Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dining Out and Staying In Control, Part II

You walk into a restaurant and sit at the table. Your senses are stimulated: you smell wonderful aromas, hear sizzling platters, see beautiful foods and samples of desserts.  Danger signs of losing control abound. Your goal: to enjoy your food and the eating out experience, yet to stay smart and make good healthy choices.

 Guide For Healthy Restaurant Eating:   
  1. Ask for a glass of water right away. This gives your hands and mouth something to do while you await your next step.
  2. Watch the adjectives.  Cream/creamed, alfredo, crispy, fried, buttered, smothered, and cheesy will be higher in fat and calories.  Steamed, broiled, low fat, and light can indicate healthier options, but sometimes added fats are still used.  To be sure, if you don't want butter or oil on your broiled salmon, be sure to tell your server.
  3. Order first. You planned ahead, so get your order in as soon as you can!  Don't allow time to be swayed by other people's less healthy choices.
  4. Ask for a To-Go container to be delivered with your meal.  Then, divide your meal in half before you start eating, pop it in the box, and set it aside to take home for tomorrow's lunch. This reduces overeating just because it was there.
  5. Split an entree with a friend or family member---a great way to save money, calories, sodium and fat. Be sure to each order your own salad and/or veggies to maximize nutrition.
  6. Select one serving (or opt out if you don't want any) from the bread/chip basket. Then, put your selection on your plate. Place the basket out of arms reach, if possible, or have the server remove it. Nothing spells danger quite like a refillable chip basket that everyone is munching from.  When you eat from your own plate, you are allowing for a more mindful approach to eating.
  7. Order dressings and sauces on the side, so you can control how much you use.  Many people love the "fork-dip-technique," dipping the fork into the dressing first, then using that fork to pick up a bite of lettuce.  A little flavor, far fewer calories.  This works wonders for me with the real blue cheese dressing I love to have occasionally.
  8. Go easy on the alcohol and soda.  The more alcohol you consume, the less you'll care about what you eat, so most people end up eating more. If you are going to drink, alternate alcohol with water to help you stay hydrated, focused and save calories.  The calories in alcohol and soda add up very quickly. Beer and soda have 100 calories per cup, and most restaurants serve much bigger glasses than that.  Light beer, small glass of wine, or liquor with low-calorie mixers will give you lower calorie alcohol options.
  9. Dessert? Enjoy it when you plan on having it.  Look for ways to get smaller portions:  sharing one dessert with several people, a kid-size sundae, or one of the new mini desserts. Remember:  The first bite tastes the same as the last! I often order a non-fat latte at the end of the meal if others are really indulging. It's something I love, warm, and special, that I can wrap both hands around (helps keep them out of the dessert ) and still be part of the group!
Stay mindful...
Choose to be in control of what you eat.  
Focus on how your food tastes and enjoy the process of eating it.
You CAN eat out and be healthy, too!

What are your eating out healthy-style suggestions?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dining Out and Staying In Control, Part I

Eating out can wreck havoc in any one's good health plans.  Why?  Serving sizes can be three times what a proper portion should be, most of those delicious foods are loaded with fat and sodium, and there's plenty of temptation to indulge.

If you eat out once a month or less frequently, you could approach eating out as more of an occasional treat, and allow a bit more of a controlled splurge.  The problem arises when you eat out more frequently, as many Americans do. If you want to stay healthy and eat out often, you need to develop the skills to control your choices.

Before You Go To the Restaurant:
  1. Have a healthy snack. Choose a food to get your blood sugar level back into the normal range.  Going to a restaurant when you are really hungry, sets the scene for losing control of your food choices and overeating. If it's been a long time since you've eaten, take the edge off your hunger. Try a fat-free yogurt, low fat string cheese stick, or a piece of fruit.  Dairy products are a good choice because they are often not selected at a restaurant. Fruit would give you fiber that would help fill you up. 
  2. Plan what you're going to order before you go, whenever possible.  Look up the menu online, ask people for menu ideas or call ahead.  Make your healthy choice.  This reduces the chance of being influenced by the wonderful menus, description of foods that leave you drooling, fanastic aromas, photos of yummy foods, server's suggestions, and peer pressure.
  3. Wear nice "fitted" clothes.  Leave the loose stretchy pants at home!   They simply leave way too much room for tummy growth while you over eat.  Don't go for the pants that are too tight either.  That's just wrong.
  4. Drink a glass of water.  This fills up your stomach just a bit, gives your body something it needs, and it may even increase your activity level once you are at the restaurant!
Stay tuned for Part II of Dining Out and Staying in Control, when we tackle what to do at the restaurant.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Greek vs. Regular Yogurt

Greek yogurt is definitely, as one reader puts it, "all the rage right now."  The question is does Greek yogurt deserve all this hype for its nutritional content, flavor, or is it just the current fad in yogurt?

What exactly is Greek yogurt? It's made by adding a culture to heated cow's milk, which is the same process used in making regular yogurt (In Greece they may use sheep's milk.)  The yogurt is then placed into muslin or cheesecloth lined strainers, allowing all the excess liquid or whey to drain off. (This step is skipped when making regular yogurt.) This process produces a product that is much thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, much like the texture of sour cream.  It tastes less bitter, which has probably helped it grow in popularity once people have tasted it.

Greek yogurt costs more than regular yogurt simply because it takes more milk to produce the solid end product: there is a lot of whey drained off during that straining process.

Nutritionally, both regular and Greek style yogurts are nutrient-dense power houses.  However, there are 3 main differences:
  1. Regular yogurt is higher in calcium. During the straining process, much of the calcium is actually in the liquid, or whey, which ends up making Greek yogurt lower in calcium.
  2. Greek yogurt is higher in protein. Much of the protein is in the thick solid that forms when the culture is added.  Because more milk is needed to make the yogurt, Greek yogurt ends up much higher in protein.
  3. Greek yogurt is lower in carbohydrates than plain yogurt.  Lactose is the simple carb (sugar) found in both in the whey and in the milk solids.  After straining, only about half of these naturally occurring sugars remain.

 Compare 6 oz. of these Non-Fat Yogurts:
                      Dannon Plain    Oikos Greek  Yoplait Lite   Yoplait Original
calories                      80                          80                     80                    170
carbohydrates          12 g.                        6                     19                      33
protein                       9  g.                      20                       5                        5
calcium                     30%DV                  20                      20                      20
vitamin D                    0                            0                      20                      20

Try It, You'll Like It! If you haven't yet tried Greek yogurt, try some plain, fat-free, with some fresh fruit on top and maybe a tiny drizzle of honey on top to see what you think. It really is less bitter than regular yogurt, so thick, creamy and smooth.  It makes a wonderful, protein packed afternoon snack or it can even serve as part of a healthy meal. It makes a fantastic base for fruit and veggie dips. I love to use Greek yogurt anywhere a recipe may call for sour cream or mayonnaise.  It's thick creamy consistency is perfect, and the nutritional benefits can't be beat!

Don't forget regular, non-fat plain yogurt is wonderful and so good for you, too. And, it's higher in calcium and less expensive.  I still love my plain yogurt, fresh fruit,  about 1/4 cup of dried oats, and a few walnuts sprinkled on top.  So good for a quick, yummy, easy breakfast.

Just remember one thing:  even when you buy fat free yogurt, you need to watch the label carefully.  Many are loaded with sugar. Some sugar will always be on the nutritional label; there is lactose in the milk product. Look at the ingredient list for words like sugar, or anything that ends in "ose" indicating added sugars.  Try as often as you can to choose plain, fat free or low fat yogurt or Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.  You just may surprise yourself at how delicious it really is!

Your homework this week:  Go Greek!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gaining Control

I recently received an S.O.S. from a follower we'll call Sue.  "I keep trying to stay in control of what I eat.  I start off really good.  Then throughout the day, things happen that make me lose it and I start grabbing crackers or chips.  I can't stop it.  So I just eat whatever I want for the rest of the day since that day is shot anyway...HELP!"

How many of you can relate to Sue with her feelings and frustrations?  I'm sure many of you can.  That's part of my history, too.  It's important to know that you are not alone in this!

  • Let go of the Good vs. Bad/ All or Nothing thinking.  If you feel that you have to be perfect when you are trying to lose weight (a.k.a. "good" on your plan,) some of us get the message that that you yourself are "good" when you follow it.  If you lose control and end up eating chips you made a "bad" choice, therefore you must be bad.  You are either all "on" your plan, or all "off:" all or nothing, good or bad.  This crazy talk used to rule every one of the zillion diets I went "on" throughout the years. The truth is, you are a good, wonderful person no matter what you eat.  It's just food.  The food you eat does not make you good or bad. 
  • It's not what happened that really matters, it's what happens next. So, you found yourself chowing down crackers and chips and they weren't what you had planned on.  Let it go Don't throw away the rest of the day! Take a deep breath, drink a glass of water, and forgive yourself.  You can choose to be in control in the very next minute. If you allow yourself to feel as if you screwed up the day and just end up eating anything, lots of damage can be done, both calorically and psychologically.
  • Time Out.  Hopefully, the next time you have the urge to eat as a result of emotions, you will recognize it before you take the first bite.  If not, try to recognize this as soon as you can.  Then, STOP.  Give yourself a 10 minute TIME OUT.  During this time, do whatever want to do, just promise yourself you won't eat.  Some people like to distract themselves with other activities, play on the computer, work on hobbies, or go for a walk.  At the end of the 10 minutes, if you still want to eat whatever it is that's calling your name, plan to do just that.  Sit down with a plate and silverware. Place one serving of the food that was trying to control you on your plate.  Savor every bite and enjoy it. 
  • Repeat as needed.
Changing behavior is never easy.  Learning to gain control is vital for those of you trying to lose weight and keep it off, but find emotional eating keeps getting in the way.  Keep working on it, and never, ever give up!

You are worth what it takes!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Slow Cooker To the Rescue!

How do you feel when you're coming home after a busy day?  Are you tired, grouchy, stressed, and really hungry? What happens if you have no idea what to make for dinner?  Do you end up grabbing snacks foods and munching through the kitchen cupboards as you try to decide what to make? This is one scenario where failing to plan leads to planning to fail:  mindless overeating takes over.

One great way to plan for dinner to be ready when you are is to put that slow cooker to use. These cooler fall days are perfect for one dish meals.  Pasta e Fagoli was one of the dishes I made for the MM groups this week, and it received rave reviews.  All I ask it that you use a manual can opener to open all those cans---you get a little more exercise that way!  Give this one a try and top it off with a little grated fresh Parmesan cheese. It's so good and really very easy. (If you need a slow cooker, I picked out 2 great ones and featured them in the My Favorites list to the right.)

Pasta e Fagioli

Place into slow cooker:
1# extra lean ground beef, cooked and drained (optional*)
1 c. onion, diced
1 c. carrots, julienned
2 c. zucchini, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 - 15 oz. can light red kidney beans
1 – 15 oz can white beans
1 – 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 - 12 oz. vegetable juice
1 tbsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. thyme
Cook on low for 6 -8 hours.
Stir In:
            3 oz. cooked small whole wheat pasta
Heat through and enjoy!
*For variation, try using 1# of chicken breasts, diced

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More Healthy, Tasty Lunches To Try

Here are more great lunch ideas to try to keep lunch fun and healthy:
  • PBB Roll Up.  Peanut butter and banana slices on a whole grain tortilla. 
  • PBJ sandwich.  Whole grain bread, peanut butter and Simply Fruit jam (made with fruit only.)
  • Trail Mix Crunch. 1 cup Cherrios or other whole grain cereal,  1 oz. each dried cherries and mixed nuts.  Add just a few mini chocolate chips or M&M's if you want to!
  • Cheese & crackers.  Whole grain crackers and 2 Laughing Cow lite cheese wedges (I love the mozzarella and sun dried tomato,) light cheese sticks or Baby Bel cheeses. Add a few carrots, celery sticks, grape tomatoes and black olives.  
  • Whole grain baguette sliced. Pack a mini tub of light cream cheese, deli meat rolled up into mini rolls held with tooth picks. Pack with sliced cucumber and tomato slices to put on top.  
  • PBA.  Peanut butter and thinly sliced apple slices on Arnold Sandwich Thins...a MM groupie favorite!  
  • Ham and cheese on rye. Pepperidge Farm has a whole grain rye bread, top with a few deli thin slices of lean ham (low sodium would be great,) light Swiss cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato and avocado husband's favorite.
  • Pita Pocket.  Fill with tuna or chicken salad made with celery, a little onion, and light mayo or Greek yogurt. Top with cole slaw mix, or any veggies you want.  Add olives or avocado for a little healthy fat...another MM groupie favorite!
  • Super Salad.  Fill a plastic container half full of a variety of deep lettuce greens. Add last night's chicken, turkey, ham, tuna, crab, or 1/2 cup drained, rinsed canned beans (black or any variety.) You could even add a bit of leftover brown rice. Top with a few avocado, olives, nuts or some pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  Pack a little container of olive oil vinaigrette or your favorite dressing, and use just enough. Eat with whole grain crackers.  
  • Cottage Cheese and fruit.  Choose the mini cottage cheese containers and the mini canned fruits in their own juices.  Add a mini package of Emerald cocoa roasted almonds and a Kashi granola bar (both are listed on My Favorites at the right.)
  • Cold Pizza Roll Up.  Spread a little pizza sauce on a whole grain tortilla.  Top with shredded low fat mozzarella, turkey pepperoni slices and whatever toppings you like: black olives, mushrooms, diced green pepper, tomatoes, etc. Roll it up. Kids love this cold, but if you have a microwave, it's great heated, too.
  • Leftovers from last night. Really. Sometimes, they taste great as lunch the next day. Add a fruit, some veggies, or whatever you need. Vegetarian chili, beef stew, leftover pizza....endless possibilities. 
Whether you start with tortillas, bread, sandwich thins, pita, crackers, or cereal, you CAN make a lunch that is something different than just a boring old sandwich.  Just remember to have some fun with this.

Use variety, color and texture for enjoyment. And be sure to have a MacroMix (blog 9/11/10) with protein, healthy fat, and whole grains along with fruits and veggies for a healthy lunch that will keep your body running well throughout the afternoon!

If you have more to add, let us know!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's In YOUR Lunch?

Labor Day has come and gone.   Kids, teachers, professors, and students are all back in school.  As the fall season officially arrives, it seems we're all trying to get our schedules in order:  the free flow of summer is gone and the routine and structure of fall begins. With routine comes packing lunches for school or work.  

Let's take a look at your lunch.  It's an important meal.  It's a time to refuel and bring your blood sugar levels back to normal by providing the type of fuel that will keep your body running well throughout the afternoon.  Young kids often eat too little, since they are anxious to get out on the play ground.  Many teens skip on lunch or just grab an apple thinking that it's a great way to watch their weight.  If any of us at any age don't have a good lunch, our energy levels crash making us feel tired and cranky. It's also harder to concentrate and we may end up with a headache.  Many teacher's I know can quickly identify the kids that skipped lunch or ate a few fries. I wonder how?

What's in a good lunch?  

1) A MacroMix:  Main meals need all 3 macronutrient for best staying power. 
  • Protein:  chicken, tuna, peanut butter, nuts, beans, beef, cheese, eggs, ham, etc.
  • Fat, the heart healthy kind---just a little bit. Olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, other nut butters, oils such as olive or canola, etc.
  • Carbohydrates. Use whole grain breads, pita, sandwich thins, tortillas and cereals, fruits, and veggies instead of candy and things made with white flour.  
2) Color.  Go for colorful fruits and veggies to liven things up both visually and nutritionally.

3) Texture. Using a variety of textures makes a much more satisfying meal.  Be sure to mix up the creamy and crunchy.

4) Fun. Use fun lunch boxes, containers, baggies, or anything that looks appealing.

5) Variety. Same thing every day, week after week, is going to quickly lose it's appeal.  Changing what pack from day to day simply makes lunch more interesting.

6) Treat?  If you just have to have something sweet to end your meal, try a little 100 calorie pack, a Tootsie Roll Pop, or 2 or 3 chocolate kisses. Keep it small and use portion control.

7) Food Safety.  This is critical.  Foods that need refrigeration only have 2 hours at room temperature before harmful bacteria start to invade. You don't want to end up with a food borne illness. (This includes the time it took you to make your sandwich wrap in the morning.) Buy a few mini reusable freezer packs for your lunch box so you'll be sure to always have one frozen.  Then, use one!  MM groupies suggest freezing a 100% fruit juice box or a handful of frozen grapes to pack that day for double duty cooling use. Insulated lunch bags give you an edge here, too.

One of my favorite lunches:  a whole grain tortilla spread with light garden vegetable cream cheese, loaded with chopped lettuce, cucumber, red ripe tomatoes, black olives, and chicken or whatever is left over that day.  Into my blue lunch bag it goes along with my flower shaped freezer pack. Add a honey crisp apple (SO good right now, ) creamy fat free yogurt, and 2 dark Hershey kisses to end the meal.  And when it's lunch time?  Ahhh....just perfect.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at more lunch ideas...

Do you have a favorite packable lunch?