4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat.
That’s the amount that an average person consumed on Thanksgiving Day, according to reports from the American Council on Exercise and the Calorie Control Council!
This amounts to double to triple the number of calories someone should be eating per day – not to mention all the leftovers and family events you may be having after Thanksgiving. If you’re not careful, you could easily end the weekend feeling bloated and yucky, possibly with an extra pound or two on the scale.
But don’t you worry, my friends – I’m going to stock you up with some great tips for making healthier choices this Thanksgiving. And I’m not going to tell you to skip your favorite foods and cut out desserts – I know it’s the holidays and you want to enjoy them! But I will give you a few ways to make better choices and practice portion control so you can walk away from the Thanksgiving table feeling fit and fabulous – and not feeling “I’ve got to unbutton my pants” full.
A few tips that you might find helpful for the whole day…
- Consider starting the day with something fun and fit, like a turkey trot! There's lots of benefits - you get to support a good cause, you burn calories, and it propels motivation to make healthy choices throughout the rest of the day.
- If you like to snack while you cook (or while you wait for someone else to cook!), chop up some fresh veggies or fruit to munch on ahead of time.
- Only choose what you love. It sounds like simple advice, but many people pile their plates with every single food even though they may not even really like certain items. No matter what’s on the table, only take the foods you like and leave some white space on your plate!
- Use small portions, and remember that if you’re truly hungry after finishing your plate, you can always go back for seconds. Piling on too much on the first go causes us to eat more, regardless of whether we’re hungry for it or not.
- Eat slowly and savor the food. You’ll enjoy your meal more and likely eat less overall because you’ll recognize that you feel full.
- Consider wearing fitted clothes. It sounds silly, but it can be a subtle reminder not to eat so much that you feel bloated.
And a few tips specific to your favorite turkey-day dishes…
- White meat is better for you than dark meat, although contrary to popular belief the difference isn’t monumental – but whether you like light or dark meet, skip the skin. It’ll help cut the calories and saturated fat. And as always, remember portion control - a 3-4 ounce serving of turkey should be about the size of the palm of your hand.
- Topping the turkey with some gravy or cranberry sauce? Skim the fat off the gravy before serving it, and make your own homemade cranberry sauce so that you can cut back on the sugar.
- Cook stuffing separately. Not only is it better for food safety (cooking it inside the bird is risky because the turkey may reach proper temperature before the stuffing does), but it also cuts down on calories since the fat drippings don’t enter the stuffing.
- If your mashed potato recipe calls for cream, whole milk, or sour cream, consider using skim milk or greek yogurt as a substitute to cut calories and fat.
- Try mixing half your mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower.
- Leave the marshmallows off of the sweet potatoes. Instead, try mashed sweet potatoes with a little milk and cinnamon. Or try roasted sweet potatoes: simply peel, chop, toss in olive oil and herbs, and roast in the oven.
- Pies are by no means a ‘health food’ - but some are certainly better for you than others! Pumpkin pie is a winner because it’s much lower in calories and fat than other varieties, plus supplies a hefty dose of Vitamin A for healthy eyesight. One piece of homemade pumpkin pie generally has about 310 calories, compared to over 500 in the same size serving of pecan pie.
- For desserts, choose one favorite or seasonal item. If your brother brings over a frozen store-bought apple pie that’s always available, you can probably live without a slice. But if there’s a special family dessert recipe that’s only made once or twice a year – go ahead and dig in with a portion-controlled slice. Enjoy every bite, but skip keeping the leftovers or bringing them home with you.
Share with us: How do you plan to take care of your health on Thanksgiving?
- Think before you drink! When the soda and alcohol are being passed around freely, it can be easy to rack up over 500 calories over the course of a few drinks. Skip the soda – if you like bubbles, go for seltzer instead. For alcohol, light beer or wine spritzers (half wine/half seltzer) are good options.
Even if you don’t have children, you probably will be involved in some sort of Halloween festivities. Whether it’s a friend’s party, passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, or pumpkin-themed treats at the office – Halloween is full of tasty temptations. Consider these scary statistics when it comes to candy consumption and Halloween:
- Consumers spend over $2 billion dollars each year on Halloween candy, according to the National Confectioners Association.
- The average child collects between 3500 calories and 7000 calories worth of candy on Halloween according to Dr. Donna Arnett, chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Public Health.
- 90% of parents sneak candy from their kids’ trick-or-treating stash.
- Americans consume 24.7 pounds of candy each year.
In light of those frightening facts, here are some tips for you, followed by some tips for those of you who have children…
Tips for you...
Tips for the kiddos…
- Wait until the night before or the night of Halloween to purchase candy. The less time the candy is sitting around the house, the less likely you are to eat it.
- Stick to fun size or miniature candy bars. If you start eating multiples, leave the wrappers in front of you to remind you how much you’ve eaten and hopefully encourage you to not overindulge. Avoid stocking up on full size bars - let’s be realistic, if you open up a big one, you’re probably going to eat the whole thing.
- Better yet, buy a type of candy to pass out that you don’t like!
- Keep candy where you can’t see it, and preferably where you can’t easily reach it. A high cabinet that requires a stepstool is perfect.
- Practice moderation. An occasional fun size treat won’t break the calorie bank, but one or two fun size treats everyday can lead to a pound or two of weight gain in a month’s time span.
- Freeze leftover candy. You’re more likely to let a craving pass if you know it’s going to take time for your treat to defrost. You can also use the frozen candy later in December to decorate gingerbread houses.
- After Halloween, avoid the discounted candy. It might be cheap, but is the discount worth weight gain and detrimental impacts on your health?
- Keep the house stocked with ready-to-eat healthy snacks, like pieces of fruit, string cheese, or portion controlled servings of nuts. If you don’t have the healthy choices readily available, you’re more likely to reach for the unhealthy candy.
Share with us: How will you stay healthy this Halloween?
- After your child goes trick-or-treating, have them sort their stash into two piles – favorites and not-so-favorites. Allow them to choose 1 small piece from the favorites pile each day or two, and toss or donate the other pile. Don’t let candy be a substitute for normal, nutritious snacks and meals.
- Keep the remaining candy somewhere out of sight – you might be surprised that some children forget about the remaining candy after a few days.
- Consider trading in the candy at a “buy-back” event. Participating dentists will “buy” children’s candy in exchange for cash, prizes, or coupons for goods at local businesses. The dentists then donate the candy to Operation Gratitude to support U.S troops.
- Or be the “Halloween Fairy!” After your kids choose 5 or 10 candies they want to keep, have them put the rest in a bag on their door handle when they go to sleep. At night, exchange the candy for a small gift.
- Don’t use the candy as punishment or reward – i.e. “if you clean your room, you can have more Halloween candy.” This sets up negative relationships with food and overrides a child’s natural signs for regulating hunger and satiety.
Fall brings us so many delicious produce items, including pumpkins. Not just for Jack-O-Lanterns, this vegetable provides lots of nutrients and can be used in a variety of ways. Time to get creative with pumpkins!
Pumpkin is rich in Vitamins A, C, and potassium. You can roast your own pumpkin, or you can pick up canned pumpkin as a quick & easy alternative. Look for canned versions that are pure pumpkin though, and not “pumpkin pie filling” which typically contains added sugar and/or spices.
Go beyond the pumpkin pie with these great recipe ideas:
- Add pumpkin to whole wheat pancake and waffle mixes for a fall twist on these yummy breakfasts.
- Try this recipe for 30-minute pumpkin soup, which combines pumpkins with other veggies like onion, corn, and bell pepper. Or try this recipe for pumpkin apple soup which has a bit of a sweeter taste.
- Love smoothies? Try an autumn smoothie made with milk (or almond/soy milk), pumpkin, banana, cinnamon, and ice cubes. You can also add in some flax seeds or chia seeds for an omega-3 boost!
- Baked goods like muffins or quick breads are perfect places to add vegetables like pumpkin, grated carrots, or grated zucchini.
- Dice fresh pumpkin and roast with sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and/or butternut squash for a great fall veggie feast.
- The Fruits and Veggies More Matters campaign suggests stuffing the pumpkin with apples, pineapple, raisins, and spices. then baking it for a delicious dessert. Check out the recipe here.
- Add pumpkin puree to creamy pasta sauces (made with milk instead of cream, of course) for extra nutrition and flavor.
And of course, use those seeds too! Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium (which may help with migraine prevention) and zinc (involved in keeping your immune system in tip top shape). Plus, they pack a lot of fiber and protein, making them a great snack choice. Here are some basic roasting instructions: Ingredients:
1-2 tsp olive oil, depending on the amount of seeds
Pinch of salt Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 300F.
2) Remove the seeds and clean off the pulp and any stringy stuff.
3) In a bowl, toss seeds with olive oil and salt.
4) Spread on a large baking sheet and roast for 25-45 minutes (longer for more seeds), or until golden brown.
And check out these great ideas:
- You can mix up the basic roasting recipe above by using different seasonings. For example, do you want a slightly sweet pumpkin seed? Try a little cinnamon and brown sugar. Want a spicy pumpkin seed? Try some chili powder and cayenne pepper.
- Sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds on top of your favorite salad for added flavor and crunch, like in this recipe for a baby spinach, avocado and pumpkin seed salad.
- Create a healthy trail mix using whole grain cereals, dried fruit, and roasted pumpkin seeds. This is a perfect snack to take on a fall hike to see the changing leaves!
- Instead of using pine nuts to make pesto, try substituting roasted pumpkin seeds! You can experiment with different greens besides basil too – try cilantro, parsley, or arugula.
- Grind roasted pumpkin seeds and use them to coat raw chicken or fish to make a pumpkin seed crusted dish.
- Mix oatmeal with a little canned pumpkin and cinnamon, and then top with roasted pumpkin seeds.
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of roasted vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, or green beans.
Today’s blog post is a bit different, because rather than talking about one topic in particular, I thought it’d be helpful to send out a few of my favorite resources related to common struggles. These are websites, books, or apps that can help keep you on track to make healthy choices – whether you’re trying to lose weight or you’re an athlete working to improve your nutrition plan. It any of the struggles below sound familiar, give the helpful resources a try and let me know what you think! Struggle:
“I’m so tired of grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.” Helpful Resources:
Check out my Pinterest board
, where (in addition to tons of craft and home organization projects – guilty pleasures) I have organized my recipes by category. This means when you visit my pinterest page, you’ll see boards like “Healthy Recipes – Chicken” or “Healthy Recipes – Breakfast.” If you struggle with ideas for meals that are both healthy and delicious, you’ll definitely want to check it out.
Other great resources for healthy recipes include these websites.
And these cookbooks...
- Vegetables Every Day: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today's Produce With More Than 350 Recipes by Jack Bishop
- So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger
- Comfort Food Fix: Feel-Good Favorites Made Healthy by Ellie Krieger
- The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook: A New, Healthier Way to Cook Everything from America's Most Trusted Test Kitchen
- The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: Simple Solutions for Eating Well by John Phillip Carroll
- The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living by Mark Bittman
- American Dietetic Association Cooking Healthy Across America
“A few bites here, a few bites there…that’s not a big deal, right?” Helpful Resources:
Food logging can be a great tool for weight loss and athletic success, because it keeps you accountable to your goals and really helps you see that all those “bites” can add up. Below are some sites that are great for logging food intake. Keep in mind though that the calorie recommendations can sometimes be inaccurate on these sites. In this case, you may want to track your normal intake for a few days and then simply start reducing it by 300-500 calories/day while focusing on eating wholesome, natural foods. Struggle:
“I just need someone to give me a diet.” Helpful Resources:
If you’re looking for support, working one on one with a dietitian can be extremely helpful (whether it’s with me or someone else). I typically don’t develop traditional meal plans for my clients – in other words, I don’t write out every meal and portion they should eat for two weeks. This usually surprises people. The reason that I don’t do this is because I often feel that meal plans end up being another “diet” to follow – something temporary that leaves a person going “what now?” after it has finished. Instead, I work with my clients to focus on mindful eating, planning meals on their own with my help (i.e. we’ll sit down together and come up with healthy dinner ideas that fit their lifestyle), and working on other behavioral strategies.
All that being said, I realize that sometimes life gets crazy and having a very specific meal plan can occasionally be helpful. I really like the ones from Clean Eating Magazine
, which are both seasonal (so they highlight produce that’s fresh) and provide recipes and accompanying grocery lists. Struggle:
“Everything is going wrong – I just want a donut!”
Helpful Resources: Many of my clients struggle with stress management, which sometimes leads to emotional eating in an effort to relieve that stress. One suggestion that some clients – as well as myself – find helpful is practicing mediation for a few minutes when things get stressful or as part of an everyday routine. I love the “Get Some Head Space” website and app
for this. Give it a try – you get 10 free 10-minute meditation sessions. Other stress relief techniques you might try include yoga classes, deep breathing, a craft project, or working out. Struggle:
“I never have any motivation to work out.” Helpful Resources:
I have a lot of favorites for this one:
- Try the app “Gym Pact” where you bet money on the number of workouts you’ll complete each week. If you miss your goal, you’ll have to fork over the cash. Meet your goal, and you’ll earn money (coming from the pool of people who didn’t meet their goal).
- If you’re someone that loves helping others, try the Charity Miles app. For each mile that you walk/run/cycle, you’ll earn money that goes to a charity of your choice, selected from those that they partner with. See if you can set a goal for how much money you want to donate each week/month/year through your workouts.
- And the seemingly simple tips that often work wonders: lay your workout clothes out the night before, write your exercise session in your calendar just like it were an important meeting, and set up sessions with a friend so that you won’t want to bail.
“I don’t like the gym, but I’m not sure how to do strength training on my own at home.” Helpful Resources:
Try this workout finder tool on Shape Magazine’s website
. You can click on different parts of the body to learn about exercises that are easy to do in your own home. You can also consider hiring an in-home personal trainer to show you how to do a full body strength training routine at home. Do you have any favorite resources for wellness? Share below!
Many people love to wake up for the day with a hot cup of coffee. But sometimes they wonder – can coffee fit into a healthy meal plan? Of course it can – if you’re making smart choices!
The first thing people tend to ask me about is caffeine. Moderate doses of caffeine in the amount of 200 to 300 mg per day aren’t harmful for most healthy adults. This is equal to about 2 to 4 cups of brewed coffee. If you have any health problems, particularly heart problems, you may need to check with your doctor to see if it’s okay for you to drink moderate amounts of caffeine. Along the same lines, pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake. And keep in mind that there’s caffeine in other products (like sodas) and that many coffee drinks you buy may also have added expresso or come in sizes larger than a cup – so keep an eye on how much you take in and be sure it is in moderation.
The bigger concern for many people – in my opinion – is purchasing those coffee drinks or blended beverages that contain tons of additional ingredients and sugar. These can be poor choices for your diet, as they provide lots of added sugar without many beneficial nutrients. Take a look at some common choices here, and better selections that could be made at each location.
Poor choice: Venti Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – 690 calories, 23 grams of fat, 101 grams of sugar
That’s over half a cup of sugar in this drink! Not to mention, more calories than most of us should eat in a meal, let alone as a snack or drink.
Don’t want to give it up? Switch to the tall version, get it made with non-fat milk instead of 2%, and skip the whip cream – you’ll end up with 270 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 50 grams of sugar.
Make a better choice: A grande iced coffee made with nonfat milk. An unsweetened one is just 25 calories and 3 grams of sugar, while a sweetened one has 110 calories and 24 grams of sugar.
Poor choice: Large Coffee Coolata made with cream – 800 calories, 46 grams of fat, 87 grams of sugar
Talk about a diet disaster – this one beverage could end up being almost half of your daily calorie needs! It’s got 46 grams of fat, which is as much fat as about 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise or half a stick of butter!
Don’t want to give it up? Go for the small and switch from cream to skim milk. This drink now only contains 210 calories, but still packs 49 grams of sugar.
Make a better choice: If you're craving something cold, try a medium Iced Latte Light. It’s got 120 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar.
Poor choice: Large McCafe Mocha – 400 calories, 14 grams of fat, 49 grams of sugar
It may not be as bad as some of the options listed above, but 49 grams of sugar is still over 12 teaspoons - more than a can of soda.
Don’t want to give it up? Switch to a small, use nonfat milk rather than the traditionally used whole milk, and ditch the whip cream. You’ll be down to 190 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 32 grams of sugar.
Make a better choice: Large McCafe Cappuchino made with nonfat milk – 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 13 grams of sugar
Of course, the best coffee choice at any of these locations or at home is a simple cup of coffee with lowfat or nonfat milk! A cup of plain coffee itself only has between 2 and 5 calories. Adding nonfat milk can be great because it boosts your calcium intake for the day and also acts as a sweetener. Each additional teaspoon of sugar you add (the amount in a small packet) contains 15 calories and 4 grams of sugar. Stick with 1 or 2 packets to prevent getting too many calories from added sugar.
Money-saving move and wellness booster: Make your own coffee at home. Not only can creating your own coffee drinks help your health by controlling the added ingredients, but it can save you money too. Even a regular coffee at certain establishments now runs about $2. If you get one of these 5 days a week, that’s over $500 a year that you are spending on coffee out! And if you’re going for the larger or fancier drinks, it’s even more. Think about how that additional money could be spent on healthy local food, a new gym membership, or even a relaxing vacation to reduce stress.
Share with us – are you crazy for coffee?
Cookouts are a big part of many people’s summer celebrations – or regular dinners – and for good reason. It’s simple, easy, and you get to avoid turning on the stove in the middle of summer! Grilling is a great method of cooking because it allows you to cook meat and fish without much added fat while still creating very flavorful dishes. However, some concerns have risen about potential negative consequences of grilling in the last several years, related to carcinogenic compounds that are created on the grill. Take a look at what these compounds are, the risks, and healthy grilling tips.
When meats are grilled, they form compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs are formed in the meat when it is cooked at high temperatures. Charred pieces of meat in particular may contain additional HCAs. PAHs come from the smoke created when juices from the meat drip onto hot surfaces. This smoke flows up over the meat, and the PAHs can “stick” to the meat – which you then ingest when you eat the food. Some research suggests HCAs and PAHs may increase the risk for cancer.
But don’t worry – you don’t have to skip grilled food completely! While it’s true that these compounds can be potentially hazardous, it’s important to keep the risk in perspective. The research between grilling and cancer risk isn’t as strong as other risk factors. Eating high amounts of red meat, for example, is likely more risky regarding cancer promotion compared to the process of grilling the meat. Plus there are several ways to grill that reduce the amount of carcinogens created. Grilling tips
Here are some tips to reduce the carcinogenic compounds – as well as some tips to simply create a healthier overall meal at your grill:
- Clean your grill regularly. There may be small bits of meat left on there from your previous cooking, and these can create additional carcinogens.
- Did you know the type of marinade you use can impact the carcinogenic compounds? Acidic marinades made with ingredients like vinegar or lemon help protect the meat from absorbing the PAHs in the smoke. Certain herbs present in many marinades may also help protect the meat. On the other hand, sugary marinades like barbeque sauce may cause the food to char more easily, so if you use this, it shouldn’t be applied until the last few minutes of cooking (not to mention sugary marinades typically aren’t as healthy for us).
- Choose lean cuts of meat. In addition to cutting down on saturated fat and calories, these typically have less juices (which often comes from fat drippings) that hit hot surfaces to create smoke and PAHs.
- Don’t overcook the meat, as longer cooking times at higher temperatures will create more carcinogens. Of course, don’t undercook it either, as this can put you at risk for foodborne illness. Use a meat thermometer to determine when the meat is done. Along the same lines, if you end up with meat that has lots of charred bits, these blackened pieces may contain concentrated carcinogens, so try to remove them.
- Toss vegetables on there! Unlike meats, vegetables do not form the same carcinogens when grilled. Though there is potential for chemicals in vegetables to form certain carcinogens when grilled, they would likely have to be badly blackened, and the amount would be negligible. Plus, vegetables provide tons of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals - and high vegetable intake has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer. Experiment with all different kinds of grilled veggies. Corn and eggplant are some traditional items, but what about trying grilled romaine hearts? Brush them with a little olive oil and when they’re done, sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese. Or how about zucchini and asparagus? Yum!
- Fruit belongs on the grill too! Just like veggies, fruit can be grilled without the formation of the carcinogens formed when grilling meat. Heating up the fruit this way helps caramelize some of the sugars, creating a new flavor in your favorite fruits. Pineapple, peaches, and watermelon are a few favorites. Once done, you can eat as is, try sprinkling with a favorite spice like cinnamon, or top with a dollop of greek yogurt.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was a huge push towards low fat diets. Remember the shelves full of Snackwell cookies? It had some people thinking that it was okay to eat a whole box, just because they were fat free!
We’ve come a long way since those days. But there is still some confusion about which fats are healthy for us, how much fat we should eat when trying to lose weight, and some other concerns. Read on as we debunk some myths about fat and guide you toward healthy choices!
Myth 1: Fat makes you fat.
Fat itself does not make you gain weight. If you eat more calories than you burn - whether those calories come from fat, carbohydrate, or protein – you will gain weight. Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 calories/gram) compared to carbohydrate and protein (4 calories/gram each). This means in a given portion size, a food composed of mostly fat will provide more calories than a food made of carbohydrates or protein. However, it’s also important to consider that healthy fats help us feel satiated and full after meals, so you're not hungry a few hours later. It's one of the reasons (in addition to vitamin absorption and heart health) that you should consume around 20-35% of calories from healthy fats.
The bottom line? Keep healthy fats in your diet (even if you're trying to lose weight) - just make sure they are portion controlled servings and you don't eat too many servings each day.
Myth 2: All fats are bad.
This is very far from the truth – some fats are actually quite good for our bodies! Generally we can divide fat into these 3 categories:
Unsaturated fats are good for our body, and include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like olive and canola oil, nuts, avocados, and pumpkin seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like soybean and corn oil, walnuts, fish, and flax seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are one type of especially healthy polyunsaturated fat. Research shows that when people replace some refined carbohydrates and/or saturated fats with healthy unsaturated fats, it helps decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and may increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Saturated fats come mainly from meats, chicken and turkey with skin, and dairy products. It’s also found in coconut oil and palm oil. Saturated fats raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol but also raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, so it’s better to get our fats from unsaturated sources. That being said, there’s new research coming out that certain types of saturated fat may not be as harmful towards heart health as we initially thought (namely lauric acid, found in coconut oil). I’m not convinced that the research is strong enough to switch from my standard olive oil, but if you use coconut oil, just do so in moderation (like with any oil choice).
Trans fats are created when liquid oils are heated and formed into a solid through a process called “partial hydrogenation.” This process makes the fat more stable for frying and for shelf stable convenience foods. However, the fat that is created is especially bad for us since it raises LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, for every extra 2% of calories from trans fat each day, your risk of heart disease goes up by 23%! For a 2,000 calorie diet, that's only 40 calories - or about 4 grams - from trans fat.
And here's the confusing part: manufacturers can legally say there is "0 grams" of trans fat on the label if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving. If you use multiple products each day like this, or multiple servings of one product, you could easily take in several grams of trans fat.
How do you get around this trick? Check the ingredients. If the ingredients list "partially hydrogenated oils" then the product does contain trans fats.
Myth 3: Replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates is good for your health.
Newer research shows that when people replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates, there is actually a greater risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate the saturated fat! Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is a better strategy. [Notice that says refined carbohydrates – this doesn’t apply to our healthy sources like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.]
Share with us: Do you have any favorite healthy fats that keep you full and satisfied? [My favorite is avocado!]
Technology has a dual role in healthcare. On the one side, it can be detrimental – the constant connection can contribute to stress, and excessive television and computer screen time contributes to overweight and obesity. On the other hand, though, technology enables us to more actively take control of our health through the information available on the web and the various applications that are now on the market. Take a look at a few of these nutrition, fitness, and health apps which can empower you to make good choices!
Fooducate – This is a free app available for iPhone and Android that allows you to scan food product bar codes and see a nutrition score. The scores are based on an A to D scale, and come from a scientific algorithm that takes into account nutrients, ingredients, product category, processing and fortification. If you’re confused about food claims on a product and wondering whether it’s healthy or not, fooducate is great because you can scan the barcode at the store. It’s instant feedback before you make the purchase. That being said, no scientific algorithm is perfect so the “score” may not accurately reflect the nutritional value of all foods – but from my personal experience, it does a pretty decent job. Strava
– Track your fitness activities with this app available for iPhone and Android. Strava is able to track your running and cycling activities – just turn on the app before you go out for your run or ride, and it’ll record your progress. You’ll see your distance and pace, which then can be uploaded to Strava’s website where you can store all your acitivites. Strava’s website is a type of social networking platform for fitness, so you can create groups, follow your friends, and compete in “segments” against others. Segments are marked distances on certain roads that are uploaded into Strava by users. Whenever you complete a segment (whether you know you did or not), you’ll see your results compared to others who have done that segment. I-Triage
– This app is also available for both iPhone and Android, and gives you the ability to check any health symptoms on the go. Taking a lunchtime walk and you start to experience knee pain? Click on the prompts in I-triage to learn the most common causes. You can also find doctors closest to your current location or any location you choose. GymPact
– If you need more motivation to workout, consider using GymPact. You make a pact to work out so many days per week, and identify how much money you’re willing to lose if you don’t keep your pact. If you don’t workout, you lose the dough. But if you meet your goal, you’ll make money – funded by those people who didn’t keep their pact! GymPact uses GPS to verify your time in the gym. Since last year, they’ve also added integration with RunKeeper for outdoor runs and an accelerometer feature so that you can use it with at-home workouts. Unfortunately, the GPS signals and RunKeeper integration aren’t always seamless, leading to workouts that potentially don’t get counted (meaning you risk losing money). Definitely worth a try though! Available for iPhone and Android. The Carrot
– This app for iPhone or website based program allows you to track multiple health goals all in one place. Maybe you’re working on quitting smoking, exercising more, and eating more veggies – you can track all these goals in one place and see your progress on the Carrot. My Fitness Pal
– This online food database goes mobile with apps for iPhone and Android. People who have successfully lost weight and keep it off report that food logging was a primary strategy used. The app isn’t perfect – some food entries are user generated and may not have the correct nutritional data, and the app tends to give you too low of a calorie estimate. However, it is great for accountability and an estimate of your daily intake. My advice? Ignore the calorie recommendations on the app, and instead use it for a few days to track your baseline intake. Once you have an idea of about how many calories you normally eat, you can stick with that number to maintain your weight or reduce by about 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week. You can also use the log to easily see areas where you may be struggling – perhaps you notice you need more veggies each day, or you need to switch from refined grains to whole grains – and then you can work to improve on these!Share with us - What's your favorite health app?
Do you ever rationalize decisions that you’re making even when you know it’s the wrong decision? I’m guilty of this sometimes. The last instance was when I was trying to stick to a strict budget, and came across a pair of shoes on clearance that I wanted. My rationalization? “I know I said I wouldn’t buy any more shoes, but I don’t have a flat in the color gold so I’m just going to buy this pair so I have more options at home.”
Now, even though they were on clearance for $5.24, I certainly didn’t “need” them – but I convinced myself I did.
This issue is not limited to me and my shoe-purchasing behaviors. Among many people trying to change their health behaviors but not succeeding, I often see a big stumbling block: they often make rationalizations or excuses for behaviors that are moving them away from their goal! They cheat themselves when it comes to their nutrition or fitness choices.
Do you ever cheat yourself? You might decide to make a not-so-healthy choice rather than what you know deep down will help you achieve your goals – and then try to justify it to yourself! Or you convince yourself that some form of immediate gratification is better than the long-term success of reaching your wellness goal.
Here are some common examples and some solutions that you can put into place! Behavior:
Grabbing fast food for dinner rather than making a homemade meal Rationalization/Excuse:
“It takes too much time to cook a healthy meal, and I don’t get fast food that often anyway…” Solution: Don't cheat yourself and your body. There are plenty of healthy meals that you can put together in under 15-30 minutes at home. Here are a few ideas:
- Stir fry – Cook chicken, lean beef, or tofu in a skillet or wok with a small amount of olive oil. Remove from pan and add lots of vegetables (mushrooms, snap peas, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini/summer squash, onion, broccoli, eggplant…). When vegetables are tender, add protein (chicken/beef/tofu) back in. Add some low sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. You can serve as-is or over instant brown rice.
- Eat breakfast for dinner! – Try scrambled eggs in a whole wheat wrap topped with some salsa.
- Rice & beans – Cook instant brown rice. While rice is cooking, combine a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Add cooked brown rice and mix together. Portion into bowls and topped with some sliced avocado. Start to finish time? 15 minutes.
- Salad – If you keep fresh salad greens in the fridge, you’ll always have a base for a meal. Combine the greens with other veggies of your choice. Add a source of protein – you could grill a chicken breast if you have the time (or pre-cook some on the weekends), or top with some canned beans, tuna, or frozen cooked shrimp that you’ve defrosted in running cool water. You can also add fresh or dried fruit and/or a healthy fat (like nuts or chia seeds) and you’ve got your dinner!
Coasting through your cardio session. Rationalization/Excuse:
“I can’t push myself harder than this…I won’t be able to do it…” Solution:
This is an especially big struggle for new exercises, but can often affect regular gym-goers as well. Don’t let your mind tell you that your body can’t do something (unless of course you have an injury or true physical limitation that affects your body’s abilities). Your body is actually pretty incredible. Do you ever notice how most people can push themselves harder when working one-on-one with a personal trainer? It’s because we know what your body is capable of, even when you don’t.
This is a big hurdle to get over, but start by challenging yourself to some intervals or a faster speed in your next session. Do you always walk on the treadmill at 3.3 mph, every other day? In your next session, try to keep a 3.5 mph pace. Do you try jogging but give up after a minute? Challenge yourself to 1 minute jogging, 4 minutes walking – and see if you can maintain those intervals for your session.
You need to challenge your body in order for it to adapt and get better. Give it a try! Behavior:
Reaching in the candy jar, going to get a “treat”, or ordering that dessert (even when you’re already full)… Rationalization/Excuse:
“It’s only a few extra bites – and I deserve it!” Solution:
A few extra bites add up quickly over the course of a day, week, month...etc. Just 100 extra calories a day (about 2 regular oreos or a few bites of pizza) translates to over 10 pounds of weight gain in a year!
Not to mention, we often rationalize unhealthy choices by coming up with some way that we deserve it. Now, occasionally perhaps this is truly applicable – maybe you just ran a half marathon or it’s your birthday, and you want to have a piece of cake to celebrate. By all means, dig in and enjoy one slice.
But most of the time, this rationalization comes from other areas of our life.
- “I studied hard, so I deserve it.”
- “I’m dealing with a lot…I deserve a treat for myself.”
- “I had a stressful day, so I deserve it.”
Food is fuel for our bodies – and while unhealthy treats are certainly fun to eat and taste delicious, they don’t fuel our bodies and maintain our health in the best way. We shouldn’t associate hard work, stress, sadness or other emotions with deserving some type of food.
If you find yourself rationalizing these extra bites, take a step back. Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry and if this is a healthy choice to fuel your body. If it is, then go ahead and eat. If it’s not a good choice but you are hungry, perhaps you need to be sure that you have healthy snack options on hand at all times to avoid the temptations of other treats.
And if you’re not hungry, ask yourself why you’re getting ready to eat something. If there’s some type of emotional connection there and you’re using the “I deserve it” rationalization, try to figure out other non-food ways that you can use for this purpose. Ladies, maybe you want a mani/pedi once a month. Guys, maybe you want to enjoy a Sunday playing golf or football with friends. Or it could be something as simple as an hour to relax with a book or a magazine! Think about strategies that would work for you, and use them.Share with us: Do you struggle with any of these common rationalizations?
Nothing tastes better (and makes the house smell better!) than a delicious batch of homemade cookies, muffins, or brownies. But these homemade treats can wreak havoc on a healthy meal plan. Often made from refined flour, lots of butter, and tons of sugar, baked goods can pack in a lot of calories with not much nutritional value. It doesn't have to be this way, though! While baked goods shouldn’t make up large portions of our meal plan, they can certainly fit in occasionally to a healthy lifestyle. Try the baking substitutions below for a trimmer treat that's friendlier to your health and waistline...
Bake from scratch. When you bake from scratch, you have more control over the ingredients and end up with tastier goods that have few preservatives. A batch of homemade cookies typically contains about 8 basic ingredients. Take a look at cookies from the grocery store and you might see a much longer list. Try replacing half of the fat in a recipe (typically butter or oil) with mashed banana, prune puree, or applesauce.
The creamy consistency and moisture of the fruit helps to maintain a great texture and prevent products from drying out while cutting the fat in half. Or use beans or pumpkin!
This tip usually surprises people. These make great substitutions for the oil and eggs in brownie mixes and recipes. You can substitute a 15.5 ounce can of beans, pureed in the blender or food processor, for the typical 1/3 cup oil and egg. Or you can do the same with a can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). The beans contain much less fat and calories, and add fiber and antioxidants to the recipe! If you go with the pumpkin, you’re also cutting calories and fat and adding a hefty dose of vision boosting Vitamin A. Use whole wheat flour rather than white flour.
Whole wheat flour contains more minerals and fiber compared to its refined counterpart. Fiber can help you feel full quicker, so you may be more content indulging in a smaller serving. Whole wheat pastry flour is lighter and works better for dishes like cakes, while regular whole wheat flour can be a great choice for hearty breads. Consider adding oats.
They add fiber and texture, and can be incorporated easily into most cookie recipes. You can also use oats to make a modified pie crust! There are several recipes out there for pie crust made from oats – try this recipe
which uses both oats and flour. Use greek yogurt or low fat sour cream in place of regular sour cream or oils
to cut down on fat in dips, toppings, and baked goods. For example, in my strawberry orange yogurt bread recipe
I use greek yogurt to create a moist and delicious quick bread without any oil or butter. The greek yogurt also boosts the protein in your dish! Replace cream or whole milk with fat free half and half, low fat milk, almond milk, or buttermilk.
The best replacement will depend on the recipe. A half cup of heavy cream contains about 400 calories, while the same amount of 1% milk contains just 65 calories! Add fruit to baked goods for added vitamins and minerals
. Consider hearty breakfast breads made with banana, chopped apples, and cranberries, or cookies with dried cherries and dried blueberries.