Do you have to count calories to lose weight? + thai quinoa coleslaw

***Did you see? I have compiled all of my recipes in one, easy to navigate recipe index–check it out here.***

Why calorie counting has (some) benefits, even on a whole foods vegan diet | bring joy

 A big question people often have is: do you have to count calories to lose weight?

The answer is–no.

But it does help (a lot).

Like a budget, it gives you direction & helps you stay within the parameters you need to make sure you’re burning more calories than you’re take in (which will result in weight loss). I know there are a lot of diets that say: just eat these foods & you’ll never have to count calories again. Lowfat, no-oil vegan diets advertise this benefit, but I don’t take this approach (see Is Dr. McDougall right? for more of my thoughts on lowfat diets). I think there is value in counting calories (at least for a time, or for periods of time, when needed), even if you’re eating a whole foods vegan diet.

Though I confess, I hate counting calories.

But each time, after I have a baby & need to lose weight, I know I need to start out tracking my food & counting calories. I like the Weight Watcher’s point system & use it for about 8-10 weeks. I like the Weight Watcher’s system because it keeps things simple (somehow tracking single digits is much easier than triple, quadruple digits).

After that, I’ve gotten into the rhythm of weight loss & have a pretty good idea of what I need to eat (including kinds of foods & portions) I stop tracking food & calories. If I find that I’m not losing weight after making the switch, I go back to tracking food for a few days to help me get back on track. For some people, they may need to track their food intake for much longer,

I do believe in intuitive, volume eating (particularly of whole plant foods), & ultimately this trumps calorie counting.

But there is some value in knowing calorie counts. It’s like, if you’re trying to get out of debt, it would be ridiculous to say, “I don’t need to keep track of my spending or have a budget. I’ll just spend less.” It’s far more effective to have a plan of action, to have a budget, & to keep track of all your expenditures. The same goes for weight loss. Keeping track of calories can help you to make better decisions throughout the day. A matter of a mere hundred calories each day (an extra helping at dinner, say), is enough to sabotage efforts to lose weight.

{I go into much greater detail about the role of calories & weight loss in my ebook, Fit, Strong, Lean: The Diet. You can check it out here.}

So, with that in mind, I’m at the point where I’m going to take the training wheels off & stop keeping track of food intake. We’ll see how it goes in next week’s weight loss report.

Weight Loss Update

{You can see all prior updates, here.}

starting weight: 204 lbs. 


present weight: 175.2 lbs. 


I just had to add this picture. I love those blue blue eyes.


Total loss this week: 2 lbs.
Total overall loss: 29 lbs. 

*fist pump*

Also, I mentioned on facebook that, this week marks the first time I’m able to wear non-maternity jeans! It feels so awesome to be able to wear my old clothes again.

I was telling Joseph that in a little less than 3 months, I’ve lost 29 pounds. This means I’ve burned over 70,000 more calories than I’ve eaten.

Had I just maintained my weight, think of how much more food I could have eaten! (Soo much ice cream….)

Yet, the thing is, on the Fit, Strong, Lean diet, I rarely feel hungry. I don’t feel deprived. And I’m certainly not relying on will power. It’s because high-fiber, nutrient dense plant foods (like these) fill me up, give me energy & nutrients, on fewer calories.


This week’s fit recipe: Thai Quinoa Coleslaw


thai quinoa coleslaw | vegan + gluten-free | bring joy

This vegan, naturally gluten-free dish is quick & tasty.

My kids are just like other kids & have their finicky moments, especially when it comes to salads. But this one is a hit with them. And like so many of my salads, this is a salad meal (filling enough on it’s own).

Thai Quinoa Coleslaw

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Serving Size: 1/8th of the recipe (about 2 cups)

Calories per serving: 332 calories

Fat grams per serving: 13 g

Thai Quinoa Coleslaw

a quick & easy quinoa salad with a Thai twist


    for the salad:
  • 1/2 head medium/large green cabbage
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 c. peanuts (or cashews)
  • for the dressing:
  • 2 TBS. agave
  • 2 TBS. raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBS. rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TBS. sesame oil
  • 3 TBS. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered Asian ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • for the quinoa:
  • 1 TBS. coconut oil
  • 2 c. quinoa | red or plain
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce (or Bragg's liquid aminos)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. siracha sauce (or 1 tsp. if sensitive to heat)
  • 1/2 block firm frozen tofu (defrosted) --optional


  1. First, the tofu in the quinoa is totally optional, but adds some extra protein to the meal. I like using frozen tofu that has been defrosted (make sure to squeeze out all the water before using) because when crumbled, it has a nice chewy texture (similar to eggs in fried rice, I think).
  2. On medium heat in a large cast iron skillet, melt coconut oil.
  3. Using a fine sieve, rinse quinoa under warm water & make sure to drain all the water (give it a few shakes).
  4. Add quinoa to skillet.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, stir until all quinoa is coated. Continue to toast quinoa, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.
  6. Add water, turn up heat to high & bring to a boil.
  7. Cover the quinoa, & turn heat down to medium low. Cook for 15 minutes.
  8. While quinoa is cooking, peel & slice carrots into thin, long pieces. Place carrots in large salad bowl.
  9. Dice celery. Add to carrots.
  10. Slice cabbage lengthwise into thin slices, then chop into small pieces (doesn't have to be perfect, just try to make pieces smaller). Add to salad bowl.
  11. Whisk vinegars with agave, sauce & sesame oil. Add garlic & ginger powders & whisk again. Set aside.
  12. After 15 minutes, remove lid from quinoa. All the liquid should be absorbed. "Fluff" quinoa by stirring with a wooden spatula.
  13. Squeeze all the water out of tofu & crumble into small pieces. Add to quinoa. Whisk soy sauce & siracha & pour over tofu. Toss tofu & quinoa until tofu is incorporated.
  14. Return to the salad. Pour dressing over salad . Chop the peanuts. Add cilantro & chopped peanuts & toss.
  15. To serve: serve a cup or so of salad over a cup of quinoa.
  16. Leftovers keep refrigerated for 3-4 days.

45 g carbs, 12 g protein, 6.5 g fiber, 571 mg sodium, 9 g sugar; 9 WWP points

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!





P.S. If you’re looking for some Easter fare inspiration, check out Angela’s roundup of 23 vegan Easter menu ideas. Also, Cara has some adorable vegan & gluten-free Easter peeps & vegan gluten-free lemon bunny sugar cookies, you might want to check out!

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  1. Mary
    on March 30, 2015 at 11:58 am said:

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, but I stumbled upon yours and wanted to leave you a compliment. You and your little one are just beautiful. Love the recipes!

  2. Alanna
    on April 21, 2014 at 3:39 pm said:

    Wow! Consider yourself high-fived! Way to go, girl!

    Your little man is gorgeous. I’m happy he’s in your post.

    Thank you for this recipe! I’m stoked to try it. Hopefully my kids will dig it––they’ve been super finicky with salads lately.

    I like your thoughts on having a calorie “budget”. I catch myself all the time thinking, “I’ll just eat less.” Haha! Never works.

  3. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on April 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm said:

    This recipe is beautiful! So fresh and seasonal, I am definitely going to have to try it!

    I tend to agree with you on counting calories. I don’t think we need to obsess over them but I do think they provide valuable guidelines, particularly in terms of how much of something we should be eating. It helps us re-educate ourselves in terms of what our bodies need so we can move towards eating intuitively without counting- just as you say you do 🙂

    You look wonderful but the way!!! And those blue eyes- oh man, they floored me 🙂

  4. Anna-Lena Stöwhase
    on April 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm said:

    Wow! You look great! (And so does your baby) Althoug I still haven’t started my weight-loss jorney (baby no 3 is 6 months now) it’s motivating to see how drastically your shape changes in such a short time.

  5. Katie @ 24 Carrot Life
    on April 19, 2014 at 9:46 am said:

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been following along on bloglovin’. I love your budget and weight loss posts and you look great! I completely agree with what you said here. Have you looked into tracking macros which is a bit beyond counting calories in that you also count your protein, carbs and fat? I’ve been doing that for a few months to really lean out and I was surprised by how much protein I should be eating and how little I was eating before even though I’ve always been a healthy eater. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey!

    • Janae Wise
      on April 19, 2014 at 10:00 am said:

      Hi Katie!

      I don’t count macros, but I do aim for at least 70ish grams of protein a day (usually ends up being closer to 80 or 90 some days). Totally helps to have sufficient protein–helps with satiety for sure (among other things).

  6. Emma
    on April 19, 2014 at 8:36 am said:

    Crazy that you’ve lost nearly 30 lbs! That sounds so much to me. I don’t need to lose any weight but your approach seems very sensible, and is obviously working.
    When I get back to England I’m going to start tracking my spending (money not calories!)
    Thanks for sharing the pics of your gorgeous little babe 🙂

    • Janae Wise
      on April 19, 2014 at 9:56 am said:

      I know, 30 lbs. is a lot! And, in kinda a short amount of time too. I know the weight loss will likely slow down to more like 1 pound a week (as opposed to 2 or more), especially as I get closer to my pre-pregnancy weight–but can I say, it feels so good to be shedding the extra weight!

      Thanks for your kind words, Emma! You are so sweet to take the time to always leave thoughtful comments.

  7. Lisa C.
    on April 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm said:

    Oh, what a sweet, sweet baby! He’s just precious.

    And you’re doing great! I know that this seems like a silly thing to complain about- but I had a stressful winter and gained about 5 lbs. I’m just beside myself. Again, I KNOW I sound silly. I know that I am lucky that I normally don’t have to do much to maintain my happy weight. I don’t even know where to start but I want these 5 lbs off for summer!

    • Janae Wise
      on April 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm said:

      Thank you Lisa!

      “Again, I KNOW I sound silly”
      No, not at all! Winter is hard for a number of reasons, & weight gain is not uncommon. I’m sure you’re not alone in gaining a few lbs. during the bleak winter months.

      And don’ worry–5 lbs. isn’t much–though I’m sure it seems like it now. Try having to lose almost 60! I can’t believe I’ve lost almost 30, but I still have about 30 more to go…That should give you some perspective 😉