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Fast Friday Food Facts

A little prep goes a long way!

I end this week addressing one of the questions I get on a near-daily basis: “How can I make some simple changes and cut a few calories out of my daily diet?”

If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, you probably already know making that happen doesn’t take a degree in rocket science. You need to burn more calories than you take in. In all of my food-related posts, I make a point of reminding my readers that I’m not a licensed nutritionist or registered dietitian. However, I’m happy to share the “tricks” that help keep my healthy eating habits in tact. So, here are five ways you can cut 100 calories out of your diet at different times of the day:

  1. Use skim milk in your morning cup of java.
  2. Swap out that bulky bagel for a whole wheat English muffin.
  3. Top off that English muffin with egg whites.
  4. Use mustard instead of mayo.
  5. Ditch the chips and pop a 100-calorie bag of popcorn into the microwave instead.

You may be saying, “Okay, Laura, these are no-brainers.” Well, that’s the point. Making several small changes throughout the day really does add up over time.  Add some exercise to these food “fixes,” and you’ll have a great foundation to get started on the path to a healthier you. Trust me, once you start noticing the positive changes, whether it’s your jeans feeling a little looser or having more energy walking up that flight of stairs, you’ll want to make the changes stick.

If you’d like to share some of the small but healthy changes in your own diet, I’d love to hear from you! Sharing information is one of the best ways to help each other keep moving along this lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Smart Prep for Halloween

It’s that time of year again. Time to burn a few extra calories in preparation  for the sweetest day of the year – Halloween!

This is a tough holiday for me, because along with my red wine, I really do love chocolate. Luckily, there are some treats that aren’t quite as spooky as others when it comes to the calorie content.

Here are a few ideas that can help you feel a little less guilty if your hand finds its way into that plastic pumpkin basket to grab a treat of your own:

Going to extremes: Buy candy you DON’T like. Since I’m a chocolate fiend, buying fruity candies like Skittles or Starbursts is an easy way for me to avoid  finding too many wrappers in my trash on November 1st. You can also hand out sugar-free gum. At about five calories per stick, if you chew on a few of those during the holiday, it’s obviously not going to blow your healthy eating habits to smithereens.

Middle-of-the-road options:Here are some candy options that will help keep the calorie overload to a reasonable level:

  • York Peppermint Patties: who says you can’t enjoy a full-size candy bar without a side order of guilt? This cool treat drenched in dark chocolate is 140 calories with 2.5 grams of fat. (Compare that to a full-size Snickers bar that has 280 calories and 14 grams of fat, and you’ve got a good reason to be satisfied by all that minty goodness!)
  • Mini Three Musketeer Bars: You can enjoy three minis for 24 calories and less than one gram of fat.
  • Hershey Kisses: Three chocolate smooches come in at 67 calories and 4 grams of fat.
  • Tootsie Roll: One piece has 26 calories and five grams of fat.
  • Candy Corn: You can have a whole handful of 10 pieces for only 64 calories and 0 grams of fat.
  • 100 Calorie Packs: A good alternative to candy bars, these individual packs can satisfy your sweet tooth and take the guess-work out of portion control.
I wrap up by wishing everyone a safe and Happy Halloween! Remember, even this sweet holiday doesn’t have to put the brakes on your quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

On this Monday, October 3rd, we are three days into Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I am either prepping for or in the middle of producing a satellite media tour for Susan G. Komen for the Cure featuring Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, it feels good to play a small role in the latest outreach efforts by an organization that is widely regarded as the leader of the global breast cancer movement.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The day she and my dad sat me down to tell me was probably the scariest in my life to date. Fortunately, because my mom has always been adamant about keeping up with her health screenings, the doctors detected the cancer early and she beat it. Today, I am lucky and blessed to be able to say my mom is among the 2.6 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States.

Her diagnosis put me on alert regarding my own health and made me want to do research, speak with my own physicians and learn everything I could about reducing my risk and how to be even more proactive about my health. While I am still a few years away from my first mammogram, I have followed in my mother’s footsteps when it comes to staying current with my other healthcare screenings.

It looks like something else I do and enjoy could help me, too. According to the National Cancer Institiute at the National Institutes of Health, there is strong evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Add that to the already long list of benefits from exercise, and you have just one more reason why there’s no better time than now to get up and get moving!

I will never be able to thank my mom for all she has given me throughout my life (my dad, too). Along with unconditional love and unwavering support, she has taught me so many important lessons without even knowing it. One of the most important things I have learned is it is important to take care of yourself so you can give of yourself- your time, energy, compassion and love – to others.

To that end, exercise has been a key component for my own well being while giving me the energy to be concerned about the well being of others. I encourage anyone reading this post to take charge of your health:

  • Talk to your physician(s) about your family history and other risk factors for cancer and other diseases
  • Don’t put off important health screenings
  • Exercise
  • When it comes to your eating habits,  I believe moderation is crucial to maintaining a “diet” you can live with

If you’ve been looking for a time to turn your take-care-of-you goals into reality, here’s your chance. Make this Breast Cancer Awareness Month your time to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Food & Fitness

Nutritionists and registered dietitians are the experts when it comes to healthy eating. I am neither, but as part of the fitness industry, I get plenty of questions about what people should and shouldn’t eat.  So, in order to address this topic early in my blogging adventures, here’s a 100% personal account of how I try to maintain a healthy diet.

I joined Weight Watchers in May 2007. Why? Because the post-divorce “diet” I started which included a dinner of half-a-jar of peanut butter with chocolate syrup and a side of vodka on ice was not a healthy regimen to maintain. Also, being in my 30s, I couldn’t rely on the workouts I started during my Northwestern days to counterbalance the bad food choices I was making too often.  Aside from worrying about gaining weight, I felt absolutely awful.

Today, I am a lifetime Weight Watchers member. I continue to go to meetings when I can and the program works for my lifestyle. Again, for me, it was not about losing a lot of weight, it was about learning to eat better.  I’m not here to offer a lesson about point values and food.  Instead, here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned that helps me stay on track.

  • I never skip breakfast. During the work week, I’ll make my own parfait with non-fat plain Greek yogurt, sliced banana, strawberries or blueberries (there’s two – three servings of fruit for the day!) and a serving of high-fiber cereal.
  • Instead of having three big meals, I eat every three to four hours. This prevents me from being so hungry that I go overboard at the next meal.
  • Every Sunday, I spend 30-60 minutes chopping red peppers and celery and pack up the sticks up with baby carrots or cherry tomatoes in individual containers, one for each day of the week.  It’s an easy way to get in two servings of veggies while sitting at my desk. (The idea works just as well if you’re home.)
  • I have embraced whole grains! I like Weight Watchers breads for sandwiches, cook whole grain pasta at home and on “bad”nights when we order Chinese or burritos, we ask for brown rice.
  • Finally, I refuse to say “I will never eat (a fudge-covered Oreo/a bacon cheeseburger/lasagna) ever again!” First of all, life’s too short.  Second, in my experience, the longer you deny yourself something you really like, the better chance you have of over-indulging when you do finally “break down.”

Life's Short - Eat Dessert!

Now listen, I have my fair share of “bad food” days. I love dessert, especially chocolate, and I love Prosecco and red wine. But one bad day doesn’t have to mean “well, I blew it today, so I may as well throw the whole week out the window and start over on Monday.” On the contrary, every day offers a clean slate and a brand new chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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