to a T.  For my challengers, it means using the 21 Day Fix as a guideline to re-learn healthy habits and instill lifelong changes, and maintaining those changes.   I’d rather have them learn about food and nutrition, experiment on their own, and follow the 80/20 rule (following the plan 80% of the time, 20% winging it).   It’s much easier to figure out and maintain long-term.


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