Dec 23, 2011

Eating Healthy On-The-Go

Christmas is almost here! In case I haven't said it officially......

The fridge is empty. The pantry is bare. Bags are packed and plane tickets are in hand. We're ready to go... family and friends, here we come! Traveling is fun but has it's own set of challenges in terms of healthy eating.

If the people you're visiting prefer less than healthy eating styles, it can be a temptation (or frustration!). Also, traveling is tiring and we are more likely to give into comfort foods (and eat more of them) when we're tired. Here are some rules I try to follow that help me eat healthy while traveling.
  1. Pack snacks. I bring along things like fruit, nuts and granola bars to prevent blood sugar lows from not eating for long periods. This also helps me to eat normally at mealtimes because I'm not starving.
  2. Keep portions small. This is probably the most important rule. It's okay to eat your favorite foods, especially for special occasions like Christmas and New Years. Keep your portions small to help avoid holiday weight gain. You'll thank me in January when you're NOT making a resolution to lose weight. 
  3. Exercise. Even when we're out of town, I bring my running shoes and some workout clothes. There are always places nearby to walk or jog and do some body weight resistance work like squats, push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers and burpees.
  4. Practice saying no. If Aunt Thelma is pushing you to finish her double chocolate ice cream cake and you already had some, politely say no. It's okay. Maybe she'll be offended, maybe she won't. Maybe she'll think you're super smart for not overdoing it. Either way, know your limits and practice the art of saying no.

If you start feeling like giving in to temptations, remember this....


 Merry Christmas and Happy New Years my friends. I'll be taking a little blog break for the week, but I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with love, laughter and happiness. 

Dec 18, 2011

Party Time + Tips on Avoiding Food Waste

This week I got the chance to really "test" my advice, shall we say. My husband, son and I went to 2 holiday parties this weekend. A ton of fun was had by all and we certainly enjoyed some holiday goodies too! Thankfully, my son is more interested in bouncing off the walls than he is in eating a cookie, but I'm sure that will change. For now, I'll enjoy it.

For the adults though, things are a bit different. I'm majorly tempted by all things chocolate and anything that includes the words "cup" or "cake". Bonus if they're the SAME word!

So did the dietitian actually do what she recommended? I'd like to think so. Only one treat was eaten by said dietitian and I'm thinking the rest of the night may count as exercise as I was literally chasing my son everywhere, attempting to prevent him from injuring himself or someone else. As the mother of a toddler, I've learned that they can hurt themselves anytime, anywhere. It's just life.

On to menu planning...

Since we're traveling for the holidays, this week is THE week to clear out our fridge and pantry. Wasted food = wasted money and I am a fan of neither. According the the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), food waste is the largest portion of waste by weight in the US. Apparently, it comes to about 34 million tons per year. Pretty crazy. So, let's brainstorm creative ways to prevent food waste, especially if you plan on vacationing this holiday, leaving your pantry and fridge all by their lonesome.

Tips on Avoiding Food Waste:
  1. Take inventory. Before grocery shopping, make a list and write down all that you want to use. Since some items are more perishable than others, aim to use those first. In the hospital kitchen, we call this technique "FIFO" - first in, first out. Meaning, use the items you first received, first! 
  2. Label and date. By labeling and dating food items, it will allow you to keep better track of what needs to be used when and therefore reduce food waste. 
  3. Create a menu. Buy foods pertaining to your menu and avoid other items that may just end up in the trash or spoiled.
  4. Use leftovers in other recipes. I like using leftovers as lunch the next day. But you can certainly google just about any ingredient and find a decent recipe to try. High five for recipe ratings!
Happy holidays friends!

Dec 15, 2011

Raisin Bars

Before you start thinking I'm some crazy person who doesn't eat sweets, let me set the record straight. I absolutely love sweets, which is why I use a "game plan" to enjoy them!

Just as it's important not to eat a ton of treats, it's equally important to know how to enjoy them. Eating sweets in moderation is a skill worth developing. Personally, I try not to bake too often in general. It's just dangerous. So, I only bake about once every couple months. And when I do, I make a half batch, enjoy one or two treats for the next few days, and then I freeze the rest in small portions.

Currently in my freezer is a half-batch of raisin bars. I saved about 4 small bars for us to enjoy in the next few days, and the rest went straight into the freezer. This prevents them being too accessible, if you know what I mean. They turned out like a gourmet oatmeal-raisin cookie, which to me is just plain yum.

Recipe adapted from Raisin Bars

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a canola oil cooking spray, lightly grease a 10x15 inch baking sheet. To make filling, mix cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water and pour into medium saucepan. Add raisins, sugar and extra 1/2 cup water, mix and bring to a boil. Then, let simmer for about 10 minutes. Allow mixture to cool a bit and then place in food processor and pulse until texture is smooth and slightly thick. Let cool.

To make dough, mix flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl (I used a mixer), combine butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Then, add flour mixture and old fashioned oats to butter/sugar mixture and stir just until well combined.

Using half the dough, press it into the greased baking sheet. Then, spread raisin mixture over dough and finish by crumbling remaining dough on top. Bake about 35 minutes. Let cool and cut into small portions (I chose 1.5 x 1.5 in).

Dec 11, 2011

Motivation Monday: Your Holiday Eating Survival Guide

Is it just me, or are we being overrun by Christmas cookies? Holiday treats are literally everywhere. I go to Trader Joes, there they are. I go to Target, there they are. I go to work, oh look, there they are again! How is any one person supposed to navigate this nutritional minefield? One answer I learned this week during a conversation with some work friends. It went something like this:

Person A: "Would you like some salted caramel chocolates?"
Person B: "Mmmm, sure....but my gut has been growing from all these goodies lately"
Person A: "It's okay. Enjoy it now and you can lose weight after the holidays"
Person B: "Okay!" (proceeds to eat salted caramel chocolates)

Before you ask, I was neither person A nor B. I was person C, who was strategically silent during the conversation. In my opinion, the "eat now, lose it later" scenario is all too common. And I get it. "Celebrating the season" oftentimes is loosely translated to mean eating a lot! And with this motto, it's very difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

This sums up weight gain/weight loss basics:

Of course, the same is true vice versa. If you eat 500 calories more than you burn, you'll gain 1 lb per week. This is REALLY easy during the holidays because a few chocolates, cookies and candies here and there add up to 500 calories super quickly. Gaining weight does more than make your clothes too tight, it also can increase your risk for high blood pressure, high blood fats (hyperlipidemia), and other chronic diseases, especially if a person is overweight long-term. 

So how can we enjoy holiday treats without overdoing it? Here are some simple steps I follow that allow me to enjoy the foods I love without gaining weight.

Holiday Eating Survival Guide:
  1. Enjoy only those foods that you LOVE. 
    • Don't "waste calories" by grazing on unhealthy foods you don't even enjoy that much. Only eat treats that you really, reeeally love, and make sure the portion is small.
  2. Limit sweet treats in the house. 
    • Since there will be many temptations once you step outside the home (think: work, parties, friends houses, etc), limit treats lying around the house.
  3. Find non-food ways to celebrate the season.
    • Think of creative, festive, non-food ways of celebrating the holidays. Take a drive to see Christmas lights, do holiday crafts with your kids, or make Christmas cards to send to family. A little creativity goes a long way here.   
  4. Acknowledge what food is yours and what food is not.
    • Just because treats are offered doesn't mean you have to eat them. Politely say "that looks great, but no thanks" or something of that nature and you can help avoid holiday overeating. 
All in all folks, it's absolutely possible to enjoy treats without unwanted weight gain. Stay positive, make healthy choices most of the time and eat treats sensibly. Coming out of the holiday season knowing you were strong and smart enough not to overindulge will make you feel better than having a new set of love handles. True story.

Dec 9, 2011

Holiday Craftiness Turns Yummy

Last year for Christmas, I made gifts for most of my friends and family. This of course does not include my Dad, who has requested sox every year since I was in second grade. Dad (*sigh*). In an attempt to get my craft on again this year, I set out to make these cute little bracelets for a few of my close friends. Turns out, the only thing I created was a mess of frustration for myself. That's okay, no biggie. It's just not my year for gift-making.

As far as DIY craftiness goes, I simply have more luck in the kitchen. This holiday season, my favorite ingredient to work with is cranberries. The color, the flavor, the versatility. Cranberries, you rock my world!

The only problem is that most recipes with cranberries (like traditional cranberry sauce) call for a ton of sugar. Healthy cranberries don't deserve this treatment! So, I made a batch of reduced-sugar cranberry sauce and stumbled upon a fabulous, healthy snack idea.

Cottage cheese, meet cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce, meet cottage cheese.

You may be thinking "whaaaa?". But seriously, it's SO good. Even the husband digs it. The sweet/tart combo from the cranberries is the perfect complement to salty/creamy cottage cheese. Plus, in addition to being low calorie, this snack is loaded with good nutrition: antioxidants, Vitamin C, fiber, protein and calcium to name a few.

Here is the recipe step by step:

Start with fresh cranberries.

In medium saucepan, bring water and sugar  to boil until dissolved.

Once dissolved, simmer for about 5 minutes then add cranberries.

Continue simmering until cranberries start to pop. After about 10 minutes, remove from heat and pour into shallow bowl to let cool.

Recipe adapted from Trader Joe's Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 12oz bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
Dissolve sugar and water in medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 min. Stir in cranberries and simmer until you hear the cranberries pop - about 10 min. Place sauce in bowl to cool. It will thicken as it cools.

Serve over favorite cottage cheese and enjoy!
So there you have it. A holiday-inspired snack that you can call healthy. I totally ate this before I went out and purchased (read: not made) Christmas gifts. It was a good choice - the snack and the store-bought gifts.

Dec 4, 2011

Motivation Monday: Add Some Resistance

Calling all readers! It's time for a motivation pick-me-up. This week, we're talking exercise.

Life is just busy, right? Add one, two, three kids...oh yeah, now that's busy. So, I totally understand making time to workout is challenging in our crazy lives. But since current research suggests regular exercise promotes health and lowers risk of disease, it seems to me like it's crazier NOT to exercise.

There are two major types of exercise: aerobic (like jogging and swimming) and anaerobic (like weight lifting). I've noticed that many people I talk to stick with aerobic exercises like jogging, biking, swimming, dancing, etc and rarely (if at all) perform strength training exercises (especially us ladies). There's this crazy myth that weight lifting makes women bulky. SO not true. Sure, lifting weights will put on some muscle, but since we don't have as much Testosterone as men, we don't have to worry about bulking up.

This chick is lifting some serious weight and she doesn't look too bulky to me....

Image from
If you need more convincing, here's a quick peak at some of the major healthy benefits of strength training:
  • Improves bone density
  • Increases metabolism
  • Improves quality of life by allowing you to perform basic activities (like housework, laundry, gardening, etc) more easily.
  • Prevents loss of lean muscle mass overtime, which is common as we age. Oftentimes, the lost muscle is replaced with fat. To slow/prevent this process, add resistance training to your routine for about 30 minutes two to three times per week.
Thankfully, there's no need for a fancy gym membership or purchasing expensive equipment. Body weight workouts like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and sit-ups are excellent exercises to start with, especially if you don't regularly weight lift. I recently found this great website called MomWOD (stands for Mom workout of the day), which provides weekly templates for home workouts that are quick and actually quite challenging.

What works for me? Well, with a toddler at home working out is a team effort. My husband and I take turns working out every other evening from about 7:30-8:30pm. We typically weight train for 30 minutes and finish with 20-30 minutes of cardio.

This week, try to find what works for you and add some resistance training to your routine!