Putting a Healthy Twist on Seasonal Snacks
This Motivation Monday is all about one of my favorite food groups: snacks!
I classify snacks in two groups:
- The healthy ones you choose throughout the day to keep you body fueled and your blood levels at an even keel and
- The not-so-healthy ones you enjoy at a party or on those rare occasions you get to chill out on the couch.
As a strong believer in the power of eating several small meals throughout the day, I’m always on the lookout for healthy snack options. My go-tos include hard-boiled eggs, raw almonds, green apples, fat-free plain Greek yogurt and KIND bars. If you’ve been stopping by here for awhile, you also know I also enjoy my treats, especially when I can share them with friends and family. Which brings me to one of the biggest reasons people get together in the fall: football!
If your idea of “Sunday Funday” includes sporting your team’s jersey, sipping a few beers and savoring some indulgences, here are three ideas to enjoy those good times without the side serving of guilt:
- Spice Up Your Popcorn: Microwave popcorn has always been one of my favorite lo-cal snacks. To make it more fun for game day, try adding some chili powder, pepper or paprika to the bag or bowl. (Just be sure to put some muscle into it and shake well!)
- Healthy chili: How would you like to enjoy a hearty, hot bowl of chili packed with only 75 calories and 1. 5 grams of fat? It’s possible, thanks to this Weight Watchers “one-point chili” recipe my mom introduced me to years ago. Click here for the easy recipe. Since I’m not a big cook, I like to make a big batch so I can freeze some and nuke it later.
- A Better Way to Dip – Swap out breads and chips for crunchy, healthy celery or carrot sticks and dip those veggies into a whole new kind of creaminess. Chobani’s Meze Dips have just 25 calories and one gram of fat per serving. (Traditional French onions dips pack five or more grams of fat and at least 60 calories per serving.) With flavors like Roasted Red Pepper, Three Pepper Salsa and Smoked Onion Parmesan, there’s a yummy fix for all your savory cravings. The following are some of Chobani’s tasty and colorful alternatives to those traditional chip-and-dip days:
So, what’s YOUR favorite healthy football or other seasonal snack? Remember, if you do go a little overboard on Sunday Funday or any other day of the week – don’t sweat it. Sometimes you have to be a little bad to get back to the good on this never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Keep It Simple
I think it’s safe to say most adults will agree with the old saying “timing is everything.” In fact, I credit good timing as the inspiration for this Motivation Monday post featuring some simple ways to make healthier choices.
Not too long ago, I wrote about the importance of taking small steps when trying to lose weight. That post included some easy ways to cut approximately one hundred calories from your meals. A few days later, the social media team at Chobani reached out to me about their new Simply 100 Crunch line. If you’ve been looking to spice up your snack options, these yummy yogurts can help you satisfy your sweet or savory cravings with a variety of protein-packed flavors. Since I’m always promoting small changes that can add up to big results, I thought this Chobani connection happened at a perfect time.
The final piece of the puzzle in this perfect-timing scenario? Chobani even put together a dozen fun ways to help everyone “crunch the numbers” and burn 100 calories. Since I knew my writing time would be limited because of a business trip, I was happy to get some solid material to share with my readers! Before you jump into the fun graphic below, here are a few other quick tips to live a little lighter:
- Drink up: It’s easy to remember to hydrate during the warm-weather months, but drinking water is important all-year round. The dry, forced heat in offices, schools or apartments can also make your skin dry, so drinking water can help – along with some good moisturizer, of course!
- Keep a food journal: I started doing this in Weight Watchers years ago, and as a lifetime member since 2012, I continue to write down what I eat. Having the information on paper can help you see where you slipped up and make better choices.
- Put fitness plans and progress in writing, too! Did you book that group exercise class for two days from now? Be sure to put a sticky note on the fridge or set a reminder in your smartphone so you get there. Also make notes when you add time to your cardio circuit or increase weight or reps during a class or weight training session. Seeing progress is one of the biggest motivators of all!
I hope you have fun with the ideas below and don’t be shy about letting me know some of the ways you’re living lighter in 2016! For recipe ideas and other tidbits, check out thelightthatsright.com Thanks again to Chobani for reaching out at the perfect time. There’s nothing like a little teamwork to help more people on their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Foodie Friday:Portion Control
I thought I’d wrap up the work week tackling a food-related topic I get lots of questions about: portion control.
For better or worse, anyone who lives in the USA knows all too well that we live in a super-sized society. When an extra quarter gets you an extra-large side of fries or a cookie, it can be tough to make smart decisions. So learning how to keep track of portions at home can help when you’re not protected by the safety of your own kitchen.
As I remind everyone before I launch into my diet-related tips, I’m not a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Therefore, these tips are simply examples of the options that work for me and my lifestyle.
- Scale down, divide and conquer: Use a smaller plate (like a salad dish) for your meal. Make sure that meal includes raw or steamed veggies or salad and fill half your plate with that. Use the remaining space for your lean protein and starch – preferably some sort of whole grain. If you can’t stomach the idea of using a smaller plate, stick with the half-plate veggie and remaining quarters for protein and starch.
- Prep once or twice, eat all week! I am not a cook, let alone a chef. But for anyone who knows his or her way around the kitchen, go ahead and prepare things in bulk, then freeze portion sizes in reusable containers for lunches and dinners that last all week. Click here for a reminder on how non-cooks like me prep other items for a week’s worth of healthy snacks.
- Sizing Things Up: This is often the trickiest part of portion control. When you’re home, until you can eyeball what’s a portion size, I strongly encourage using measuring cups and even a food scale for accurate serving sizes. When you’re not home, here are some of the tricks I learned through Weight Watchers. (I have been a lifetime member since November 2010). All you need is your hand!
- Fist = 1 cup
- Thumb (tip to base) = 1 oz meat or cheese
- Palm (without your fingers) = 3 oz lean protein
- Fingertip = 1 tsp
- Thumb tip = 1 tbsp
- Cupped hand = 1 to 2 oz of crunchy snacks e.g. almonds / pretzels
I leave you with two final tips that have more to do with common sense than accurate measurements.
- Know when to stop eating! I’m lucky to have grown up in a household where I was encouraged to stop eating when I felt full. The trick is to put down that fork before you’re so uncomfortable you’re looking for your first opportunity to get into those sweats.
- Have that cupcake! No, that wasn’t a typo. Whatever your favorite treat is, I guarantee denying yourself the pleasure of indulging in a serving now and then will only make you crave it even more. Trying to satisfy the craving with a substitutes can be another recipe for disaster. Why? Think about it. Instead of having one slice of cookies-and-cream cheesecake, you opt for the low-fat cookies, end up eating the whole bag…and you STILL want the cheesecake! Treating yourself once in a while can help prevent a serious caloric meltdown later. Want a great way to indulge without all the guilt? Split dessert with a friend!
With a little know-how and patience, developing healthy eating habits to compliment your exercise routine is the best way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Friday’s Food for Thought
I just realized I often wrap up the work week writing about something related to food or drink. Maybe that’s because one of my favorite ways to unwind after a crazy week is to join family or friends for dinner and drinks. On this Friday, however, I thought I’d address one of the foods many of us struggle with treating ourselves to on any day of the week: candy.
As my fabulous friend Amy recently pointed out, there’s been lots of advertising lately about the low-cal candies made by Skinny Cow™. However, there isn’t a lot of information about how much “better” these yummy options are for our diets. So, thanks to Amy, this blog post was born!
First of all, let me say I am a huge Skinny Cow fan! You’ll always find a box of Skinny Cow Fudge Bars in my freezer. At 100 calories and one gram of fat, they’re the perfect no-guilt dessert, especially after a good workout! (The fact that they blend nicely for a low-cal mudslide option is an added bonus). The other reason I like them so much is that a single bar truly satisfies my ice-cream craving. That makes the box of fudge bars a safer dessert option than a gallon of reduced-fat or “light” ice cream. In all honesty, I could easily eat that whole gallon in one sitting.
That brings me to the crux of the problem with the Skinny Cow candies and most of the lower-calorie options out there: if you’re like me, and you know one serving isn’t going to satisfy your sweet tooth, then you may be sabotaging your diet by bringing boxes of these treats into your home. Again, as someone in complete awe of those who can eat one piece of candy on Halloween and call it a day, I would definitely be at risk of eating the entire box of Skinny Cow “Dreamy Clusters.” Here’s what the damage would look like: while one pouch contains 120 calories and six grams of fat, the whole box – six pouches total – brings you to 720 calories and 36 grams of fat. Yikes!
So, for me, the better option is to “give in” to my chocolate craving and go for a full-size “3 Musketeers” bar. It weighs in at 260 calories and 8 grams of fat, but I know I’ll have only one. This is the reason I stopped buying Weight Watchers® snack cakes years ago. I could easily polish off an entire box of brownies, cookies or chocolate creme cakes during one re-run of “The Golden Girls.” Instead, if I want to “splurge,” I will have a real cupcake from Crumbs and plan out the rest of my menu for the day accordingly. At the end of the day, the key to remember is that lo-cal options may not always be the best option for you and your eating habits.
Finally, as a relentless promoter of the everything-in-moderation lifestyle, if you do go overboard today and find you’ve devoured the whole box of Skinny Cow candies or half the chocolate cake in the break room, brush off the crumbs and remember this: tomorrow brings new opportunities to make better choices so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Margaritas: Now that Crystal Light makes a margarita-flavored mix, why not celebrate Cinco de Mayo by putting some in a blender with a shot of tequila and saving some calories for the chips and guacamole!
- Mudslides: Oh, they are delicious, but boy, do they pack a punch when it comes to calories! According to CaloreKing.com, one Kahlua ready-to-drink Mudlslide has 2,364 calories. I tend to like Bailey’s in my mudslides, so my recipe replaces the Bailey’s with a Weight Watchers latte flavored ice pop. (Minus the stick, of course!) Put the frozen “ice cream” into a blender, and add crushed ice, 4-6 ounces of skim milk and a shot of vodka. Blend and enjoy! (You can also add a shot of Kahlua with the vodka, but that will up the calories a bit , but the final number won’t be anywhere near the 2,364 I mentioned above.)
- Calorie-Conscious Creamsicle: I learned about this one at a Weight Watchers meeting and still have to try it, but it sounds really good! Put one packet of a Weight Watchers vanilla smoothie mix into a blender, and add WW orange-flavored fat-free yogurt, crushed ice and one shot of vodka. Blend and enjoy!
- Speaking of Weight Watchers smoothie mixes, if you can get a hold of them, they’re really good and come in several flavors including vanilla, chocolate, caramel latte and even a berry blend. Mix one packet in the blender with fresh strawberries, blueberries or banana, along with crushed ice, skim milk (or water) and a shot of vodka or rum. (These taste just as good without the alcohol.)
So, whether you’re planning to raise a frosty glass in honor of Cinco de Mayo this weekend or are just looking forward to the longer, warmer days ahead, remember to enjoy yourself responsibly. Moderation and common sense are two key players in our lifelong journey 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.”
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!