Friday, January 29, 2010

Delicious Discovery


Like I said last week, I am newly obsessed with nutella.  For those of you who are not familiar with the product, it is comprised of three main ingredients: hazelnuts, skim milk and cocoa.  Think chocolate peanut butter and multiply the delicious factor by 1,000.  

Two tablespoons have 200 calories, 11 grams of fat (3.5 grams of saturated fat), and 3 grams of protein -- plus there are no artificial colors or preservatives.   The only thing I am not super keen on is the sugar content -- it is the first ingredient listed which means there is a lot, 21 g per serving.  However, I consider nutella to be a tasty treat so it's nothing to be concerned about in moderation.  

How should you eat nutella, you may ask?  Well, it's a delicious spread on just about anything, bananas, berries, crumpets, crepes and the list just keeps going.  Just be sure to measure it out--two tablespoons is a lot more than you think.  When I'm craving something delicious but don't want to go overboard, 99.9% of the time nutella hits the spot!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trim Down Tip

Cut Out the Trans Fat

There has been a lot of press surrounding trans fat over the past few years.  Trans fat is a relatively new subject in the realm of nutrition--and not for good reason.  Let me explain...

Trans fat is a man made fat.  It is created through a chemical process in which hydrogen is added to liquid fat (vegetable oils).  This makes it solid at room temperature.  It is also known as partially hydrogenated oil.  

Trans fats were created to increase shelf life of products.  It all comes down to the money--the longer the products last the better it is for the company that makes it.  But what about what it does to us?

Is it really that bad for me?
Um...yeah.  Trans fat does exactly what you do not want it to do.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend you keep your intake of trans fat as low as possible.  It not only raises your bad cholesterol, aka LDL, but also decreases your good cholesterol, aka HDL.  To make matters worse, it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.  For more information, check out the American Heart Association--it's a fabulous resource.    

How do you avoid it?
As of January 2006, the FDA requires all food manufacturers to list trans fat on the nutrition label.  However, regulations state that it only needs to be listed if there are more than .5 grams per serving.  So, just because the label says zero--there could be some lurking in your food.  Read the ingredient list and look for paritally hydrogenated oil or shortening.  If either ingredient is listed--there is trans fat--and remember for each additional serving the amount of trans fat doubles!

If your food of choice doesn't have a nutrition label--use this rule of thumb: processed foods such as cookies, crackers, fried foods, cakes etc. usually contain trans fat.  Stick margarine was created by adding trans fats--so use whipped products instead.  For more information on butter click here.  Many bakeries use trans fat -- so feel free to ask proprietors what kind of oil they use--don't be ashamed--it's your health!

California is the only state to have banned the use of trans fat cooking oils (as of January 1st this year!).  Many cities and towns are working on legislation to do the same--New York, Philadelphia and Boston have done so already.  So if you are fired up about the use of trans fats in foods you eat--let your local government know.  A lot of baby steps can add up to big changes!

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Foods to Ponder

Baby Foods

Lately, I have had a lot of requests for information on baby foods.  I am a new Mom myself, so I'm learning along with you, but I will pass on my thoughts and favorite finds so far.  

Gerber Organics First Foods - These are just plain fruits and vegetables mashed up with water. What I like is there are just two ingredients.  Price varies but I have found them on sale for 10 for $10 at Babies R Us and on sale at any grocery store too.  

Earth's Best First Foods - Basically the same as the Gerber Organics except they come in a jar.  I just buy whichever is on sale.  Again, just two ingredients--nothing artificial.  

YoBaby - I just started buying this yogurt for my daughter.  Aside from allowing some time for her taste buds to adjust to the flavor of yogurt--she loves the taste.  It comes in four flavors--I like the plain because it has the least amount of sugar and highest amount of protein yielding the best nutritional content.   

Gerber Organics Cereals - My daughter is a big fan of the oatmeal and rice cereal--and nutrition wise--it's great for her.  I mix it with breast milk (or water if I'm in a bind) and it disappears shortly after!

HappyBaby Puffs - These are great when you are on the go and your baby wants to eat immediately.  Again, I like that they are low in sugar and contain no artificial flavors or colorings.  You can find them in lots of stores nationwide.  

Those are my top 5.  There will be many more fabulous finds for babies in the future!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Delicious Discovery

Amy's Veggie Burgers 

I love a good veggie burger--emphasis on good.  They are hard to find.  Some of them are pretty tasteless unless you load them up with condiments and cheese--and then you are sort of defeating the purpose of eating a healthy veggie burger!  So I was pretty pleased when I found Amy's Veggie Burgers

I love just about all of Amy's products--so I wasn't shocked to find out I felt similarly about their burgers.  There are 6 different types--ranging from 110-200 calories--and all are low fat and high fiber.  My favorites are the California and the Texas burger.  

Veggie burgers are a great source of protein--especially for those who are vegetarians or for those who are looking for a new and easy to prepare lunch or dinner.  I like my burgers crispy--so I tend to broil them for 5 minutes on each side instead of cooking according to the package directions.  Just grab your favorite kind of whole grain bread, some mustard and low fat cheese (if you wish) and you have a perfect tasty and filling meal.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trim Down Tip

P.F. Changs

So it's time to figure out how to navigate the ever-so-intimidating restaurant menu.  I love P.F. Chang's.  Let's put it this way--my daughter visited P.F. Chang's when she was 6 days old :). Over the past year, several locations have opened up in the Boston area.  There are so many options on the menu--many of which are not so healthy.  But alas, there are also choices that are good for you and delicious.  

Top 3 Healthy Choices:

Chicken Lettuce Wraps: At just 510 calories for the entire dish--this is a great choice for a shared appetizer or as an entree( FYI--the vegetarian option has just 270 calories).  It comes with a dish of chicken served over rice noodles (I recommend asking for no rice noodles--they taste like styrofoam) and another dish filled with bibb lettuce (serving as the wrap), vegetables and a few dipping sauces.  Make your own wrap and enjoy!

Steamed Dumplings: There are several options for dumplings at P.F. Chang's. Be sure to order the steamed versions--the other option is pan fried in oil.  Choose peking, shrimp or vegetarian and each dumpling will take you for between 50-65 calories!  Yummy!

Soup: The egg drop soup and hot and sour soup are great options.  Soup is a great way to start off a meal--but be sure to stick to the cup--unless you are splitting it with someone.  The bowls of soup at P.F. Changs come in an enormous kettle and are way too much for one person.  However, a cup of soup only contains 60 (egg drop) or 90 (hot and sour ) calories!

So you may ask--what should I stay away from?  Avoid anything titled Kung Pao which translated to English means 1 million calories.  If the menu doesn't detail how an option is prepared--ask your server.  Pan-fried or pan-seared are the big no no's.  Switch to steamed brown rice for added fiber--but know each half cup adds an extra 110 calories to your meal.  Also--watch out for sodium - a big concern at Chinese restaurants.  Be sure to choose the low sodium soy sauce when dipping in and save 500 mg of sodium per tablespoon.  Calorie King has the nutrition information for lots of menu choices from P.F. Chang's--so check it out and next time you go, you will be prepared!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Foods to Ponder


Bread has been the target of a lot of hype lately.  First "they" said to avoid it during the low-carb diet craze.  Then it was eat it because whole grains are good for you.  So which is it?  And what breads are the best choices for you?  Here goes nothing.

Please don't cut out carbohydrates from your diet.  You need carbs for energy--in fact the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 45-65% of your calories come from carbohydrates.  Yes, carbs include fruits, vegetables and grains--but grains, including bread, should be a big part of your carbohydrate intake.  One slice of whole grain bread--meaning 100% whole wheat-counts as one serving of whole grains. Guidelines recommend you eat 3-5 servings of whole grains daily.  You will take in extra fiber which helps fight heart disease and aids in digestion.

I purchase three types of breads--depending on my mood. 

1.  Ezekial - This bread is very hearty and has just 80 calories and 3 grams of fiber a slice.  You can find it in the organic freezer section of most grocery stores or Trader Joe's has it in the bread section, fresh!

2.  Pepperidge Farms 100% Whole Wheat - This bread is great--it makes a good size sandwich.  One slice has 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber.  

3.  Pepperidge Farms Deli Flats 100% Whole Wheat - These are my absolute favorite way to eat a sandwich.  One flat is 100 calories and has 5 grams of fiber.  They are super soft and delicious--a perfect base for your lunch.  

Now, if you prefer a different brand of bread--whatever if may be--that is fine.  Just read the nutrition label first to be sure your choice is one that is whole grain.  The ingredient list should have "whole wheat flour" as the first ingredient and make sure high fructose corn syrup is not listed.  Look for bread with at least 2 grams of fiber per slice.  Lastly, the if the packaging reads 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain--it is a great choice.  

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Delicious Discovery

Trader Joe's British Style Crumpets

These aren't exactly a new find of mine--but I'm not sure enough people know about them.  Plus--I have recently had a newfound obsession with them again.  Trader Joe's Crumpets are so incredibly delicious.  

You can find them in the bread section of the grocery chain--I love the cinnamon flavor but they also come in original.  They come in a sealed package with 6 crumpets.   At just 110 calories, no fat and 2 grams of fiber--they are a perfect treat.  Sometimes I have one for breakfast with a little Better n' Peanut Butter or low-fat strawberry cream cheese.  However--my new favorite is to spread a little Nutella on top (I'm kind of obsessed with Nutella now too--but I will elaborate more on that another time) --you feel like you are eating something really bad for you--but you aren't!

Personally--I open the package, individually wrap each crumpet and then freeze them so they last longer.  Then just microwave for a few seconds and toast one up.  They are just as delicious fresh too.  I promise--you will not regret it!

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trim Down Tip

Dining Out

I know from experience that eating out can be very difficult and even intimidating when on a diet...or as I like to say...when leading a healthy lifestyle.  It is much easier to control your food intake when you are cooking your own meal--but let's be honest--it is not realistic.  You will be faced with birthday dinners, work luncheons or just a random night out when you will need to look at a menu and select a meal that is not only healthy but also delicious.  YES--that does exist!  So--here are my top five ways to navigate a restaurant menu--follow them and you will pass this test with flying colors.

1.  Know what you are getting into.  If the restaurant you are heading to is a chain, check out the website before you get there.  Most major restaurants have a nutrition tab on their webpage or at the very least will provide you with their menu.  This way you can take a look at the various options.  If the restaurant does not have a website or provide nutrition facts, I recommend Calorie King which contains lots of major chains menus and nutritional info.  If you can't find the restaurant you are going to, just punch in a menu item that sounds good and see where it fits into your diet.  

2.  Order a salad.  A salad will not only provide you with lots of healthy vitamins and nutrients, but also take the edge off your hunger helping you to realize you are full, faster.  It doesn't have to be a fancy salad--in fact fancy salads often have nuts, cheese and other goodies that just mean extra unnecessary calories.  Look for a garden, house or other salad that is filled with veggies.  If you like cheese on your salad, ask them to go light on the cheese.  Croutons are also a hidden calorie trap so try to avoid them if possible.  Lastly--stick to salad dressings that are oil based like italian or a vinaigrette instead of creamy dressings like ranch or blue cheese.  You can save yourself 100 calories by making the switch and even more if you ask for the dressing on the side.

3.  Order an appetizer as your meal.  Restaurant portions are enormous.  Appetizers tend to be more appropriate serving sizes and if you order a salad, more than enough food for a meal.  I like to stick to items like shrimp cocktail, crab cakes (ask how they are prepared first--see #4), soups, or lettuce wraps (usually meat served with bibb lettuce) just to name a few.  If you are eyeing an entree, order it--just eat half of it.  Entrees are typically 2-3 times bigger than a recommended serving.  I usually cut my fish or meat in half once it is served so I won't feel the need to finish it--plus you will have leftovers!  Feel free to finish your veggies :).  

4.  When choosing an entree (or appetizer) look for the words grilled, broiled or baked.  The terms pan seared, sauteed or fried mean cooked in oil therefore cooked with a lot of added calories.  If something you are interested in ordering isn't prepared they way you would like it--just ask.  Also, if it comes with a starch such as rice or potatoes, ask if you can substitute vegetables to save 100++ calories.  Restaurants are used to people with various dietary requests.  If they have the ability to cook to order they will almost always accommodate your needs.  

5.  Dessert.  You don't have to avoid dessert.  Order one dessert to share with your dining partners--this way you won't feel deprived and you won't take in all 800 calories of the cheesecake you could easily take down on your own.  If no one wants to share, look for choices like sorbet, or berries with cream.  Both are delicious options and have far less calories than cakes and ice cream.  

Stay tuned.  In the upcoming weeks I will be posting about various restaurant chains--what to eat and what not to eat.  If you have specific requests--let me know!

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Foods to Ponder


I figure it is about time for me to talk about oatmeal since I am constantly talking about things I add to my favorite breakfast treat.  Oatmeal is awesome.  Hands down it is the best breakfast on Earth.  OK--maybe I am getting a bit carried away--but it is so yummy and incredibly healthy for you--provided you are choosing the right kind!

One half cup of oatmeal has just 150 calories and 4 grams of fiber.  A half cup doesn't sound like much, but once you add water and cook it--it puffs up to be a hearty serving.  Plus--oatmeal is just the base of my breakfast.  Once you add fruit, a handful of nuts or a dollop of peanut butter--your bowl is overflowing with deliciousness!  Oatmeal is a great way to incorporate whole grains into your diet.  It also boasts cholesterol lowering qualities due to its fiber content. 

When buying oatmeal--do yourself a favor and avoid the instant packets--especially the ones with added fruit or syrup.  Instant oatmeal is processed and basically loses all of the great health benefits of oats in the process.  Steel cut oatmeal is 100% whole grain and personally, I think it is far superior to instant.  The best kind is McCanns Irish Oatmeal.  You can find it in any grocery store--it usually comes in a can (as pictured) but sometimes you can find it in a box. 

It is true that steel cut oatmeal can not be microwaved--which means old fashioned stovetop cooking.  If you don't have time for that--I have three options.  The first is you can cook a larger batch (I usually do 4 servings) and then keep it in a container in the refrigerator.  It will last for several days and you simply microwave a portion when you are ready to eat it. The second option comes from my favorite grocery store--Trader Joes.  They sell frozen steel cut oatmeal!  Each box has 4 individually wrapped portions that you just pop in the microwave and voila!  It's super delicious and sometimes it's just easier to make.  Starbucks also sells steel cut oatmeal which is fabulous.  It has 140 calories on its own, and they give you a choice of brown sugar (50 calories), dried fruit (100 calories) or a nut medley (100 calories) to bulk it up.  Check here to see if your local Starbucks has hot breakfast items--if so--the oatmeal is a great option when you are on the go and looking for something healthy.  

If you find oatmeal to be a bit bland--I recommend doctoring it up a bit.  Sometimes all you need is a little Splenda or sugar-free maple syrup and you are set.  For those of you who want to add a bit of protein--some milk, nuts or peanut butter are great additions.  Fruits such as bananas, berries and dried cranberries are also a tasty addition.  

On that note, it's time for breakfast!

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Delicious Discovery

Jell-o Mousse Temptations

I am always on the lookout for a delicious low-calorie dessert.  They are seriously hard to find.  Usually healthy desserts have one of two tastes.  1. way too healthy to be categorized as dessert or 2. like sawdust.  Not to mention I am incredibly addicted to sweets and therefore require portion controlled treats.

Bring on the newest product from Jell-o.  Jell-o Mousse Temptations are fabulous.  If you like mousse--they will be right up your alley.  They come in three flavors--all of which are very good.  My personal favorite is the Dark Chocolate Decadence.  It is super chocolate-y and rich tasting.  The Chocolate Indulgence flavor is tasty...a little less rich than the Dark Chocolate counterpart.  I am not usually a caramel fan but I will admit the Caramel Creme flavor is pretty delicious.  Sometimes I find caramel flavored products to be a bit artificial tasting but this is not at all.

The Mousse Temptations have just 60 calories 3 grams of fat and no sugar per mousse cup.  They come in a pack of 6 and are sold in the dairy section.  At my local grocery store, a package was $3.79.  I think well worth the price.

If you do pick them up--check out Jell-o's new pudding flavors too--the Cinnamon Roll and Boston Cream Pie are awesome!  They are also sugar free and contain just 60 calories per serving.  Jell-o snacks are definitely a great alternative to the gigantic bowl of ice cream that is oh so good but oh so bad for you.  This way, you get to have your dessert and not feel bad about it!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Trim Down Tip

New Year's Resolutions

This entry is going to be brief...but to the point.  It is officially 2010--not only a brand new year but the beginning of a new decade.  What better time to decide to become a healthier version of you?  I agree with the latter part of that sentence.  

Making a New Year's resolution to lose weight is theory.  But by the time March comes around, your resolution may not be high on your list of things to do and is over. Why not just random change your lifestyle?  Don't decide to lose 10 pounds, to run 5 miles or to give up the Doritos cold turkey.  Make the decision to change your lifestyle for good.  

I have never liked the term diet.  It implies that you are depriving yourself and that is always short lived.  Instead, resolve to become a healthy person this year (or this Wednesday!).   Choose to start eating clean foods (whole, fresh foods).  Engage in heart healthy exercise.  Make the decision to live a healthier life for yourself and yourself only...not just because it is a new year...but because it is time.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Foods to Ponder


I used to be one of those people who avoids nuts at all costs.  They get a bad rap--small portions are high in fat and calories--why would you want to waste calories on a food like that?  However, I soon came to realize that nuts are actually really good for you and taste delicious.  My most favorite of them all--the almond. 

One serving, 23 almonds, contains 165 calories, 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat (almost all of which is unsaturated) and 3 grams of fiber.  They are loaded with antioxidants and have been proven to be heart healthy.  The combination of fat and protein help to satiate your appetite -- and let's be honest, anything that can keep you from mindless snacking is worth it!  

Raw almonds are great.  If you prefer roasted--just be sure the label says dry roasted--otherwise the nuts will be fried in oil--which defeats the purpose of eating healthy nuts!  Roasted nuts also have a much longer shelf life.  Be sure to store almonds in a cool dry place.  Using a storage container or plastic bag are great options.  

The Almond Board of California is a fabulous resource.  They provide loads of recipes and various ways to incorporate almonds into your diet.   Personally, I love putting almonds in my oatmeal and salads for an added crunch.  I also find it easier (and less tempting) if I buy the large bag of almonds and pre-portion them into individual servings in baggies.  Otherwise, eating directly from the bag turns into multiple servings and lots of unnecessary calories.  Blue Diamond does sell 100-Calorie packs of almonds which are great--but a little expensive ($3.99 for 7 bags).

Go nuts!

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