Monday, November 30, 2009

Foods to Ponder


Butter.  It can be a very confusing food.  It seems like every day there is a new study out saying butter is good, butter is bad, eat this kind, not that kind.  There are hundreds of different butters and margarines out how are you supposed to figure out which one you should eat and which you should stay away from?  I'll tell you!

Let's start with butter versus margarine.  One tablespoon of butter has 100 calories, 11.5 grams of fat (7 grams of which are saturated--the bad kind) and 31 mg of cholesterol.  Cholesterol is found in animal products and although dietary cholesterol does not affect many people's blood cholesterol levels, it is recommended you eat less than 200 mg per day.  Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and found in foods such as red meats and dairy.  They also work to raise LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and HDL cholesterol (the good kind).  Don't get too excited--the effect on HDL cholesterol isn't that significant so don't go out eating a tub of butter!  Saturated fat and cholesterol are linked to heart disease so limiting your intake is important.  

When margarine first came out, it was touted as the healthy alternative to butter.  One tablespoon also has 100 calories and 11.5 grams of fat, but only 2 grams are saturated and there is no cholesterol.  Sounds great, right?  Not so fast.  Margarine has 3 grams of trans fat--the worst kind of fat.  It is recommended you have little to no trans fat in your diet--it's that bad.  Trans fat is made when hydrogren is added to vegetable oil which causes it to go from liquid to solid and  increases shelf life.  Trans fats also increase LDL cholesterol but contrary to saturated fats, they reduce HDL cholesterol which makes it super bad.  As a general rule of thumb, if margarine is solid at room temperature there is more trans fat (stick margarine has more trans fat that whipped or tub margarine).

So now that you know the stats, what type of butter or margarine should you eat?  I know you can't avoid it and let's be honest--it's delicious.  Plus--there are several brands out there that are healthy options.  Look for "no trans fat" on the label and read the ingredients to make sure there are no hydrogenated oils hiding in there.  Be advised that companies are allowed to label products trans fat free provided there is less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving--so if there are hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list that means each additional serving will have some trans fat.  It adds up, so be careful!

I have two favorite brands.  The fist is Smart Balance.  I really like all of their products.  I have the tub margarine in my fridge and use the Butter Blend Sticks a lot for baking.  They use vegetable oils to make the butter spreads thus creating a product with 80 calories, 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat per serving.  Another great brand is Olivio.  I buy the Spreadable Butter which is made with real butter, canola oil and olive oil.  It's delicious, plus it has just 80 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.  

Hopefully, that clears up some of the confusion.  Think about what kinds of butter you like and maybe try something new in your recipes during the holiday season!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trim Down Tip


With Thanksgiving just one day away, it only seems fitting to talk about how to successfully navigate the wide array of foods you may encounter throughout the day.   I will start by saying something some of you may see as blasphemous.  Thanksgiving is by far my least favorite holiday--in terms of food.  I've never been a huge fan of turkey...although it really is growing on me, or stuffing or any of the sides and I definitely don't like pies (fruit and dessert just don't mix!).  However, I know many people absolutely love a good Thanksgiving meal--and trying to maintain some semblance of health during the day--or even the weekend--can be tricky.  Here's where I come in.  

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am the first one in my family to be completely gluttoness during the holidays or a party--but sometimes, if I know that just one small scoop of something contains over half of my calorie intake for the day, I think about it before I have a second bite.   Let me just provide a quick list of typical Thanksgiving foods, caloric content, and serving size.  

Turkey - white meat, no skin - 4oz, 150 calories
Turkey - white meat, with skin - 4oz, 185 calories
Turkey - dark meat, no skin - 4oz, 185 calories
Turkey - dark meat with skin - 4oz, 205 calories
Stuffing - 1/2 cup, 200 calories
Mashed Potatoes - 1/2 cup, 120 calories
Cranberry Sauce - 1/4 cup, 110 calories
Gravy - 1/4 cup, 30 calories
Green Beans - 1 cup, 45 calories
Salad - 3/4 cup, 20 calories (with dressing, 70 calories)
Sweet Potato Casserole - 1/2 cup, 210 calories
Pumpkin Bread - 1/8 loaf, 210 calories
Apple Pie - 1/8 of 9 inch pie, 410 calories
Pumpkin Pie - 1/8 of 9 inch pie, 315 calories
Pecan Pie - 1/8 of 9 inch pie, 500 calories
Fruit Salad - 1 cup, 100 calories

As you have probably figured out--there are some really healthful choices and some that are not so good for you.  There is one key to success that is quite simple, but not so easy to abide by--watch your portions!  Take stuffing for example.  Who eats 1/2 cup of stuffing on Thanksgiving Day?  I'd be willing to bet not many people!  I would say on average people have at least double if not triple the portion of stuffing and boom you've added 600 calories to your meal.  It adds up quickly.

Like I said--they key is portion size.  You can have everything on the table--just don't overdo it.  Have a small amount of the high caloric foods (think stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and pie)--moderation is key!  Fill your plate with lower calorie foods like white meat turkey (no skin!), green beans, and fruit salad.  Then you won't feel starved, or left out, or unsatisfied, because you ate what you wanted and didn't over do it.  For those of you who do overdo it...and most of us always do...remember that one day can't ruin your diet.  Just pick back up where you left off and don't feel frustrated.  Everyone has their moments of overindulgence.  It happens...just eat less at your next meal and move on.

The most important thing is to enjoy it.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be grateful for all you have and enjoy your friends and family.  The food is just an added bonus.

Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday--I won't be posting on Friday.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Foods to Ponder


It only seems appropriate to talk about a food associated with the upcoming holidays.  I would talk about turkey...but I'm not a big fan (I know it's healthy and yummy--I just don' t like the taste).  So, I thought it would be fun to explore the wonderful world of cranberries.  Did you know such a thing existed?  I did not.  

I always thought that cranberries could only be found growing on bogs (they are big in Cape Cod and New Jersey)--but I just discovered that they are a cousin of the blueberry and can be found growing in the wild on shrubs.  Interesting.  They are in season from October to December--hence a perfect addition to your holiday meals or even drinks!  Post fresh cranberry season, frozen varieties and juice are a great alternative.  One cup of whole cranberries has just 45 calories and 4.5 grams of fiber.  Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries) have 140 calories in 1/3 cup--so stick with the fresh version if you can --you can have more for less!

The health benefits of cranberries are plentiful.  They are most known for protecting against  urinary tract infections due to a specific type of tannin in the berry.  Just 8oz  of juice is all you need.  Make sure you avoid the cranberry juice cocktail though.  It's loaded with sugar an has 137 calories per cup.  Stick with the Diet Cranberry Spray and you'll save 132 calories.  I like to mix it with some seltzer water or diet gingerale to make my own calorie free cocktail...sans alcohol, I know, but it's still yummy.  Cranberries also have been found to help in kidney infections, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol).  They can also act as a probiotic which promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut and killing bacteria causing infections and food born illnesses.

I grew up eating cranberry sauce out of the can (jellied and sphere shaped in a dish!), but it's pretty easy to make your own cranberry sauce for the holidays.  Here is a great recipe from my favorite magazine - Cooking Light.  Cranberries are also a great addition to salads (craisins are too--just use less) or a good alternative to blueberries in your cereal.  A great idea is to put cranberries in the freezer (or you could just use frozen cranberries) and use them as ice cubes to serve in your beverages over the holidays.  The bright red color alone makes a meal look festive.  

Happy Holidays!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Delicious Discovery

Crispy Green

I have a hard time using fresh produce in my house before it starts to go bad.  My husband eats breakfast at work, so most of the fruit I buy is for me and I don't like to buy lots of it because it ends up going to waste and I don't like wasting food or money.  So, I was happy to come across the products by Crispy Green, Inc.  They make delicious freeze-dried fruit that I absolutely love!

Now don't think that this is the sort of dried fruit you find in the grocery store that is high in calories and sugar (yes, those banana chips that are oh so delicious are oh so VERY bad for you).  Crispy Green uses a special freeze dry process that retains almost all of the fruit's nutrient and does not use any sugar, additives or preservatives along the way.  

There are 5 varieties or Crispy Green fruit snacks--apples, apricots, bananas, pineapple and pear.  I have tried all but the apricot (they are very hard to find--so if you see them somewhere let me know!).  My favorite are the pineapple and bananas by far.  The entire bag contains between 35-55 calories,  depending on the type of fruit.  They are great to throw in your bag for a quick healthy snack or to add to yogurt or cereal.  I'm a big fan of snacks that satisfy my cravings for crunch and sweet all in one--Crispy Green does the trick!

They also make a product called FruitziO which I haven't tried yet.  There are two varieties, apples & strawberries and strawberries.  Each come in 100 calorie packs and contain natural cane sugar.  I would be willing to bet they are delicious as well--but can't vouch for them until I try.  If come across some FruitziO--let  me know how they taste.

Crispy Green products can be found in grocery stores or ordered online.  Locally, Roche Brother's carries the products and usually has them in the produce section of the store.  Here is a list of locations or you can just order online at Amazon or the Crispy Green website.  The Crispy Green fruit packs can be found in multi packs of 6 or single packs.  They are a great way to get in a serving of fruit during the day without having to worry about refrigeration or squishing your fruit in your bag.  Yum!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trim Down Tip

Wear it

There are days when it takes every ounce of effort my body can muster up to get off the couch and head to the gym.  Until fairly recently, I would go into my drawer, pick out a pair of old sweatpants and a tee-shirt and head out the door.  Yes, there would be days that I would have a great work out, but there were also lots of days that I just could not get myself to feel "into" the workout.  I felt like I was going through the motions and I truly believe that a good workout, regardless of your choice of exercise, is centered around where your head is.  I mean, if you are not 100% into the run, yoga class, aerobics etc., you will walk away feeling happy that it's over, instead of accomplished.  You should always feel accomplished after a workout--it is not easy to take time out of your day and devote it entirely to you and your health--and that's what a workout is.

While I was in school, I used to work at a gym, a really nice gym, and the ladies who belonged there were always dressed in flattering workout clothes.  At first, I thought it was really silly.  Why would I spend extra money on clothes that I am just going to get sweaty in. But then I started to think about it.  These people are at the gym, day in and day out and the really seem to get their sweat on and enjoy it.  I think part of it was the clothes!  It was time to investigate.  

There is something about putting on clothes that make you look good --no matter where you are going--that helps boost your confidence.  For me, this is true at the gym too.  The gym I go to now is not at all fancy, but I find that when I get dressed to go to the gym in nice workout clothes, I feel a lot more motivated to get there than if I had on my old sweatpants and tee-shirt.  You can find great wicking shirts and pants that look good and don't break the bank--or some that definitely qualify as a splurge :)

For Christmas last year, I got my first pair of lululemon athletica pants and a jacket.  I will stop here and say that lululemon is not cheap.  Their pants range from $78-$108 but a lot of them are reversible--so it's like getting two pairs in one!  The tops range from $39-$68 and there are a wide range of jackets, shorts, and other athletic wear.  I have one pair of the reversible sneaker groove pants which are perfect for any activity--plus, as I said they are super flattering so I do not feel like a schmuck if I am out doing errands and have them on.  There are several locations all over the country just check out the website for online orders.  If you feel like splurging on yourself--I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  There are options for every body type, the tailor free of charge and the staff is very helpful.  

Another great spot for exercise clothes is Lucy.  A dear friend recently gave me a pair of pants and a tank from Lucy as a thank you for being in her wedding party.  I can't tell you how many times I have passed the store in the mall without even taking a second glance.  I really love their clothes as well and they are a little less expensive than lululemon--plus they have fabulous sales.  

Of course I never have a problem finding anything at Target.  They have a great line of workout clothes by Champion that are inexpensive and long lasting.  I definitely recommend checking out your local Target to find some great exercise clothes for every day workouts that won't break the bank.  Marshall's and TJ Maxx are great places to find discounted brand name exercise clothes (think Nike, Under Armour and Addidas).  As long as you are prepared to sift through the racks of clothes--you are pretty much guaranteed to score some great deals.  

You may think this sounds silly--but next time you are getting ready to work out or deciding whether or not you should hit snooze instead of heading out for a run, think about what you wear.  It may just be the added confidence you need to center yourself and get your head into your workout.  I promise once your head is in it, you will find yourself much more happy post workout and maybe even more likely to go two days in a row!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Foods to Ponder


Up until recently, squash was one of my least favorite vegetables.  I'm not sure if it was just the way it was prepared or if I associated with Thanksgiving (I'll go into detail about my disdain for most foods associated with Thanksgiving next week)--either way, I have always thought it was pretty gross.  However, I now know of three different kinds of squash--all of which I absolutely LOVE, provided they are cooked a certain way -- simply!

Butternut Squash: This is the most common kind of squash. It is filled with Vitamin A, C and 1 cup cubed has just 63 calories and 3 grams of fiber.  Typically, butternut squash is served mashed--which is my least favorite way (plus it takes too long to prep and cook).  Here are my recommendations.  First--buy the squash either cut up in cubes or at the very least already peeled and halved.  It's so much easier and you will be much more likely to cook the squash if part of the prep work is already done.  Second--make squash fries!  Who doesn't like fries?  Squash fries are a great way to quickly create a great side dish and they are super healthy.  Just take 1/2 peeled squash and cut into the shape of fries (or you can just use the cubed squash).  Place in a cookie sheet, (sprayed with cooking spray like PAM), sprinkle with salt and spray the top of the "fries" as well.  Cook for 45-50 minutes at 425 degrees or until brown.  I usually flip them after about 20 minutes to make sure they crisp evenly.  Serve with just about anything!

Acorn Squash: Also known as winter squash, is prevalent in the winter (obviously) and is a great alternative to your typical dinner vegetable.  One cup has approximately 115 calories and 9 grams of fiber.  My Mom makes acorn squash fairly often once it is in season--and it's so easy.  Just cut the squash in half.  Place face down in a little bit of water and cover loosely with plastic wrap in a microwave save dish.  Pierce the skin so it doesn't explode and cook for 8-10 minutes in the microwave.  Drizzle each half with a little maple syrup (I like Cary's).  Eat 1/2 --or the whole thing--it's delicious!

Spaghetti Squash: This is the type of squash I eat the least--but love nonetheless.  For lots of information on storage and how to cook it check out Fabulous Foods.  I bet you didn't know that the best thing about spaghetti squash is that it does a great job mimicking pasta.  Try substituting half of your usual portion of pasta (it works best with spaghetti since it's the same texture) with spaghetti squash.  So instead of 1 cup of pasta, use 1/2 cup of pasta and 1/2 cup of spaghetti squash.  Not only will you save 200 calories but you will also find yourself fuller faster and longer due to the increased fiber.  It's a great way to sneak a vegetable into your pasta dinner and spaghetti squash takes on the taste of your sauce of choice so it blends well with pasta.  

Mmmmm squash!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Delicious Discovery

Better 'n Peanut Butter

I have always been fairly obsessed with peanut butter.  Jif or natural, I think it may be the perfect food.  It's loaded with protein, full of unsaturated fats (the good ones!) and just plain delicious.  Peanut butter is great to mix in oatmeal, on toast, in a sandwich, with bananas...should I continue?  The one bummer about peanut butter is it has a lot of calories per serving.  Two tablespoons of PB has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat (3 grams of which are saturated or bad fat) and 8 grams of protein.  Who in their right mind uses two tablespoons of peanut butter when making a sandwich?  I have tried, and I'm usually left with a measly looking sandwich, very unsatisfied and with my hand in the cookie jar.  

And then I stumbled upon Better 'n Peanut Butter (BPB).  This spread is made by Wonder Natural Foods and I'm not sure how they figured out the secret recipe for BPB, but I wish I had done so first!  It is definitely a little sweeter than "normal" peanut butter but the nutrition facts are quite the opposite.  Two tablespoons of BPB have 100 calories, 2 grams of unsaturated fat, no saturated fat and 4 grams of protein.  It is very spreadable and so incredibly yummy.  I think it is a bit addictive, so if you overdo it once or twice, you are saving more calories than if it was "regular" peanut butter.  Plus, it comes in a low sodium version, which I think is way better than the original BPB.  The one kind I have yet to try is Chocolate BPB--I'm sure it is really yummy but I haven't found it in the grocery store yet.  I will report back once I do try it out.

I'm not saying I have shunned peanut butter and only eat BPB now.  Peanut butter is a super healthful food that is high in calories and fat because it is packed full of good-for-you fats and protein.  Personally, I'm a big fan of both Jif and Teddie, but when it comes to saving calories or just finding ways to eat a little bit less -- BPB is a great option.   It is made with real peanuts that are "de-fatted", thus much lower in calories yet equally scrumptious!

BPB is great in recipes too.  I have made a lot of smoothies, peanut butter cookies and pies with BPB and they have all tasted delicious.  BPB can be found at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and in many major super markets (usually in the natural food section).  It is definitely less expensive at Trader Joe's...significantly less go there first if there is one nearby.  If you prefer online shopping Amazon sells it too but only in multi packs.  

Like I said in the beginning, I have always been fairly obsessed with peanut butter!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trim Down Tip


OK, so now that I have you moving around...and perhaps aching a is time to think about what you eat.  You may say, clearly I am trying to watch what I eat, Nicole--that's why I read your blog in the first place!  Yes, I know.  However, do you really know what you are eating?  I would be willing to bet that most of you eat a lot more than you think.  

Let's start with my nutrition basics.  How many calories should you be taking in a day?  A really easy way to figure that out is to take your goal weight (in pounds) and multiply it by 10. So, if your goal weight is 130 lbs--you need to eat 1300 calories a day.  Here are 5 things you need to know.

 1.  Let's be realistic about goal weights.  If you have a lot of weight to lose--please don't select a goal weight of 120 lbs from the start.  Losing weight is a process--and for many a slow one.  Aim for losing 10% of your weight at a time, and once you meet that goal, set a new one, alter your calorie intake and continue until you reach your goal weight.  

2.  Depending on your age, some goal weights may be unrealistic.  I'm not trying to be the bad guy--it's just the natural process of aging!  The weight you maintained in your 20's is more than likely not going to be maintainable as you get older.  You should not have to work incredibly hard to maintain your goal weight.  For example, if you want to weigh 120 lbs, but find it hard to make it past 130 lbs without eating very little and/or working out all the time--your body is telling you to stop.  Remember--this is about being healthy.  Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a great way to determine if you are at a healthy weight.  BMI assesses body fat using your height and weight.  A healthy BMI is between 18.5-24.9.  Check out the Center for Disease Control's website for information on healthy weights and a BMI calculator.  

3.  You should never eat less than 1200 calories a day--no matter how small you are.  This will cause your body's metabolism (the various chemical reactions that occur in your body to maintain life) to come to a screeching halt because it will think you are starving.  The key is to keep your metabolism running by providing enough energy a.k.a. calories.  If your body thinks you are starving, your weight loss will become stagnant and eventually when you do begin to eat more, you will gain weight quickly.  So please--eat for energy and for health--I encourage it!

4.  One pound of weight loss is equal to cutting 3500 calories.  So to do so in a healthful manner, 3500 calories/ 7 days = 500 calories less per day.  Healthy weight loss is about 1-2 lbs. per week( 2 lbs/week would be 1000 calories less per day).  You may find that in the beginning, you lose weight quickly and in greater numbers (have you ever watched the Biggest Loser during the first week?  It's crazy!).  Early weight loss is largely a combination of water weight, healthier eating habits and an increase in activity.  Weight loss will slow down at some point--so don't get frustrated!  Slowly but surely wins the race!

5.  Last and most importantly--write it down!  This is my biggest piece of advice to anyone trying to lose weight--especially those who are convinced they are doing everything right and still can't lose weight.  Purchase a small notebook that you can fit in your purse or leave on your bed stand.  For those of you who prefer computers, there are plenty of websites that allow you to keep track of your food intake online (for free!).  Try Spark People, if that is the route you want to take.  

Start with breakfast and write down everything you eat (including the handful of candy after work and the three French fries from your friend's plate), the portion size and the calories.  Just 3 tablespoons of trail mix has 135 calories--little snacks and mindless eating really does add up.  My favorite website for calorie information is Calorie King.  There is also a pocket size book which is very helpful to keep with you when you are out and have questions about restaurant menu items or portion sizes.  I also recommend measuring and weighing (here's my favorite food scale) your food so you can become familiar with healthy portion sizes.  The American Cancer Society has a great website with portion size information.  So figure out how many calories you should eat per day, write down what you eat and let me know if you have been eating too much, too little, or just enough.  Once you get comfortable with portion sizes and calorie content, you will find you won’t have to be as strict with writing things down, but in the beginning, I really recommend it.

Start today--let me know if you have questions and I'd love to know what you find out once you start keeping track of your food intake. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Foods to Ponder


Last week, I was in the produce section of the grocery store with my husband, Jason, and he asked me if I liked pomegranates.  My reply, honestly, I have never tried one before.  He was quite surprised--especially since I am usually up to par on trendy and in vogue foods and pomegranates have been in the news a lot recently.  He happens to love the juice, so since they were on sale (2 for $4), I deducted they must be in season and it was time for me to give a pomegranate a taste.  

What was the main reason for my avoidance of pomegranates for the past 28 years?  Well there are two reasons the first being I had no idea how to cut one and the second being I heard they are a mess to eat.  So after googling "How to Cut a Pomegranate"--I realized that I was not alone.  There are a million websites dedicated to properly cutting the fruit.  We liked this one the best because it has a pictorial along with a description of the 7 (yes, 7) step process.  The California Pomegranate website says cutting the fruit takes only 3 steps--but for a novice--I think the 7 steps are necessary and cause less of a mess!  

Needless to say--once we (and by we, I mean, Jason) cut it open (there was a slight mess)--I was pleasantly surprised and wondering why I had taken so long to try one!  They are really delicious, and actually sort of fun to eat.  The seeds are crunchy and juicy--plus they are super healthy and there are so many seeds to eat that it feels like the fruit that keeps on giving!  A medium pomegranate yields about 1 cup of seeds, known as arils, 140 calories, 32 grams of carbs, 7 grams of fiber and 410 grams of potassium.  I ate about half the seeds and saved the rest for breakfast the next morning.

Pomegranates grow on small trees and are harvested from August through the Middle of November (in the U.S.).  Peak season is right about now through December.  When purchasing a pomegranate, you should look for one that is free from imperfections, such as cracks and dense feeling (the heavier it is, the more juice it contains).  The biggest reason pomegranates have become known as a super food is because they are full of antioxidants.  (A quick side note--Antioxidants are substances in foods that help protect against oxidative damage in the body.  When cells use oxygen, they produce free radicals which cause damage.  Antioxidants basically work to reverse the damage done by free radicals.)  Pomegranates are full of antioxidants called phytochemicals--read more about the nerdy details here--I think it's really interesting, but I'm a nutrition nerd so I'll spare you the details unless you are interested too!  Basically, the health benefits of pomegranates have been found to be protective against heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol...just to name a few.  

If you don't want to deal with the process of picking out and cutting a pomegranate, you can always buy the juice.  It is located in the produce section of the grocery store--but beware--it is definitely expensive.  A 16oz bottle of POM juice is $4.  An 8 oz serving contains 158 calories, 40 grams of carbs but none of the fiber.  So--I suggest sticking with the fruit.  You will be fuller longer and have extra money in your pocket!  

The arils are a great snack, a yummy addition to a salad, dessert or as a festive garnish for the holidays.  Check out these recipes for different ideas.  Next time you are in the grocery store, take a look at the pomegranates--it may be the treat you need to change-up your diet routine.  

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Delicious Discovery

Fiber Gourmet

When it comes to food and eating, I have always been a person thinks the more the better--I like volume!  I mean, who wouldn't want to have as much food as possible but at the same time, not take in an exorbitant amount of calories.  Haven’t you ever tried to cut back and eat a more healthful diet, only to find that your plate is half empty and you are always hungry.  Eating a more nutritionally sound diet does not mean you have to starve yourself--in fact, contrary to popular belief, it is the exact opposite.  That is another blog entry in itself.  For now, let's just settle for one of my favorite food finds.  Time for you to meet Fiber Gourmet.  

Yum Yum Yum is all I have to say about this company's products.  I am in no way a paid promoter of Fiber Gourmet--but I wish I was because then maybe they would send me free food!  The company has found a way to make crackers and pasta that are lower in calories but provide you with a large volume of food.  How?  Does it really matter?!  

There are no artificial flavors or colors.  The products have a lot of fiber in them, insoluble fiber, which is not digested by the body--thus the calorie contribution is minimal.  Now, you may say, so much fiber in a "diet" food--it must be gross and bland.  I promise you the pasta and crackers are really delicious--they even pass my super scientific test known as "Will My Husband or Father Eat It" test.  They do--and have yet to complain--so they can't be bad, right?

The "Lite Crackers" come in two flavors, Cheese and Nacho.  My personal favorite is Nacho...but they are both good.  Comparatively, they both taste and look like Cheez-its, but less salty.  If you have ever had a 100-calorie pack of Cheez-its, you know you get about 20 crackers in the bag.  The Lite Crackers contain around 35-40 crackers and are only 80 calories a bag.   

The "Light Pasta" is truly tasty.  It definitely needs to be cooked longer than white pasta--but if you are used to whole wheat pasta, it is about the same cooking time.  I've had all four types, Penne, Short Fettuccine, Elbows and Rotini and all are good.  My preference is anything but the Fettuccine but I just don't like long pasta (it's a pain to eat, in my opinion).  The portion size is 2 oz, uncooked, for 130 calories.  I usually make double portions for my husband and I and end up being really full once I'm finished with dinner--if I am able to finish at all.  Seriously, I'm not making it up.  Regular pasta has about 200 calories per 2 oz (uncooked) and who actually eats 2 oz?

Now, they do make a macaroni and cheese product that I am not a fan of, "Mac-mmm-Cheese".  I have never really been a big fan of mac and cheese to begin with, something about it always seems so artificial to me and I don't think it tastes that good.  That being said, I do know people who like it a lot--so it is worth a shot if you are looking for a healthier version of mac and cheese.  I have yet to try their flavored light pasta --although I just saw they have chocolate pasta, which I may need to purchase.  Right now I'm pretty content with the crackers and regular light pasta.  

The only problem is Fiber Gourmet products are only available online, for the most part.  Some Whole Foods do carry the products--but none in Massachusetts.  Here is a list of stores where products are currently available.  Fiber Gourmet is bit more expensive than regular pasta, but remember the difference in volume...and for me that alone makes it worth it.  If you are not sure you will like the products--I suggest finding a friend who may be interested as well.  That way you split the cost and both benefit from trying something new.  Try it--hopefully you will become a convert like me!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trim Down Tip

Baby Steps

Out of all of the tips and tricks that can aid you in the losing weight--the one I think is the most useful is also the most simple.  You need to move.  It's time to close your computer (once you finish reading this post), get off the couch and move around.  

You know the wake up in the morning and go to the gym for a half hour, maybe even an hour before work.  You feel great.  Then you go to work and more often than not sit behind a desk of some sort for 8 plus hours.  You leave work, go home, have dinner and sit down to watch TV or read --whatever your vice may be.  But that's OK, right?  You went to the gym in the morning -which of course is always commendable- but how active were you over the course of the entire day, including your gym time?  The best way to know is to wear a pedometer.

I know what you are thinking.  A pedometer is a total pain in the neck to wear.  I thought that too, but after wearing it for a few days, you really do get used to it, and dare I say somewhat obsessed with it.  A person is said to live an active lifestyle if he/she takes around 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) a day.  Let me tell you, 10,000 steps is A LOT.  If you are a walker, a runner, an elipticizer ( I know it's not a word)--whatever your exercise may be--pedometers easily count how many steps you take a day.  There are all sorts of fancy ones out there but I like the ones that are simple, easy to operate.  After all, you just need a good estimate--it doesn't need to be an exact number.  This pedometer, the Yamax Digiwalker SW200, is my favorite because you don't even have to set it up--you just clip it on our belt and move.  Plus it is fairly inexpensive (especially if you wear it every day).  There are also fancier models to account for varying stride lengths depending on height  but like I said, you just need an estimate.  

Now--do not go out and get your pedometer and expect to make 10,000 steps on the first day (unless you lead a very active lifestyle already) -- believe me, it takes a lot of activity to get to 10,000 steps and if you are not in good shape already you could injure yourself.   Check with your doctor before starting an activity routine and start slow.  Aim for 2,000 steps for the first few days and see what happens.  Then gradually aim for an extra 1,000 steps until you reach 10,000 (or more).  Also, you do not have to get all of your steps at the gym.  I would say on average, a little over half of my steps throughout the day come from a workout.  The rest come from housework, climbing stairs, parking farther away when doing errands--little things that really do add up.  

Hopefully you will find this to be helpful--I think it is a great motivator.  Especially on my day off--it bugs me when I see that I haven't come close to my goal.  So get out there and move and remember, if you burn more calories throughout the day than you take in, you will start to see results.  Baby steps :).

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Foods to Ponder


There are a myriad of delicious fruits out there but Autumn in New England screams just one--apples.  A medium apple (approximately 3' in diameter) has 95 calories and 4 grams of dietary fiber.  Make sure you leave the skin on the apple to attain the majority of the fiber.  Research has found that fiber can aid in decreasing cholesterol and aids in digestion.  Apples are great on their own--but if you are looking for a more fulfilling snack, try it with a tablespoon (or two) or peanut butter, a slice of cheddar cheese, or even with a handful of almonds.  The added protein will slow down your digestion and help keep you full longer.  Yum!

Apple orchards are all over the place and not only provide a fun outdoor activity for the day (emphasis on activity) but also are a great way to try different varieties of apples at a relatively low cost.  Apple season may be coming to an end, but there are still loads of orchards out there with apples to be picked.  We went to Honey-Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA a few weekends ago--I highly recommend it!  Lots of apples, pumpkins and plenty of activities like hay rides and a petting zoo.  The Boston Globe recently printed a great article with information on the various orchards around the state.  Check them out!

After you have enjoyed your apple picking, be it at an orchard or at the grocery store, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your treat.  Cortland apples are the best for baking.  My family happens to love apple crisp, so that is usually the first thing we make.  Yes, you can eat apple crisp and still consider yourself healthy!  I take basic recipes and substitute healthier ingredients to decrease the calorie and/or fat content.    Here is a new version of my Mother-in-law's apple crisp recipe--let me know how it goes, and more importantly how it tastes!

Apple Crisp
2-3 Cortland apples (peeled and sliced)
1-2 tsp each of cinnamon, Splenda and nutmeg (depending on your taste)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of Splenda
1 egg beaten
2/3 cup butter ( I like to use Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks)
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9 inch pie pan with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom of the pan with sliced apples.  Sprinkle with 1-2 tsp of cinnamon, Splenda and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, melt 2/3 cup of butter.  Add egg, flour and remaining Splenda.  Mix well-it should be paste-like when finished.  Spread mixture over apples.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden.  Enjoy!

Servings - 8 ; Calories - 142 cal; Fat - 8 grams; Carbohydrates: 15 grams; Fiber - 2.25 grams

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