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Friday Favorites: Laura’s Go-To Foods

Happy Friday!

Since so many people constantly ask me what I eat to stay fit and fueled for work and working out (including a colleague who just asked me two days ago in our break room!), I thought I’d offer some ideas for anyone who put eating healthy near the top of their list of New Year’s resolutions.

To keep things short and sweet, I’m going to stick with my top breakfast and snack options. (They also happen to be the meals people ask me about the most.) Before I get into the foods, let me offer this friendly reminder: while I am a certified fitness professional, I am not certified or licensed as a nutritionist or dietitian. These are simply food options that work for me based on the fact that I like how they taste and they keep me full for three to four hours.

Breakfast Option #1 (My Smoothie Alternative):

  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberries, blackberries or raspberries or up to two cups of strawberries and/or 1 banana
  • 1 serving high-fiber cereal (My fave: Newman’s Own “Honey Flax Flakes.” It’s the only cereal that keeps me full!)
  • Mix and enjoy!

Breakfast Option #2 (My Cereal Alternative):

  • One packet of plain instant oatmeal
  • 1 cup of berries and/or 1 banana
  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Alternate mix-ins: fresh or frozen fruit of your choice; 1 oz of almonds (about 23 nuts); 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • Stir and enjoy!

Breakfast Option #3 (My Diner Fave):

  • Egg white omelet with veggies (Load ’em up: spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes…you get the idea!)
  • To “splurge,” add feta or mozzarella as lower fat cheese options (vs. American or cheddar)
  • Toasted pita or whole wheat toast
  • Skip the potatoes and ask for lettuce and tomato instead
  • Cuties California Clementines®. These are my new favorite snacks for 2012. I can’t get enough of ’em! I will eat 3 or 4 at a time and not only get a healthy dose of Vitamin C, but I also satisfy my sweet tooth without the guilt that comes with eating cookies or candy.
  • 100-calorie mini bag of 94% fat-free microwave popcorn. This is a long time favorite for me! There’s nothing like a bag of popcorn and a fruit (or a few Cuties) about an hour before I head to the gym to keep me full and get some fuel before a workout. (I won’t lie: before a big workout, I’ll skip the mini and pop the full-size bag – but it’s still 94% fat free and better than a bag of regular potato chips.)
  • Low-fat string cheese (like Sargento) and an apple or other fruit
  • 1 serving of reduced-fat Wheat Thins with Laughing Cow cheese spread (add an apple or other fruit, and you’ve got your sweet and savory)
  • Non-fat plain Greek yogurt with an oz of almonds or cup of berries makes for a great snack, too! (Especially if you had oatmeal for breakfast.)
Finally, the two items I never leave home without are:
  1. A banana and
  2. A Fiber One bar

So, what breakfast and snack foods work for you? I’m always looking for ways to mix things up! At the end of the day, remember exercise and healthy eating habits should go hand-in-hand. You need to give your body the right fuel if you want to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

A Healthy Happy Hour?

For lots of people, Friday is the perfect excuse to head out of the office or leave the kids with a sitter and proceed directly to happy hour. Anyone who knows me will tell you I like my red wine, and enjoying a glass or two on a Friday evening is one of my favorite ways to wind down after the work week. If you don’t drink alcohol, your Friday night plans may still involve some good conversation and “decadent” snacks with friends. Regardless of what’s on your agenda, the good news is you can enjoy a little downtime without completely blowing your efforts at living a healthier lifestyle.

I’ve already written about my l0-cal cocktail options for some popular beverages. Here are a couple of other tips that help me balance my efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle with my need to blow off some steam and unwind:

  • The Every-Other-Drink Rule: If you think you may want more than one drink, space them out. Start with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and when your glass is empty, order a glass of water, seltzer or diet soda for your next beverage. You’ll still feel “social” sipping on something, but by the time you’re done with that non-alcoholic drink, happy hour could be over and you’ll have saved yourself some calories and lots of sugar, too! (If you do order another “leaded” drink, it’ll only be your second alcoholic beverage instead of your third.)
  • Happy Hour & Hunger Don’t Mix: There’s nothing worse than arriving at a bar or a friend’s house with a stomach that’s growling for anything. That’s when you inhale half a bowl of chips or order the loaded potato skins without a second thought. If you can, have a healthy snack within an hour before you go out so you’ll be less likely to indulge in the high-calorie, high-fat snacks. Some of my favorite pre-happy-hour snacks include: 94% fat-free microwave popcorn and an apple; a low-fat string cheese and an apple; or a serving of raw almonds and a plain fat-free Greek yogurt. If I’m not ravenous, I may be able to enjoy one drink and one glass of water and hold off on eating altogether until I have healthier options back at home. If I’m having too much fun to leave, at least hunger won’t keep me from noticing some of the better menu options, like a salad or steamed veggies.
Finally, remember, even the best laid plans can go awry. If you do go a little overboard at happy hour, don’t sweat it. There’s always tomorrow when you can re-hydrate, make better food choices and get in a good workout at the gym, pop in your favorite exercise DVD or take the kids or the dog for a long walk. Even the most disciplined people need to let loose every once in awhile as part of our journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Smart Snacking

Here’s to making it to the end of another work week! As I am just back from vacation and try to re-adjust to the daily grind, I thought it was the perfect time to continue what I started last week: a quick Friday hit list. This time, I offer some of my favorite snacks.

As I mentioned in my previous installment Food & Fitness, I generally try to eat every three to four hours to keep my blood sugar at an even keel and avoid getting so hungry that I eat too much or the wrong foods at my next official meal. That means I’m always on the lookout for smart snack options that keep me fueled whether I’m on a shoot, gearing up for a good workout or simply reading a book on the beach. Here are some of my go-to items:

  • At work: I always have single serve mini bags of 94% fat-free microwavable popcorn in my desk drawer.  (Yet another tip learned through Weight Watchers.) Not only are the popped kernels filling, it takes some time to get through a bag, which leaves you no choice but to snack slowly.
  • Pre-workout: I usually head to the gym after work, so an hour before I start my workout, I will eat a protein / carb mix. Three of my mix-and-match favorites include:  one Weight Watchers string cheese with an apple, peach or nectarine; non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds or reduced fat Wheat Thins with Laughing Cow cheese spread.
  • Pre-“big time” workout: I absolutely love peanut butter, but I have a hard time restraining myself to the “normal” serving size. However, Jif makes portable single serve cups. They are definitely packed with more calories and fat than I’d normally like to snack on. However, on a day where I couldn’t eat a normal, well-balanced lunch and I’m taking my weekly Club Strength class, I’ll “splurge” on a snack of one single-size peanut butter cup on two slices of Weight Watchers toast. (For a boost to this snack or any on this list, I’ll add an apple.)
  • On the run: I always have a Fiber One bar in my backpack or purse. I get a chocolate fix while kicking hunger to the curb.
  • In a pinch: a hot cup of green tea or chewing gum helps keep my hunger when eating a healthy snack isn’t on the menu.

If you have some different snack ideas, please send them along! (While you’re at it, let me know if you have any good music to add to the Music That Makes Me Move playlist I posted last week.) The information we share can only help us all on our journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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