Monday, December 29, 2014

Healthy New Year's Resolution Ideas

It is just about the New Year and that makeover!  Cue the 200 people who say, "January 1st I am starting my diet." If your wondering, I met about 100 of those people at work in the past month. Maybe your looking for something different as a resolution? Or maybe, you want to be "healthy," but don't know where to start. This is where I come in! Here are my top 5 resolution ideas :)

Idea #1: Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle
Weight-loss can sometimes bring on some "not-so-healthy" behaviors. Fad diets, unsafe supplements, and extremely low-calorie plans are just a few of the many methods for the "quick fix." Being healthy is not about being on a diet. It's not about making changes that you can only keep for 3-4 weeks (because they are that extreme). It's not about cutting out everything you enjoy. Being healthy is about choosing nutrient-rich foods, but indulging every once in a while (if you see fit). It's about a long-term commitment to health. There is no magic pill for weight-loss (even though 90% of people who come to me for nutrition advice expect that). Focus on adopting reasonable and healthy habits that your can incorporate into your lifestyle. Try goals like: including a fruit or vegetable at each meal/snack, or cutting back on high-calorie/sugary beverage, or choosing lean meats and healthy fats.

Idea #2: Don't Skip Meals
One of the most skipped meals is breakfast, which if you didn't hear already is the most important meal of the day. Skipping meals can slow your metabolism (impairing your body from burning calories efficiently) and lead to overeating. Think about it, you skip breakfast, run to work, and are faced with the best looking donuts. Your blood sugar has dropped, your energy is poor, and wow those donuts look good. If instead, you had a balanced breakfast (protein, fat, carbohydrates) like eggs and a side of fruit, you might have more of the "willpower" to walk away without indulging. Cheers to a fully and happy breakfast belly! Remember, keep your meals simple and balanced with some healthy protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Idea #3: Enjoy Family Meals
Eating family meals is a great way to get all members to adopt healthier habits. Make a plan each week to choose and prepare a new fruit or vegetable. Get other family members involved in the meal planning and challenge your family to create their own healthy meal ideas! When everyone gets involved, they are more likely to try new foods.

Idea #4: Exercise
While nutrition is a huge part of the resolution planning, exercise is another. Get fit together with a friend to help keep you motivated. Try new exercise classes, a new walking route, or grab a fitness DVD to change it up! Remember to track your progress and goals to stay with your plan!

Idea #5: Personal Change
Maybe you are not one to partake in the nutrition/fitness aspect of the resolutions. Another idea can be to think about what personal change you want to make in your life. Maybe it is a business endeavor you want to pursue. Maybe you want to start giving back through volunteering. Maybe you want to focus on being a more open-minded person. Whatever the case may be, start with a year long goal first and then break that into small short-term goals to keep you on track.

Wondering what my New Year's Resolution is? I am going to spend more time on starting my private nutrition practice, aka stop being afraid of making the big decisions :)

Click here for my --> blog <--on how to make those resolutions stick!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

It is just about that time of the year again! What time do you ask? The time to start making your New Year's Resolutions. I bet many of you are thinking, "this year I really am sticking to my resolutions," or "I want to lose weight this year" or "I'm really going to start going to the gym." Whatever you are planning to do in the New Year, here are some tips to make your resolutions stick!

Tip #1: Be Specific!
Write down your goals and be as specific as you can. Saying "I am going to eat healthier," is too vague. Plus, do you know what "healthier" is? Do you know how you plan to "get healthy." Create action goals like "eat at least 2 fruits per day" or "replace 1 sweetened beverage per day with water." Goals like this are specific and can help you to reach your "get healthy goal."

Tip #2: Make it Meaningful!
Don't just make a "weight-loss goal" or "give up chocolate" because that is what everyone else is doing. Make a goal that is important to you and you are more likely to see it through.

Tip #3: Choose Your Reward!
Keep yourself motivated by offering a reward after you reached each small goal. These rewards can be: a massage, movie night, etc. You can also stay motivated by tracking your success on a calendar. Let's say that your resolution is to "Eat 2 fruits per day for 3 days/week." For each day you had 2 pieces of fruit you can put a smiley face on the date.

Tip #4: Make it Realistic!
Don't set your goal too high where you are setting yourself up for failure. A non-realistic goal would be to lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks. While losing 20 pounds can be a good end goal, think about how much weight-loss per week is realistic for you! Set up small steps to reach your goal and keep you on track!

Tip #5: Make it Timely!
Keeping tip #4 in mind, think about how long you want to give yourself to reach your goal. Will your resolution take 1 week? 1 month? 1 year? An example could be,"I will lose 20 pounds in 4 months." Keeping in mind tips #1-4 you can also say, "I will reach my goal by exercising 3 days per week for 30 minutes, etc." Putting a time on your goal can keep you motivated and heading in the right direction.

Remember to keep your goals simple and practical for the most success!

Stay tuned for my next blog on Healthy New Year's Resolution Ideas.

Happy New Year

Friday, December 5, 2014

Healthy Cooking Tips for One

It can seem difficult or overwhelming to cook for only one person when so many recipes give a yield for 4-6 people! Maybe you have been used to cooking for a large family or maybe just another loved one. Whatever the case may be, I am going to give you tips on how to shop and cook healthy for one. So, lets get started!

Tip #1: Make a Plan!
Use a calendar or some scrap paper to make your menu for the week. See what you already have in your cabinets so you are not spending extra money on things you don't need. It doesn't have to be super specific. For example: Monday (chicken with rice and veggie casserole), Tuesday (scrambled eggs with veggies), Wednesday (chicken soup using leftover rice), etc. Just having an idea for the week can help to keep your budget and health on track.

Tip #2: Be Careful with Fresh Produce!
Fresh produce is a great choice; however, if you don't plan correctly, you can be throwing away money. Be strategic with your fresh produce. If you buy lettuce, be sure to use it early in your weekly menu so it won't go bad. For fresh fruit, freeze it before it goes bad for use in smoothies or yogurt toppers later.

Tip #3: Use Frozen Fruits and Vegetables!
Frozen produce are just as nutritious as fresh produce and they won't spoil quickly. When choosing frozen options, look for ones without added sauces. You can use frozen produce for smoothies, soups, stir-fries and more!

Tip #4: Use Canned Fruits and Vegetables!
Canned beans can be a great addition to any salad or entree! Beans are a long-lasting food item on the shelves. Other canned vegetables can be a great option to fresh or frozen. To cut back on the sodium for canned veggies, buy low sodium options or drain and rinse. For canned fruits, buy them in their own juices or with the label "No Added Sugar." Again, canned fruit can be a great alternative to fresh or frozen. If I go for canned fruit, I love pairing with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for a protein source.

Tip #5: Cook Different Ways!
When you cook your meals, think about ways you can re-invent it into another meal. For example: Cook rice/quinoa as a side dish on Monday, then use for a casserole or soup for Tuesday. Baked chicken can be made into chicken salad!

Tip #6: Make Eggs for Dinner!
Don't feel like spending much time in the kitchen? Have eggs for dinner! Eggs are a great source of protein and choline. Make an egg scramble with veggies. Or, hard boil a batch of eggs for a quick snack or salad topper.

Tip #7: Make Your Favorite Casserole!
Just because you are only cooking for one, does not mean you cannot make your favorite casseroles. Make 1/2 or 1/4 the recipe and bake in a loaf pan (9x5 or 8x8).

Tip #8: Bulk Cook and Freeze!
If you don't want to make involved dinners every night, think about making your own freezer meals. Take 1 day to cook extra food and freeze in containers (labeled with date/contents). Then, you can just pull out and cook for a quick meal.

Tip #9: Bulk Buy and Freeze!
Supermarkets sell individually frozen chicken breasts/fish fillets; however, these can be quite costly. For a cheaper alternative, buy larger packages of meat/fish (look for sales) and pre-portion before you freeze at home.

Tip #10: Freeze Your Grains!
Cook rice/quinoa (or other grains) and freeze in muffin pans. After they are frozen, store "muffins" in a freezer baggie. Then, you can just defrost as needed!

I hope these tips help you in cooking for one! Try the Egg Strada or Pizza Tops recipes below :)

Egg Strada
2 eggs
1/4c milk
1/4c cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4c each diced onions and peppers
1/4 tsp each garlic, oregano, black pepper
Dash salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray oven-safe fish with non-stick spray.
2. Beat eggs and milk. Add veggies and cheese. Toss to coat.
3. Pour into dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Pizza Tops
Pita bread rounds (or bagel/sandwich thins)
Tomato/pasta sauce
Toppings: chicken, veggies, cheese

1. Place rounds/thins on small baking sheet.
2. Top with sauce and additional toppings.
**For this recipe, feel free to use leftovers from another meal for a small snack or light meal!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gluten-Free Pizza Recipe

All this week, I have been experimenting with different types of pizza crusts (whole wheat, flax and chia seeds, cauliflower, eggplant, etc). Mostly good results; however, my favorite one was made with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Whole Grain Mix. It was fairly cheap, $3.29 per 16oz bag, and tasted great! I was going to mix this with cauliflower; however, genius me left it in a brown bag in my kitchen and it went bad :/ I ended up using the recipe on the back of the bag for the crust and it is by far my favorite! I halved the recipe and make gluten-free cinnamon rolls along with it. Another win in the bag. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Gluten-Free Pizza 
Yield: two 12-inch pies or one 16-inch pie
1 pkg gluten free pizza crust
1 1/4c warm water
2 eggs
2T olive oil
1 yeast packet (comes in the bag)
Toppings: sauce, meat, cheese, etc

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs and oil to mixture and blend.
4. Add GF pizza crust mix and blend for 1 minute.
5. Split the dough in half and leave in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
6. Place dough on greased pizza pan. Using wet hands (really important), spread out dough to cover the full pan.
7. Bake for 7-9 minutes.
8. Top with desired toppings and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
**I used just a basil pasta sauce, rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, fresh spinach, and shredded cheddar/mozzarella cheese. Quick and tasty!

My finished product!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Top 5 Reasons to Get Off The Diet Wagon

Raise your hand if you like dieting. I bet no one, except that crazy lady in the corner, raised their hand (not that I could see you or anything :)). Most of us don't enjoy the crash dieting where we cut out our favorite foods only to massively crave them later. Most of us don't enjoy having to constantly tell people we are on a diet (for the 100th time). Most of us don't enjoy watching friends and family chow down on that delicious chocolate cake while we are stuck eating celery.

Despite having all these negatives attached to dieting, people still do it anyway! It may seem worth it to you at the moment; however, you are only recking havoc on your body (physically and emotionally). If you are wondering, "What do I do when I go off the diet wagon (permanently)," then keep reading because after my top 5 reasons for getting off the diet wagon you will see what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Without further adieu, here we go!

#1: End the horrible cycle of guilt
Scenario: You go to a friend's house for a party. There's chips, dip, desserts, etc (a diet-goer's worst nightmare). Unless you've brought your own stash of food, your surrounded by choices, and probably unhealthy ones. If you indulged in a few of these foods, you probably thought this at some point, "OMG. Tomorrow, I need to get back on my diet." Or you thought, "Well, there goes my diet for the day. I should just pig out now." Or you thought, "Great, there goes all my hard work into losing weight." Chances are that once you had those thoughts, you also had the wave of guilt. I'm saying this from experience too. I used to count calories, diet, and starve my body of the nutrients it needed. If I ever indulged in something I thought was "bad," I immediately gave myself the guilt-trip.  I was mad at my lack of self control, upset at the amount of food, and saddened by the fact that food had more control over me than I did. END THE CYCLE OF GUILT!

#1: What Does a Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?
Scenario: You go to that same friend's house. You have a few desserts and you feel good about it! You know you ate healthy before you came and you know you'll be eating healthy tomorrow. It is not a big deal that you indulged and you move on.

#2: Get your metabolism back on track
When you go on a diet that cuts calories drastically, your body responds by holding onto its energy reserves. It does that as part of a defense mechanism from eons ago when we had periods of starvation. So, if you think starving yourself will make you lose weight, your in for a surprise. You'll probably lose a few pounds in the beginning; however, you will plateau. Your metabolism turns to sludge while your body works to maintain life. On the contrary, by feeding yourself the proper amount of food each day, your metabolism increases and is more efficient at burning calories. (Side note: your metabolism also increases via exercise, especially weight-training).

#2: What Does a Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?
Feed your body the nutrients it needs. Don't go for long periods without eating. More often than not, extended periods without food can cause binge-eating at the next meal. Balance your meals with healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

#3: Eliminate diet-stress from your mind and body
Being on a diet is often stressful. Planning what you are going to eat when you are at home or out with friends. Worrying about the choices you will have when you go to parties. Figuring out how to add in extra exercise after your "off-the-wagon-experience." Finding that random super-healthy-food-that-will-cure-all. Eliminate this stress (and again guilt) by foregoing the diet mentality. Remember, it is okay to indulge once in a while! Diets, especially the ones that severely cut calories, can cause nutrient deficiencies because of those higher calorie nutrient-dense foods that "no longer fit in".

#3: What Does a Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?
One strategy for minimizing diet-stress and moving towards a healthy lifestyle is to bring your own healthy dish to a party. Bring something you will enjoy and can rely on to be nutrient-dense. Not all parties I have gone to have the best choices. If it is a special occasion, I'll just have my normal meals throughout the day; then, choose the best options there. If it is a regular occasion, like dinner every Thursday at so-and-so's house, then bringing your own healthy dish is a way to go. 

#4: Eat your favorite foods
Scenario: Now that I am on diet X, I can no longer eat: cookies, candy, chips, fruit, yogurt, pasta, bread, potatoes, corn, green beans, applesauce, etc. So, what's left is basically water.
Scenario: You have avoided _______ (insert favorite food) for a month now. You go to a friend's house and ______ is there. As much as you eliminated it from your life, it creeps back in. Just one bite turns into "Oops I ate the whole thing." Which turns into, "Well, there goes my diet!" Which turns into the guilt cycle...again. See where I am going here?

#4: What Does a Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?
Have your favorite foods! Now, I'm not saying to go all out on a cookie binge; however, if you feel like having ice cream one night, do it! Just portion it out and enjoy. Sometimes, if I'm looking for a sweet treat, I'll mix a little cool whip with raw walnuts and peanut butter (and of course my Lactase pills!). If your not someone who is good with portion control, then only buy single serve cartons when you get the craving. You can also find substitutes for your favorite foods that you enjoy just as much!

#5: Get your hormones back in balance
Not only can dieting alter your mood; but, it can also alter your hormones. When we have chronic stress in our lives, cortisol, aka the stress hormone, increases along with visceral fat, inflammation, and blood pressure. Crash dieting can also cause you to have increased food preoccupation due to the fact that Ghrelin (hormone that tells you to eat) increases and Leptin (hormone that tells you to stop eating) decreases. This, in turn, can lead to overeating.

#5: What Does a Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?
-Eat well-balanced meals (healthy protein, fat, and carbohydrates) to keep your hunger at bay and hormones in check! 
-Don't stress about eating "bad" foods once in a while. 
-Push away guilt and instead focus on the fact that it is a lifestyle and not a diet. 
-Plan out your own healthy dish to bring to events! 
-Have your favorite foods in small portions! Better yet, get creative in the kitchen to find healthy recipes that satisfy the sweet tooth. 
-Keep your metabolism in full gear by fueling your body with the energy it needs and staying active. -De-stress your life with a few moments of reflection or quiet each day. 

As I sit here writing this blog, I am eating scrambled eggs (2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites) with Parmesan cheese and tomatoes and drinking coffee. I also had a sweet craving and had a chocolate nugget. Yes sir, chocolate at 8am. NO REGRETS :)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Vegetarian Chickpea Salad

At my latest work demonstration, I tried out a new recipe for my vegetarian clients. It is very similar to how a tuna salad is made; however, chickpeas are subbed for the tuna.  Came out way better than I was expecting and it was a 100% success (in terms of acceptability by testers)! Chickpeas are a great source of molybdenum (works to breakdown protein in the body), manganese, folate (prevents neural tube defects), copper, and iron. One serving of chickpeas (1/2c) provides 6g fiber and 6g protein. For those of you who are not vegetarian (or are lacto-ovo vegetarians), eggs would be another great addition to boost the protein content!

Vegetarian Chickpea Salad
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1T mayonaise (can sub avocado for a healthy fat)
1T lemon juice
1 tsp. dill weed
Dash salt and pepper

1. Mash chickpeas in a large bowl.
2. Add rest of ingredients to bowl and mix well.

Options for Serving
-On a bed of lettuce, no dressing needed!
-As a dip for veggies (carrots, celery, etc) or crackers.
-Wrapped in lettuce leaves for a snack or appetizer.
-As a starchy side dish for chicken or fish.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Avocados: Health Benefits and Dip Recipe!

I am a huge fan of avocados. I not only love the taste, but they are also so good for you! I use them in smoothies, scrambled eggs, salads, or dips (the recipe below is great for parties). My 5-year-old niece also loves eating raw slices. I was definitely surprised when she asked me for some while I was cutting it!

Fun Fact: Did you know an avocado is also known as an alligator pear? This is because of the shape, green skin, and rough texture!
One of my favorites!

If anyone has ever seen a "SlimCado" at the supermarket, it is promoted as having less calories and fat. I tried one before and they are honestly gross. They were watery and just didn't have that rich "Avocado-flavor." Not to mention, the fats in avocados are heart-healthy and help to decrease inflammation in the body! (Hence my picture to the right).

1 cup provides 15g Monounsaturated fats, 3g Polyunsaturated fats, 10g fiber, 39% of DV for Vitamin K, 30% of DV for Folate, 25% of DV for Vitamin C, 21% of DV for Potassium, 16% of DV for Vitamin E, and 165mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids!

Avocado Pesto Dip
2 avocados
**To prevent your sliced avocado from browning, sprinkle with lemon juice.
2 tsp. basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4c Parmesan cheese (I added a little more for a cheesier taste)
2T olive oil
2T parsley
Dash salt

1. Food process (or use hand blender) to mix all ingredients. (Seasonings can be altered to taste).
2. Enjoy with fresh veggies (or crackers/pretzels).

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fudgy Cake Brownies (Grain-free)

Yesterday, I went on a grain-free/gluten-free baking kick. This happens to me about once a week :) I made cupcakes, muffins, chips, and BROWNIES. The cupcakes/muffins came out pretty well, the chips tasted like cardboard (no exaggeration), and the brownies were amazing! After some alteration on a few different recipes, I finally found my prize winning brownie. I literally ate 4 right out of the oven, they were that good. While I am still a fan of my black bean brownies (more moist) these are my favorite. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Fudgy Cake Brownies (Grain-free)
1/2c butter (grass-fed, unsalted)
1/3c + 1/4c  unsweetened chocolate chips
5 eggs
3/4c raw honey
1/3c almond flour (sifted)
1/4c cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla
1/4tsp baking soda
dash salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9x13" pan.
2. Melt: butter and 1/3c chocolate. Set aside.
3. Beat: eggs and honey. Add: flour, cocoa, vanilla, baking soda, salt.
4. Add: melted chocolate.
5. Stir in 1/4c chocolate chips.
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool. Cut. Enjoy!!

Nutrition Facts: (approximately 36 yield; just the way I cut them)
Calories: 65
Fat: 3.7g
Sodium: 43mg
CHO: 8g
Sugar: 7g
Protein: .8g

Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Brownie Boxed Mix: (For comparison purposes)
Calories: 160
Fat: 7g
Sodium: 100mg
CHO: 24g
Sugar: 17g
Protein: 1g

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Zucchini Crust Pizza

This is a: MUST TRY RECIPE! Was the all caps a bit much? But really, this recipe is tasty and healthy (always the best combination). It is also great because you can make the toppings whatever you want. No lie, when I made this a few days ago, I ate almost half of it right out of the oven. Well enough of my chatter, make it below and see for yourself :)

Zucchini Crust Pizza
Crust Ingredients:
2c grated zucchini (packed) and squeezed dry
-->It is easiest to put the grated zucchini in a dish towel and ring out the liquid.
2 eggs, beaten
1/4c coconut flour
1/2c Parmesan cheese
1/2c grated sharp cheddar or mozzarella cheese
1T olive oil
1tsp each: basil, oregano, parsley

Topping Ingredients (Just what I used. Can be anything you like!):
1 chicken breast
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1tsp garlic
1T olive oil
Shredded cheddar cheese
**I cooked my chicken in olive oil first. Then, I added the tomatoes, zucchini, and garlic and simmered for a few minutes. I shredded a little cheese on half of the pizza once I put the chicken mixture on.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease pizza pan.
2. Mix: zucchini, eggs, flour, cheeses, oil, basil, oregano, and parsley.
3. Pat zucchini mix onto pizza pan.
4. Bake crust for 30 minutes.
5. Remove crust from oven, flip over, and return to oven for 10 minutes.
6. Remove crust from oven and top with desired ingredients.
7. Return pizza to oven and heat until topping ingredients are heated through.

Nutrition Facts (per 1/6)
Calories: 190
Fat: 12g
Sodium: 220mg
Potassium: 350mg
Carbohydrates: 9g
Fiber: 3.5g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 12g

1 Slice Domino's 14" Pepperoni Pizza (For comparison)
Calories: 324
Fat: 13g
Sodium: 608mg
Carbohydrates: 39g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 4g
Protein: 14g

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quick Start Guide to Healthy Eating

Over the past month, I have been leading nutrition counseling sessions pretty much every day. Go me :) I am loving all the experience and different situations in a community-based setting. Almost 90% of my sessions will include some version of this phrase/question, "My doctor told me XYZ, and I need to _____ (lose weight or change my eating habits) and I don't know what I should be eating." If you are a health professional, you have probably heard this a few times along with "Can you write me a diet/menu plan?" Just a comment on the diet/menu plan, I rarely ever give someone a diet/menu to follow. My sessions are geared towards giving my clients/members the tools they need to choose healthy foods. It gets boring eating the same foods all of the time, so it is important for people to be able to have enough knowledge to change up what they eat in a healthy way.

Below, are my tips for someone looking to change their eating habits or embark on a healthy lifestyle journey!

Tip #1
Rid yourself of the word "diet" and replace it with "a healthy lifestyle." When you go "on a diet," you are likely to "go off of the diet."  It is better to work towards a balance where you are able to enjoy the foods you love and incorporate healthy and/or new foods.

Tip #2
Write down everything you eat for 1-2 days. Be honest with yourself and don't change what you are eating just so it looks good on paper. I have asked many clients/members for food logs and diaries. Sometimes, I look through someone's diary and think "it looks like they eat pretty healthy." Then, I'll ask the burning question, "Is this a typical day for you?" The response is usually, "These were days that I was trying to be good." I don't want those days! Then, I will find out they have a habit of eating a bag of Cheetos at night and 2 ice cream cones. Now, that is something we can work with!

Tip #3
Start by analyzing your current eating/health patterns. Look over your food log and ask yourself these questions:
 _1_ Which macronutrient (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) makes up the majority of my meal? Most of
 the clients/members in my sessions get their calories from carbohydrates (most of them
 being refined). A lot of them are also not getting enough protein or healthy fats in their diet either.
 _2_ Am I drinking enough water? (91 oz (11 glasses) for women and 125 oz (15.5 glasses) for men)
 _3_ Am I drinking my calories in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages? How many glasses/day?
 _4_ How much sugar am I consuming?
 _5_ Do I snack more often than eat a meal? Are these healthy snacks?
 _6_ Do I skip meals? If yes, why? Is there anything I can do to help avoid skipping meals?
 _7_ How many servings of vegetables am I eating per day?
 _8_ How many servings of fruit am I eating per day?
 _9_ Am I getting enough fiber?
 _10_ Am I active every day?
Tracking your food will help you to be more mindful of what you are eating and can help significantly with those trying to lose weight.

Tip #4
After answering all of the questions in Tip #3, think about where you want to start. Maybe you will start by cutting up fruits and vegetables so they are readily available for a snack (instead of cookies). Maybe you will start by tracking what you eat for a week to become more mindful of what you are eating. It doesn't matter where you start, just pick one thing to work on a go from there.

Tip #5 (for the limited water drinkers)
If you are one of those people who dislike the taste of water (heard that a few times in my sessions), then make water fun! Put slices of fresh fruit (limes, lemons, strawberries, watermelon) in water. You could also put fresh fruit in seltzer (most of them are 0 calorie, 0 sugar). Try fresh brewed hot or cold tea. There are tons of tea flavors you can choose from! You can also try the fresh fruit in the hot tea (I love lemons in hot black tea). For those of you who have a lot of sugary beverages, you can also try replacing one of those per day with some of the examples I gave.

Tip #6 (for the snackers)
If you are an excessive snacker, the first thing to do before eating a snack is ask yourself, "Am I really hungry?" If you are feeling hungry, you make not be getting enough protein and healthy fats in your last meal, so check back to question #1's answer you wrote down. One strategy could be to add some eggs, chicken, or turkey to your lunch meal so you don't have 3 snacks before eating dinner. If your problem isn't snacking because of hunger, but because of boredom, social eating, etc, then think of what you can do instead of snacking. You could go for a walk, read a book, call a friend, etc. If you still feel the urge to snack, go for some protein, fats, and healthy carbs. An example could be a Greek yogurt (protein, carbs) topped with nuts (protein, fats). Another snack example could be an apple (carbs) with peanut butter (protein, fats).

Tip #7 (for the meal skippers)
If you normally skip breakfast, think about why you do so. Are you not hungry? Are you running late for work? Focus on your answer and brainstorm a strategy for your situation.  If you don't have enough time in the morning, you could get up 15 minutes earlier or pack a breakfast the night before (scrambled eggs portioned into containers, trail mix). Also, breakfast does not need to contain the "normal" breakfast foods. You can have chicken and vegetables for breakfast! I will often make extra chicken at night to eat on my way to work in the morning.

Tip #8
Set small goals for yourself. If you normally skip breakfast, a goal can be that you will eat breakfast 3 days a week for the next 2 weeks. If you normally choose unhealthy snacks, a goal can be that you add 1 piece of fresh fruit or 1 serving of vegetables to your snack. I always find it better to add healthy foods before you start taking anything away. This falls more in line with the healthy lifestyle versus being on a diet.

Tip #9 
Learn to accept and move on when you feel like you "blew your diet" or "went off the wagon." Just make better choices at your next meal or snack. Don't wait until the next day! Do it now!

Tip #10
Once you feel like you have mastered one of your goals, review your questions/answers from Tip #3 and choose another goal to work on. Remember, it is all about a healthy lifestyle, not being on a diet. It is perfectly okay to have a cookie, or two, once in a while, or have some ice cream while out with your family/friends. Just keep that "I am working towards a healthy lifestyle" phrase in mind!

Comment below if you have begun your healthy lifestyle and what worked best for you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Get Your 21-Day Fix Here!

I am sure many of you reading this blog have heard of some sort of quick-fix weight-loss plan through the TV, magazines, or friends. I'm sure you are also tired of hearing friends or family talk about going on their 21-day "insert diet gimmick here." Not only do they flaunt their crash-diet techniques like they are the end-all to weight-loss efforts, but also brag to their friends/family about how much weight they are losing as compared to those following their healthy lifestyle.

So, what is so bad about these products? I mean, I am sure you have heard about some of your friends/family losing weight with them. For starters, they are expensive! One 30-day supply from Beach Body costs $39.95 (not counting shipping and handling) and it is only for breakfast and/or lunch.  That means dinner is on your own! Another famous company is Shakeology. For their chocolate 30-servings package, they charge $129.95! That comes out to be $4.33 per serving.

To put these prices in perspective, lets just say you do one shake per day from Beach Body. Not counting the extra money for S&H and the milk you add to it, you are spending $1.33 per shake. That doesn't sound too expensive right? Lets say instead of your shake, you made breakfast: 2 eggs ($2.79/18count), 1 banana ($.30/each), coffee ($.29/oz), and 1/2c broccoli ($1.25/12oz) in your eggs. This comes out to be about $1.17 for the meal.  About $3 cheaper than Shakeology!  I don't know about you, but eating the meal sounds a whole lot more appetizing than the shake.

One thing I find funny, is most of these products still say to drink water, get enough sleep, and exercise. My thoughts are, why not do all of those things, eat a healthy balanced diet and save yourself the money on these products!

Besides seeing how expensive these products are, lets get into the nutrition. Herbalife has a "healthy meal shake" (with no price tag on it) that contains 90 calories, 1g fat, 13g carbs, 9g sugar, and 9g protein. Woah, low-calorie! It must be healthy! NOT! For starters, protein and fat are the macronutrients that are going to keep you fuller for longer. My egg breakfast will give me about 15g of protein and 12g of fat (more on fat later and how it is an important part of your diet!). Also, the sugar I will have in my breakfast will come from a natural source (fruit). If you are looking for an energy-boost for the morning, 90 calories won't get you very far.

Skimming the rest of the package for Herbalife's product, there are some vitamins and minerals (about 25% of daily value); however, you can get what you need just from eating fruits and veggies throughout the day. 1 orange will give you 100% of the daily value for Vitamin C! Lastly, the ingredient list is a mile-long and most of them you can't pronounce, another red flag on the play.

Another Shakeology product featured on Beach Body has a bit more protein and calories; however, again, another mile-long ingredient list. Don't let the 300% of daily value for Vitamin C awe you. Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means whatever your body doesn't need, it will pee out. Also, the high amounts of vitamins and minerals you can get from your fruits and vegetables. Just 1/2c of carrots contains about 200% of your daily value for Vitamin A. Again, cheaper and more appealing to me for a meal/snack.

Not of of these products on the market are necessarily bad for you. They are pretty useful for those on-the-go, that can't make the time to prepare a breakfast meal or pack the night before. They are also pretty useful in a pinch. The pure proteins (whey protein types) are also great for a quick shake or for an added protein boost in snacks or baked goods. I like putting whey protein powder in my fruit smoothies; however, I buy mine from local grocery stores, where it is cheaper. The cans usually last me a while because I don't rely on it for all of my meals and snacks.

 My advice is to see these products as just that, supplements to your diet. They shouldn't be the end-all-be-all and they are certainly no match for real food like fruits and vegetables. If you go the route of these products, look for ones with low amounts of sugar, 5g or more of fiber and at least 10g of protein (if it is replacing a meal). Also, try and find a short ingredient list and at least 25% of your daily value for vitamins and minerals.

Instead of focusing on a quick weight-loss fix that is hard to maintain long-term, focus on healthy habits for the long-term. If you have a family, instead of taking the easy way with shakes and smoothies, choose real food and instill those healthy habits on your children.  Take the time to analyze what you are eating. Where do most of your calories come from? Carbohydrates/sugar? Healthy or unhealthy fats? Protein? Write down what you eat and be honest with yourself. Take small steps to change your eating behaviors (like replacing 1 snack of chips with veggies and dip or peanut butter and celery). Your body and wallet will thank you later :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Coco-Nut Balls Recipe

1/2c raw almonds
1/2c raw cashews
3/4c unsweetened, coconut flakes
7 dates (pitted)
1T coconut oil, melted
1-2T water

1. Food process almonds, cashews, coconut flakes, and dates.
2. Add coconut oil and 1-2T of water (depending on texture).
3. Roll into balls (will be sticky) and refrigerate.

This is one of those recipes where you can alter it to your taste buds (and pretty easily). It has a nutty-coconut flavor (a little strong). If you are not that big of a coconut fan, I would suggest dropping the flakes to about 1/4c. This will also cut back on some of the sugar. The dates give it a sweet taste; however, this is another ingredient you can cut back on if you are not the sweet tooth. Since the balls are a bit sticky, you can add in some extra nuts for some more healthy fats and protein (It will also help to firm it up). Hope you enjoy!

Nutrition Facts (Per serving of 2 balls)
Yield: 35-40 balls
Calories: 94
Fat: 5.5g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrates: 11g
Fiber: 1.4g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 1.4g

**Calculated using sweetened coconut flakes. If using unsweetened flakes, calories/carbohydrate/sugar content will decrease.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lemon Protein Bites

A few blog posts ago, I posted a recipe for Peanut Butter Protein Balls which are a quick boost of protein for you if you are on the go. One of the best things about that recipe is it is so versatile. Have a sweet tooth? Add some mini chocolate chips! Want some more protein? Add some chopped nuts and chia seeds! I love taking the protein bites with me to work/the gym. After finishing a work shift, I will pop a few in my mouth before heading into the gym. This helps to keep me fueled for my workout and cross the bridge between breakfast and lunch.

I am also a huge fan of lemons, as in I will eat a raw lemon :), so the last time I made this recipe I bumped up the lemon juice to 2-3T! I also ran out of dates before making this a second time, so I subbed cranberries. You can also try raisins or another dried fruit (I always go with the unsweetened dried fruit)!

Lemon Protein Bites
1c raw cashews
1c raw almonds
9 dates (pitted) or 1/4c dried, unsweetened, cranberries (You can cut back on fruit depending on how sweet you want it; this will cut back on the sugar in the nutrition facts portion).
1T lemon juice

1. Food process cashews and almonds.
2. Add dates/cranberries and lemon juice.
3. If mixture is dry, add more lemon juice or water.
4. Roll into balls and refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts: Per lemon bite
(yield about 40 balls)
Calories: 54
Fat: 3g (1g MUFA, .5 PUFA)
Carbohydrates: 5.5g
Fiber: 1.2g
Sugar: 3.5g
Protein: 1.5g

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Faux Cookies Recipe

In another blog post a few weeks ago, I had a recipe titled, "Faux Cookie Dough." The support group class I lead had challenged me to try baking the cookie dough. I invested in this challenge today and had an awesome result. By this awesome result I mean I baked 65 cookies and ate 5 so far today :)

I didn't use my original recipe, but a modified one from My Whole Food Life, which has a ton of awesome recipes. I have the recipe below with the nutrition facts. You would probably get the same, or a similar result if you baked the "Faux Cookie Dough."

Faux Cookies
2.5 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4tsp vanilla
1.5 cups peanut butter
2T honey
2tsp baking powder
1/2c chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Food process all ingredients except chocolate chips.
3. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Roll into balls and place on a greased baking sheet.
5. Bake 10 minutes.

Nutrition Facts per 1 cookie (yield=5.5 dozen)
Calories: 50
Fat: 3g
Sodium: 65mg
Carbohydrate: 5g
Sugar: 2g
Protein: 1.5g

Just for comparison purposes, I have the nutrition facts for a regular chocolate chip cookie.

Nutrition Facts per 1 cookie
Calories: 50
Fat: 3g
Sodium: 36mg
Carbohydrate: 8g
Sugar: 4g
Protein: 1g

Friday, May 9, 2014

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip

Looking for a quick and healthy fruit dip? Feast your taste buds on this creamy and light option! It is perfect with apple slices (or even a banana). Packed with 4g of protein and only 80 calories per serving, it is a great dessert to satisfy your cravings. But be forewarned! You may find it is tasty enough to eat with just a spoon :)

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip
1c plain greek yogurt
1/2c peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter with the ingredients being only peanuts and salt)
1tsp cinnamon
4 squirts of Redi Whip (more or less depending on your taste buds)

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and chill.
2. Serve with fresh apple slices or bananas.

Nutrition Facts (Per 2T; yield approximately 1.5cups)
Calories: 80
Fat: 5.5g (4g Monounsaturated)
Sodium: 40mg
Potassium: 90mg
Carbohydrate: 2.5g
Fiber: .8g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 4.3g

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Flax/Chia Seed Mix Recipe

In my last couple of blog posts, I talked about the health benefits of chia seeds and some easy recipes.   While chia seeds are not the cheapest food on the shelf (about $8.99/bag), I did find another great alternative to plain chia seeds that was about $2 cheaper; a Flax Chia Blend.

This blend is again, a great source of Omega-3s and Fiber. It also has 2g of protein, no sugar, and is only 60 calories per 2T.

On the bag I purchased, brand name "Carrington Farms," I found a pretty simple and tasty recipe on the back: "Minute Muffin Top" (Recipe below). Besides baking this blend into muffins or other goodies, you can also sprinkle it on yogurt, oatmeal, or a pudding for a Omega-3 and Fiber boost! 

Minute Muffin Top (Modified Version)
1/4c Flax Chia blend
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar (I didn't use the sugar with adding the peanut butter)
1/4 tsp baking powder (Original called for 1tsp)
1 egg
1 tsp oil
Handful of cranberries (about 1T)
1T peanut butter (The original recipe didn't call for this, but I used it as a topping after making the muffin)
**You can also try adding nuts!

(In the original directions, you mix everything in separate bowls, layer ingredients, and do a bunch of steps. I was too lazy to do all of that, so I just followed the steps I made up below and it turned out fine)
1. Spray a soup bowl with non stick spray. 
2. Mix all ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to soup bowl. 
3. Place in microwave for 1 minute and enjoy! 
(After cooking is where you can top with the peanut butter)

Nutrition Facts (with peanut butter, without sugar)
Calories: 380 (Pretty good for a breakfast meal) 
Fat: 26g (5g Polyunsaturated, 6g Monounsaturated, 4.5g Saturated) (I didn't calculate the exact amount of Omega-3s; but, it is about 6,000mg)
Cholesterol: 185mg
Sodium: 270mg (Mostly from the baking powder, original recipe called for 1tsp and bumped up the sodium to 600mg)
Potassium: 138mg
Total CHO: 23g
Fiber: 13g (About half the recommended daily amount! 25-35g is range for daily fiber intake) 
Sugar: 7g (Comes mostly from peanut butter brand I used and the cranberries)
Protein: 16g (Great protein boost for the morning! 1 large egg is about 6g Protein).
Vitamin A: 6.1% 
B-12: 8%
Vitamin C: 5.1%
Vitamin D: 10%
Vitamin E: 7.8%
Calcium: 23.6%
Iron: 23.7%
Manganese: 19.2%
Niacin: 10.1%
Phosphorus: 12.7%
Riboflavin: 10.2%

I used a recipe calculator from Spark People:

Don't let the calories rock your boat. If you think about all the other good stuff you are getting (protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc) and the fact that this is an all-in-one breakfast meal, you have nothing to worry about. I always say to my class participants "It is not just about calories. It is about what else is in the food you are eating." Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Faux Cookie Dough Recipe

On Thursday nights, I facilitate a weight management support group. I usually bring in a new recipe or food item; however, this week a member volunteered to make something. She said she would be bringing in a fake cookie dough dip she found in a magazine. I was a little skeptical on what it would taste like, after hearing the ingredients; but hey, I am always up to trying new things. This is definitely a MUST TRY recipe! Again, one of those recipes where you don't tell people what is in it until afterwards! It goes great with apple or banana slices.

Faux Cookie Dough Dip
1 1/2c chickpeas
6T brown sugar
1/4c peanut butter
3T oats
1T milk (almond milk can be used)
2tsp vanilla
Dash salt
1/8tsp baking soda
1/3c chocolate chips

1. Food process all ingredients except chocolate chips. (I find it best to food process the beans with some type of liquid--like milk--first to make it smoother).
2. Fold in chocolate chips.
3. Serve with apple/banana slices and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts (per 2T with recipe yield of 2cups)
Calories: 90
Fat: 3g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 100mg
Potassium: 50mg
Carbohydrate: 10g
Fiber: 1.5g
Sugars: 5g
Protein: 2g
B6: 5.3%
Calcium: 1.2%
Vitamin E: 1.4%
**Nutrition Facts will vary based on ingredients used

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Avocado Pudding Recipe

A friend of mine suggested I try out her Avocado Pudding recipe she found in a magazine (not a clue which one). I'm always one to try new things, especially if they are healthy. You get a boost of unsaturated (healthy) fats and some protein! The recipe was really simple and quite good. It took me less than 10 minutes to make, so great to make in a pinch!

Just some forewarnings:
1. It is not sweet! If you are more of a sweet tooth, add some type of sweetener.
2. The recipe I used called for dates (10-12), which I did not have, so I used some honey instead.
3. It tastes much better after it sits in the fridge and gains the "pudding-like consistency."
4. I topped mine with some Reddi Whip, which gave it a little more sweetness and more of a dessert feel.

Avocado Pudding Recipe
1 Avocado (ripe)
1T Honey
1/2c Almond milk
4T Unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or blender. Chill for 1 hour and enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Easy Chia Seed Recipes

My new adventure this week and last was with Chia seeds. If you are thinking, "Chia seeds, like Chia pet?" You are indeed correct! These are the same seeds featured in the Chia Pet. So, what are Chia seeds? According to WebMD, "Chia is an edible, unprocessed seed (and whole-grain), that can be absorbed by the body (unlike flaxseeds)." You can sprinkle raw Chia seeds on cereal, sauces, vegetables and yogurt. You can also use Chia seeds in baked goods. Chia seeds are a good replacement for eggs (if you have an allergy), just mix with water! Chia seeds are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, Omega-3s, and antioxidants.

Last week, I made Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding. To be honest, once you get over the weird texture, it is actually pretty good. I found it to be an easy snack with a boost of fiber.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding 
2T Chia Seeds
1/2c Milk (I used almond milk)
1T Cocoa Powder
1tsp Honey

1. Place all ingredients in a jar or container with a lid. Shake vigorously.
2. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy!

**I made the mistake of trying to stir it all together and it did not go well. Shaking is the way to go!

Today, I ventured to make Chia Seed Crusted Chicken, in a few different forms (recipes below), since I wasn't sure how it would turn out. Again, I was pleasantly surprised with the great flavor. A definite must-try recipe!

Picture taken while I was still cooking, note the raw chicken :)
Chia Seed Crusted Chicken
2T Chia Seeds
2T Coconut Oil
3 Chicken breasts, cut into pieces
2T Unflavored Bread Crumbs or 2T Almond Flour
1T Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg, beaten lightly

Option 1: Dip chicken in egg then chia seeds. Fry in coconut oil.
Option 2: Dip chicken in egg then bowl with bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and chia seeds (mixed). Fry in coconut oil.
Option 3: Dip chicken in chia seeds. Fry in coconut oil.

**My personal favorite was the chia seeds with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pizza Hummus Recipe

Every week, I lead a weight management support group at the YMCA. I always bring in a new recipe or food item to taste test. I think it makes the class interesting and allows for some food conversation. This past week, I served a pizza hummus with pretzel sticks and pita chips and it was a hit! I would definitely serve this recipe warm (unless you like the taste of "cold pizza"). It's a great quick snack to satisfy the cravings. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Pizza Hummus
2 T olive oil
1/4c tomato paste
3c chickpeas plus 1 T reserved liquid
1/4c lemon juice
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp garlic
Dash of salt

1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add tomato paste, oregano, basil, garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
2. Food process chickpeas, reserved liquid, and lemon juice.
3. Add sauce mixture to food processor with chickpea mixture. Season with salt to taste and enjoy!
(**I put everything back in the saucepan after food processing to get it heated to serve)

Nutrition Facts (2T): 40kcal, 83mg sodium, 5g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 1 g fiber