Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Trim Down Tip

Schedule It In!

Let's face it.  Life is busy.  Everyone has different things going on ranging from work to family commitments. It is hard to create an exercise routine -- never mind stick to it.  One day you oversleep.  The next day you get stuck in a meeting.  A friend invites you to dinner.  I think you get my point.  Sometimes life just gets in the way--but you need to remember to take time for yourself.

Whether you are just beginning a workout routine or you are a seasoned gym rat it is important to schedule it in.  Treat your workout the same way you do a meeting or a doctor's appointment.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  

Personally, I need to plan out my week ahead of time.  I look at my schedule and figure out where I need to be and when.  Then each night, I add in the daily to-do's like errands, meals etc. and decide where my workout should fit in.  If my workout is in the morning, I lay out my clothes the night before so I can just get up and go.  If it is at night, I decide on a time and make sure I am available for the 30-60 minutes I need to be.  

For some, it may be easier to literally schedule in your workout on your calendar.  Take out your appointment book, iPod...whatever it may be.  Go through each day (I recommend a week ahead of time--things tend to change if you plan further out) and choose where your workout fits in.  Something like 6AM Wakeup...6:30AM Gym...8:30AM Work...5pm Grocery Store...etc.  Then you need to treat your workout as a set in stone appointment.  At 6:30AM you need to be on the treadmill for your allotted time and then you get ready for work.  This makes it much easier to fit exercise into your busy life and you make the most of your time.  The key is treating it as a serious appointment.  If not, you will just sleep in or go out for drinks and then you will be scrambling to get in a half-hearted workout, if at all.  

So when you finish reading, take out your calendar and get to work.

Note: Due to the holidays--there will be no posts until after the New Year.  Happy Holidays and see you on January 4th!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Foods to Ponder


Recently a friend asked me about the difference and/or benefits of soy milk versus cow's milk. I promised that I would elaborate on my immediate (and brief) here goes.  Soy milk found in the grocery store are fortified--meaning many vitamins and nutrients are added to make it comparable to cow's milk.  Most have 80-100 calories, 2-4 grams of fat (depending on full fat versus light versions), 7 grams of protein, 300-400 mg of calcium, 120 IU of vitamin D and no cholesterol per 8 oz cup .  In comparison, nonfat cow's milk has 90 calories, 0-1 grams of fat, 300 mg of calcium, 5 mg of cholesterol.  There is some question of whether or not the calcium in soy milk (which is added in) is absorbed as well as calcium in cow's milk, but recent research  has found that the absorption is the same--and soy milk may even reduce calcium excretion which means stronger bones!

Soy products are made from the soy bean.  Typically, soy is incorporated in a person's diet for one of three major reasons: 1. a milk or lactose allergy.  2. a vegetarian diet 3. taste or preference.  Soy contains all 9 essential amino acids necessary for growth and good health making it the only complete plant protein that is equal to a meat protein.  Soy contains isoflavones (antioxidants) that have been shown to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.  Read more about the latest research here.  Soy is a great meat substitute because of its protein content.  Try a few of my favorite soy products and I think you may be surprised at how good they are!

Morningstar Farms - this company makes fabulous soy products.  I love their Black Bean Burger as a quick lunch or dinner and the Veggie Sausage Patties are yummy as a side to your pancakes or on an egg sandwich.  

8th Continent - this is by far my favorite brand of soy milk.  I really like the Light Vanilla and the Light Chocolate version.  It only has 60 or 90 calories respectively per serving and actually tastes like a dessert.  I like to make shakes or smoothies with soy milk, frozen fruit and a little Better 'n Peanut Butter.

Edamame - If you have ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you may have tried these yummy soy beans.  They look similar to a pea pod when in their shell.  You eat them by biting the pod and sucking out the bean.  I like to buy them pre-shelled.  You can find them in the frozen vegetable section of your grocery store.  Usually they are served with a little salt--just follow the very simple directions on the bag.  Edamame are loaded with protein (11 grams per 1/2 cup) and make a great appetizer or snack.  

Hopefully this will encourage you to try something new!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Delicious Discovery

Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix

Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day.  I could eat it morning, noon and night and never get tired of it.  I mean, really...what's not to like?  Pancakes, eggs, waffles--delicious is all I have to say.  I especially love pancakes but have never really found a good mix that isn't full of preservatives or a million ingredients I can't pronounce.  That is until I found Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix!

Seriously, these pancakes are delicious.  They are made with 100% whole grains and 2 pancakes have just 220 calories and 4 grams of fiber.  All you do is add two ingredients...skim milk and egg whites...and you are good to go!  The back of the box includes recipe adjustments for heart healthy pancakes, waffles, heart healthy waffles and larger servings.  

The one catch...well there are two actually.  First--it can be difficult to find.  In the Boston area, the usually have it at Market Basket.  If you can't find it at your local grocer--talk to the manager and see if he/she can bring it in.  Second--it's a little expensive.  $7.49 is the price on the box--I know a bit steep for pancakes.  However, if you price it out there are 20 servings in a box...that is just $.37 per serving which is way less expensive than any pancakes I have found in a diner!  Believe me, they are yummy and good for you--what's better than that?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trim Down Tip

Holiday Party...or Parties!

During the holiday season, it may seem impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Holiday shopping takes the place of workouts, and holiday parties can foil your healthy eating in no time.  But is feasible to maintain your weight (let's not aspire for weight loss until the New Year).  You deserve to enjoy this time of year with your family and friends and not feel like you need to sit in the corner eating celery for hours on end.  Believe me, it is possible to take part in the holiday festivities and eat well--it just takes some guidance :).

1.  Eat before you go.  The biggest mistake you can make is going to a party hungry (well it would be worse to go there starving!).  Let's say the party is at 7pm.  You can assume it's probably a cocktail party (unless otherwise noted) with hors d'oeuvres and have dinner before...a light dinner...but enough to cut the edge off of your hunger.  Now, when you arrive at the party, you won't be lunging for a spanakopita before the host takes your coat.

2.  Always have a drink in your hand.  It makes it much harder to eat excessively if one of your hands is tied up with a drink.  That being said, I don't mean you should always have a cocktail (read ahead to number 3) but having a glass in your hand will help.

3.  Alternate drinks.  It's a party...have a couple of drinks.  Just remember…choose the right drink and when you finish a glass of wine, have soda water before your next cocktail.  This will help you two fold--you won't make a fool of yourself by falling over drunk and you'll save A LOT of calories.

4.  Offer to bring an appetizer or dessert.  Bring something healthy but delicious.  This way, you can be assured there will be at least one food item you can eat and know what is in it.  Check out this list of healthy fast appetizers from Cooking Light.  

5.  Exercise.  Whenever I have a party or event to attend, I always make time to exercise that day.  That way, when I inevitably eat too many cookies, I don't feel as badly.  If you have time...add an extra 10 minutes on to your typical workout for an added boost.  Most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself.  You should allow yourself to indulge every once in a while.  In fact, I encourage a good "cheat"--especially this time of year.  Don't beat yourself up if you wake up the next morning and think you over did it.  You can't blow your diet with one bad meal.  Just start up again the next time you eat and you will be just fine.  

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Foods to Ponder


Until recently, I had no idea avocados are considered to be year round fruits.  So once I found out, they moved to the top of my list of foods to ponder.  Avocados are a great source of Vitamins A, C and E plus they are full of potassium, iron and fiber.  They tend to get a bad rap for being high in let me clarify.  One cup (which is A LOT) of sliced avocado has 234 calories, 21.5 grams of fat and 9.8 grams of fiber.  The fat breakdown is 3.1 grams of saturated fat (the bad kind) and 18.4 grams of unsaturated fat (the good kind!).  The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet low in fat and that the fats primarily be unsaturated.  Furthermore, according to the California Avocado Commission, avocados are a nutrient booster aiding in the absorption of fat soluble nutrients ( Vitamin A, D, E, K) in foods that are eaten along with the fruit.  All the more reason to eat them!

Selecting an avocado is simple.  Look for a fruit that is firm when pressure is applied (a light squeeze of the hand).  The harder the fruit--the less if you are not planning on using the avocado immediately, pick a very firm fruit. If you need to ripen the fruit, simply place it in a brown paper bag at room temperature for a few days and it will be perfect.  Ripe fruit can be placed in the refrigerator.  Lastly, once you cut an avocado, it may turn brown due to the air contact.  Just sprinkle a little lemon juice over the fruit and it will slow down the browning process.  Questions on how to cut an avocado?  Here is an explanation of the step by step process.

There are the obvious ways to prepare and eat avocado--i.e. guacamole.  My favorite type of guacamole is a little bit spicy and a little bit sweet--this is a great recipe from Alton Brown of the Food Network.  Just be careful not to overdo it with the chips that typically go along with guacamole (I know it can be so addictive).  Then there are the not so obvious ways to eat avocados.  I like to use them as a fat substitute--meaning a fatty condiment substitute.  So instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich--add a few slices of avocado.  The creamy texture will still be there but the saturated fat and cholesterol will vanish!  Avocados are a great addition to salads or as a garnish to just about any protein (meat, fish etc.).  Feel free to send along your favorite way to enjoy an avocado.  Eat up!  

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Delicious Discovery

Jimmy Dean D-Lights Sandwiches

I love a good breakfast sandwich.  I have memories of being very little and being very excited to go to the Burger King drive-thru for a Bacon Egg and Cheese Croissanwich...super healthy.  I haven't met many breakfast sandwiches I don't like--but it isn't as easy to find a healthy one that I don't have to make on my own.  It's not like it's that hard to make it from scratch--but it takes more time and more often than not...breakfast is on the run.  

Jimmy Dean.  Who knew?  I have seen their commercials for years touting the latest fattening breakfast products and never tried any of them...until now.  The line of D-Light Sandwiches are yummy!  There are four types, Turkey Sausage on a Whole Grain Bagel, Turkey Sausage, Egg White and Cheese on a Croissant, Turkey Sausage, Egg White and Cheese on a Muffin and Canadian Bacon, Egg White and Cheese on a Muffin.  I have tried two types so far and am in l-o-v-e!

The canadian bacon sandwich is pretty tasty.  The muffin is honey wheat and is really delicious.  One sandwich has 230 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber.  The turkey sausage sandwich has egg whites and cheese and is on a bagel.  I think this one is my favorite.  There are just 260 calories, 8 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber--and it's a good size!  It is slightly more calories than the canadian bacon version but my preference is for the bagel :)

You can find D-Lights in the frozen breakfast section of your grocery store.  One box has 4 sandwiches and is about $6.50 a box.  It might sound steep but if you break it down it's only $1.63 a sandwich--which I think it a good deal.  They may not be the healthiest of breakfast choices--but when you are craving a good breakfast sandwich and thinking about going to the drive-thru...I recommend D-Lights.  Just remember--breakfast is the most important meal of the day!  

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trim Down Tip


Since I started this blog, I'm pretty sure I have mentioned fiber in just about every entry.  Today, I was thinking about what to write about and realized that I have never fully explained the health benefits nor the definition of dietary fiber.  Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest.  There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble and they both do different things. 

Soluble fiber is just that...soluble.  It mixes with water and turns into a gel during the digestion process.  This causes a slow down in digestion thus making you realize you are full faster and longer.  It has been proven that soluble fiber lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and helps to prevent heart disease.  It can be found in beans, lentils, peas, barley, flax seed, citrus fruits, apples, berries and carrots. 

Insoluble fiber...well to put it helps keep you regular.  It also aids in removing toxic waste from the colon quickly.  It is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, root vegetable skins, fruit peels, whole wheat, brown rice, cous cous, seeds and nuts.

Now that you know the details...know don't have to think about what kind of fiber you are getting in your diet.  Just aim to get fiber...period.  The recommended intake is 25 grams per day--which is a lot harder to get in that you would think.  You can probably already tell if you get a fair amount of fiber in your diet after reading above.  If you think your intake is a little low...let me warn you...don't wake up tomorrow and set out to eat 25++ grams from the getgo.  You will get a belly ache...and that's putting it lightly!  Just add in fiber gradually...and extra piece of fruit, a slice of whole wheat bread, some added beans to your salad and/or just an added vegetable.  If you are having the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day and 3 servings of whole grains--you will be well on your way to making the 25 grams. 

If you have been eating a healthier diet and find yourself feeling hungry after meals...try adding some fiber to each meal or snack.  You will definitely fine yourself satieted for longer and reap all the healthy benefits---and that is a healthy eater's dream!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Foods to Ponder


I love the holidays.  Mostly because of the festivities that lead up to the hoidays...but nonetheless it is such a joyous time of year (aside from the looming change in weather if you live in New England).  It is around this time of year...every year...that I remember how much I love pumpkin.  Pumpkin everything...from coffee and breads to pasta and cake--it's delicious and so good for you (well, the pumpkin is...not sure I can say the same for pumpkin pie!).  

Canned pumpkin is so easy, accessible and like I said...good for you!  One half cup has just 43 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber.  It is high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which promote good vision and immunity respectively.  It is a great addition to oatmeal -- one of my many oatmeal concoctions -- and lasts for days in the refrigerator (so you don't have to use the whole can at once).  

A really delicious pumpkin treat is an old 2-ingredient Weight Watchers recipe.  Just take a box of cake mix (I find chocolate or spice cake work best) and mix with 1 can of pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling--use real pumpkin).  Bake according to the directions on the cake box--but don't use any other ingredients--just pumpkin and plain cake mix.  The mixture will be thick.  It makes a delicious low calorie cake or muffins--180 calories, 12 servings--whichever your prefer.  

My absolute favorite pumpkin dish is a recipe my sister discovered while watching the Food Network.  The official name is Penne-Wise Pupmkin Pasta but we refer to it as pumpkin pasta (original, huh?).  The recipe is fairly healthy as is but with a few substitutions it can be even better.  I always use low-sodium chicken stock and instead of cream, use nonfat milk.  If you are really feeling healthy--serve the sauce over Fiber Gourmet pasta and I guarantee you will be incredibly full and satisfied when you finish.  It is truly so yummy--my husband actually requests it--and it is so easy to make.  I always feel really accomplished when I make it because I made my own pasta sauce and in no time.  

Mmm, pumpkin!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Delicious Discovery

Pop Chips

I was in the airport last week and as always, I was hungry.  I find it really difficult to travel because I am constantly hungry and unless I am prepared with my own snacks...I end up wanting the delicous treats Jet Blue dangles in front of your face (did you know you can take more than one?)  It's bad news.  So as I was perusing the magazines in the gift store, I found myself migrating towards the food.  The shelves were lined with the typical snacks and goodies--candy, trail mix, potato chips--all in enormous portions and screaming "eat me!".  Then I saw the Pop Chips.  Seriously--I think I heard bells in my head. 

I chose the Salt and Pepper variety and immediately opened the bag (3 servings in one bag).  Yum!  Don't worry, I shared the bag with the rest of my family--and everyone liked them.  They sort of taste like a cross between a potato chip and a rice cake...but a really tasty spicy rice cake.  I had heard about Pop Chips on TV and in magazines but had never seen them anywhere.  So I figured if they were in an airport store...they must be in mainstream stores.  Before I boarded the plane, I found out the chips are carried at Target and Whole Foods.  Here is a list of locations where Pop Chips are sold. 

Fast forward to today.  My local Whole Foods had two different varieties, Original and Barbeque.  The Original flavor tastes like a regular potato chip...I definitely like them, but I would choose a flavored chip over the plain.  I'm not a big fan of Barbeque chips, so my Mom was the taste tester on these.  She really liked them.  I found them to be very smokey and not as artificial as barbeque flavor usually tastes, in my opinion.  Target has a lot more varieties.  I bought that Cheddar and the Salt and Vinegar--both of which are delicious depending on what you are craving.  

As for the stats, Pop Chips aren't baked or fried.  They use a special heat and pressure to create the popping process...hence the name.  There are no trans fats (they only use safflower or sunflower oil) and no saturated fats (except for the sour cream and onion variety which has .5 g/serving) and no preservatives or food additives.  Pop Chips have 120 calories per 1 oz serving (approximately 19 chips).  I'm on the lookout for individual bags sold in stores.  They sell a variety pack on the website but I'd rather pick my favorite flavors.  Otherwise, I recommend putting individual servings into small baggies to avoid eating the entire bag.   At Whole Foods, a regular bag was $2.89.  At Target they were on sale 2 for $5.  Not too bad!

Enjoy the chips--let me know if you find the individual bags!!!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trim Down Tip


It's that time of year.  The holidays have arrived and your social calendar is probably filling up quickly.  Whether it be a family dinner or holiday cocktail party there will be lots going on through the New Year.  This is the time of year when diets go out the window--and not only for those of you who are actually on a diet.  I try to follow a healthy lifestyle throughout the year and this is hands down the most difficult time to maintain some semblance of health (second runner-up...birthday season!). 

Choosing between the various appetizers and desserts is hard enough.  Should you have the spring rolls or the cheesecake...or both?  Chances are you have thought about health when it comes to food over the holidays.  But, did you ever stop to think about which drink you should pick up and which you should stay far far away from?

The beverage you choose may just be the key to avoiding the dreaded holiday weight gain.  Beer, wine, juice, egg nog--they all have calories and those calories double and triple with each additional drink.  Again, I'm not trying to be a downer-just making sure you are prepared!  Here is a list of popular drinks during the holidays and their calorie content:

Beer: regular, 12 oz bottle - 145 calorie
Beer: light, 12 oz bottle - 110 calories
Champagne: 4 oz - 80 calories
Eggnog: 1/2 cup - 200 calories
Eggnog: light, 1/2 cup - 120 calories
Hard Liquor: 1 shot - 100 calories
Martini: plain, 2.2 oz - 135 calories
Mimosa: 8 oz - 130 calories
Seltzer/Sparkling Water: 8 oz - 0 calories
Soda: 8 oz - 100 calories
Tonic Water: 8 oz - 85 calories
Water: 8 oz - 0 calories
Wine: 4 oz - 100 calories

I think I covered most of the big ones.  A 1/2 cup of egg nog isn't that much.  So even just a cup adds up to 400 calories before you have even eaten anything!  I'm a big advocate of not drinking your calories.  Don't get me wrong...I love a good cocktail...but not when I'm faced with a giant smorgasboard of food. 

A few hints.  If you like a mixed drink, try mixing with diet soda or seltzer water.  That way you save yourself 100 calories per drink.  I really like wine spritzers (half wine half soda water).  Opt for low-cal versions of egg nog and diet juices.  Also, try alternating between a cocktail and water (or any zero-calorie) drink.  This kills two birds with one stone--1) you save calories 2) you don't make a fool out of yourself by getting drunk at your work Christmas party. 

Remember--there is nothing wrong with imbibing during the holidays.  Just be prepared with facts and you will be less likely to take in excess calories and a lot happier when the New Year rolls around!

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