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Easy Food Swaps for a Healthier Diet

By: Hila Aran MSc., RDN

One of my favorite things about cooking is that there are endless opportunities to be creative. Depending on how creative you allow yourself to be, you can create many variations of one simple dish. I started experimenting with foods not only to make a wider selection of foods, but have also been wanting to make healthier versions of foods. Here are some secret food swaps you can make in your kitchen to enjoy healthier dishes:

Brown rice in, heavy cream out

Heavy cream is often used as a base stock or finish, and acts as a thickener adding not just silky-smooth richness and texture, but a good bit of unhealthy calories. For a healthier food choice, consider swapping with brown rice. In order to do so, cook the rice in broth and puree with low-fat milk. The rice will become a rich, nutty cream that not only acts as a thickener but also provides vitamins, minerals and fiber. A perfect food swap for dishes such as broccoli cheese soup, tomato-basil soup or clam chowder.

Egg whites in, Whole egg out

Most of the calories in an egg are found in the yolk. Consider swapping two egg whites for one large whole egg in your cooking or baking process or even at your next breakfast.

Fruit puree in, oil out

This swap is one of my favorites and most commonly used food swaps! A great way to cut back on calories from fat, all you have to so is swap ½ cup baby food or fruit puree + half cup oil for every one cup of oil. I find this swap especially helpful when baking muffins and breads.

Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal in, bread crumbs out

Most American don’t meet their daily need for fiber. With this easy substitute you can add fiber to your diet easily. I use this swap option especially when making soft and fluffy meatballs. You just can’t tell the difference!

Beans in, flour out

Swapping out flour for a can of drained, rinsed black beans in baked goods such as brownies is a great way to cut out gluten (if you are looking to do so) as well as squeeze in an extra dose of protein. Swap one cup of flour for one cup of black bean puree.

Avocado puree in, butter out

This is a perfect swap, especially when making sweets. Although they’re both fats and have nearly the same consistency at room temperature, they are very different kinds of fat. Avocado is a smarter choice of fat as it is an unsaturated fat. Another healthy option is to use ripe banana mash. Bananas act the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baking recipes and are a good source of nutrients such as potassium and fiber. In order to swap, use one cup of avocado puree or banana mash as a replacement for a cup of butter or oil that is called for in a recipe.

Vegetables in, Pasta out

This swap is perfect if you are trying to keep your carbohydrate intake low. I will admit it, it may take a few bites to get used to it, but with the right sauce is a delicious and nutritious food option. Swap thin strips of sautéed zucchini or oven baked spaghetti squash for pasta. This swap will save you calories and help you fulfill your daily needs for fruits and vegetables.

Greek yogurt in, Mayonnaise out

Such an easy swap and always turns out great. Substitute Mayo for Greek yogurt when making tuna or chicken salad. This swap will not only save you calories and fat, but will provide you with more protein provide. All you have to do is add some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.

 

Swap away! Eat healthier and Enjoy!

 

 

snack bar

Energy Bars As A Snack: The Good, The Bad And Everything In-Between…

Energy bars, granola bars, health bars, power bars, and the list goes on and on.
A variety of companies make such bars, and each one is called something different. Confused? We don’t blame you. This blog is intended to put a stop to the confusion and guide you to make a healthy snack choice, especially when it comes to snack bars.

Having an organized meal routine throughout the day is important for both children and adults. Balancing healthy and nutritious snacks not only helps us consume the recommended daily values of important nutrients, but also keeps us from becoming hungry to the point at which we may become vulnerable to overeat during our next meal. The key is to carefully and thoughtfully include snacks as part of our daily intake. I like to think of a “smart” snack as one that includes more than one food group. For example, a combination of protein and grains such as a yogurt with granola, or a vegetable with protein such as baby carrots dipped in Hummus. One of the difficulties I encounter with clients when it comes to snacks is the claim that they require advance planning and preparation. This makes choosing energy bars as a snack an “easy” alternative on hectic days. Every now and then, it is perfectly fine to choose an energy bar for a snack, but here is how to do it wisely:

Look for a type of bar that fits your needs:
This is especially important if you have a food allergy restriction, food intolerance, or a medical condition. Some bars may contain certain ingredients you may need to keep away from, and some are loaded with specific nutrients such as protein or carbohydrates to provide extra calories.

Read the label and understand the serving size:
Energy bars are often very caloric. The range of calories differs largely based on the manufacturer and on the intention of the product: a diet product or for example, one that is intended for an athlete. Calories can range anywhere from 60 calories to a few hundred calories in a single bar! In addition, some packages include two bars per package and some are single bars. If you read the label wrong you might end up consuming twice the amount of calories you intended.

Beware of the list of ingredients:
Often times, I find myself discussing the ingredients of prepared foods with clients and we come to the conclusion that one has to make the choice of which guidelines are important to follow. I jokingly say; “if we choose to avoid eating everything we will end up eating lettuce and lettuce only”. Try to choose an item with a list of ingredients as short as possible. Choose those that are natural, and you are familiar with. I often try to stick with the “10 ingredients or less” rule and find it very helpful.

It’s a world of snack bars choices out there. Follow these guidelines to make a healthier snack choice starting today, and don’t forget to pay attention to your needs when it comes to a snack. Ask yourself “What is it that I am need of right now?”, “What will satisfy me?” If here and there it’s a snack bar, then so be it.
Make the smart choice for you and enjoy!

Home cooking

How to Turn Cooking at Home Into a Habit

Ok, it’s time to talk about it. Yes, that excuse that often pushes many of us who are cooking for one or two, away from reaching our nutrition goals. In many of our posts we mention that a successful healthy meal plan involves planning, and is often much easier to maintain when eating home cooked meals. No matter what, you can’t compare a home cooked meal to that found in a restaurant simply because when eating out you can’t have full control over the ingredients and the amounts of them used in your meal We understand that it’s challenging to cook for one or two. Follow our tips and you too, will learn the secrets to making it possible and enjoyable.

Getting successfully “on track” when cooking for yourself or you and another individual
Begins with early planning of your weekly meals. It is important to decide in advance what you will be having for your meals, or to have a general idea. Knowing what you will be cooking allows you to buy the proper ingredients and amounts that will not go to waste, and will make following a recipe easier since you can make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand.

Shop according to your needs.
If you are new to cooking for just yourself or for a small number of people, altering your shopping habits may require some getting used to. This can happen when you and your partner first become empty nesters, when you move away from a large family, or if you are just starting out on your own. Try shopping with another individual- such as a family member, friend or close neighbor to share those items that come bulk quantities. Generally, small size, or individually packed items tend to cost more, so this is a way to save money.

Don’t over-visit the store
The fact that you are cooking for yourself, or for you and one more, doesn’t mean you have to hit the store every single day. Instead, aim to shop once or twice a week at the most. Not only will this save you money and time, but will alleviate the likelihood of buying unhealthy little snacks.

Plan to store
Sometimes modifying the number of servings a recipe yields is easy, but sometimes it can be tricky. If you come across a recipe you are interested in trying, or are cooking a dish of your own that is hard to cook in small portions, after cooking, divide the dish into desired and appropriate portions and store the remainder for use later in the freezer. You can easily use Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers by writing the name of the food cooked and dating it.

Make healthy foods easily accessible
Aim to make healthy food items easily accessible for a meal or as a “grab and go”. For instance, cut up a few vegetables or make a salad without dressing that you can easily access for several meals. Another idea is to combine different kinds of berries into a large bowl and take out of the refrigerator as needed.

It isn’t as difficult as it may seem and is well worth the effort. Enjoy!

Photo of a table top full of fresh vegetables fruit and other healthy foods.

Simple and Healthy Cooking – How to

By: Hila Aran, MSc, RDN

You don’t need a degree in nutrition science or be a top chef to cook healthy. You can use basic cooking techniques to prepare food in healthy ways and save on fat and calories. In fact, you can even preserve important nutrients.

Keep in mind that 1 tablespoon of oil has about 100 calories. Think about how many calories you can be saving yourself just by being more aware to how often and how much of it you use! My first tip to you for healthy and simple cooking is to measure fats used in your diet instead of pouring them directly. In general fats from animal sources, also known as saturated fats, are less healthy than those from vegetables sources also known as unsaturated fats. Try to avoid butter, cream, margarine and lard and opt instead for vegetable, canola, corn, olive oils, etc.

Every type of fat has a smoke point, at which you will notice smoke rising from the surface of the fat when heated. Fats with a higher smoke point are better to use for high heat applications such as frying or sautéing. Examples of these include canola oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and corn oil.

The temperatures at which foods are cooked / fried, and time they require, can also impact fat absorption. Foods cooked at lower temperatures usually take more time and absorb more fat.

Here are some steps you can take to lower your fat intake when cooking and baking:

  • Use substitutes- Some substitutes have similar properties to fats when cooking and baking and thus can be used as an alternative. For example, pureed cannelloni beans have been found to be a satisfactory substitute for shortening when making brownies. Likewise, plum puree and applesauce can be used as substitutes for fats in baked goods. Egg whites can be used instead of whole eggs.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and low fat cheese.
  • Use nonstick pots and pans.
  • Roast or broil your foods. During these processes fats melts and are reduced.

Nutritionally, vegetables are rich in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and other important vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in phytochemicals and low in calories when compared to other foods. Vegetables can lose some of their nutritional content during storage, preparation and cooking. In general baking, steaming, stir-frying and leaving the skin on when cooking helps retain nutrients to a greater extent. In order to maintain as many nutrients as possible opt for methods such as steaming, roasting, or broiling. You may also choose to use the juices as a soup or gravy. These methods preserve vitamins and minerals, and enhance flavors and colors.

Following are tips to increase nutrient intake from vegetables when cooking and baking:

  • Serve vegetables immediately after cooking to maintain quality and lessen vitamin loss.
  • Increase consumption and enhance flavors by using a variety of healthy cooking methods as described above.
  • Use seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables as part of your cooking process when possible, but feel free to use frozen or canned fruits and vegetables if needed.
  • Decrease the time from preparation to consumption of raw fruits and vegetables in order to lower nutritional losses.

 

 

Clumsy attractive woman falling plates and dishes in her kitchen room

Making Your Kitchen a “Safe Zone”: Simple, Easy and Bacteria Free

By: Hila Aran, MSc, RDN

Often our blog posts revolve around food and diet but let us not forget that your health comes first. There are several ways in which you can make sure your kitchen is safe for you and your entire family:

  1. Smart shopping. When you go to the grocery store this is your first step to ensure your kitchen is a safe zone. Make sure your choice of supermarket is one that carries products that come from credible sources and stores its products and produce safely. Dairy, meat and poultry, eggs and other items should be stored in cold temperatures. Produce should be fresh and stacked neatly. Make sure to place raw meat away from your produce in your cart, on the belt and in the packaging stage to prevent cross contamination of bacteria.
  2. Have a plan. Since there are some food items that are sensitive to warmer temperatures, and even room temperature, it is important to make sure you don’t leave them in this “danger zone” in which they have the potential to develop bacterial growth and to become contaminated. If you know you have a few stops to make on the way between your shopping spree and the time you get home, pack a cooler with ice packs to keep your food cool and prevent it from spoiling.
  3. Expand your collection of cutting boards. One way in which you can make sure your kitchen stays safe, as well as your family, is by using different cutting boards for different foods. This helps prevent cross contamination or the translocation of bacteria, from one food item to another. Ideally, you should have separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetable, fish and seafood, poultry and meat. Every so often it is recommended to wash your boards with bleach and not just with soap and water.
  4. Thaw your food wisely. Foods taken out of the freezer, especially fish and meat products should never be thawed on your counter top. Instead, plan ahead so they have enough time to thaw in the refrigerator, in a microwave if will be cooked immediately afterwards, or thawed under running water at a temperature of 70° F or below.
  5. Store your foods right. Storing your food properly not only keeps you safe and healthy, but can also save you big bucks. Your dry ingredients should ideally be stored in a clean cabinet with cool temperatures ranging between 50-79 ° Rotate your stock. Store your items in a way that will allow you to use the older ones first, and the newer ones later. What comes in first should be the first to come out. Items that need to be stored in the refrigerator require a bit more thought since often they are more sensitive. Foods should be placed in the fridge in the following order, from top to bottom; Ready to eat items, fish, meat, ground meat and lastly chicken.
  6. Leave the pesticides behind. Make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables with soap and water before use. Some are more sensitive and may accumulate pesticides and unwanted little friends such as strawberries, cabbage or lettuce.
  7. Know when to part from your leftovers. While we all love leftovers and I actually encourage you to bring them home when ordering a meal at a restaurant, leftovers should be discarded after two days.
  8. Keep it cooked. Different kinds of meats and seafood should be cooked at specified temperatures for a minimal time to make sure they are safe for you to consume: Fish, shellfish, pork, beef ,lamb and veal should be cooked at 145° F, ground beef should be cooked at 155° F and poultry should be cooked at 165° F for a minimum of 15 seconds to destroy harmful bacteria.
  9. Eat and store. One common misconception is to leave foods you just cooked to cool down before placing them in the refrigerator. This actually increases the chance of your food to sit in the danger zone of temperatures of 41-135 ° Instead, place your food in the refrigerator. Don’t worry, it will not overheat your fridge or cause other foods to spoil.
  10. Your rag and sponge are replaceable. Did you know that your kitchen rag/ sponge is one of the places in your home with the most bacteria on them? Leave the separation anxiety behind and replace them often.

 

Let’s get to work and make your kitchen a safer and healthier environment for everyone to enjoy!

 

Brownies with peanut butter in a cage Diet concept

Borders and Boundaries: From the United Nations to your plate

“How can I be successful with my diet?” Is this a question that often runs through your head? I believe that we all want to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle, but when it comes to nutrition we lose touch with one very important tool to help us succeed – the physical, cognitive, and emotional tool of eating within the boundaries we set for ourselves.

Let’s first address how we view borders and boundaries as adults. Many of us automatically associate these words with a negative connotation. For example, we may associate limit setting and boundaries with raising children, and educating them as to what they can and cannot do. Or picture a fence dividing two countries. Perhaps, we might even think of boundaries as something prohibited. As so, we might relate to boundaries in a similarly negative way when it comes to our diet plan. For example, one might think “Oh, I can’t have that!” or “This is not permitted in my diet plan”. Notice that in all of the above examples boundaries are set and shown in a negative way which sets us up to fail in our efforts to make a real change. Instead, use these boundaries and limitations positively in your weight loss plan. Putting boundaries and limitations in place actually allow us freedom and choices in our weight loss process, leading us to succeed in our diet.

With the overflow of information available to most of us online, together with everyone we meet offering us nutritional advice, it is not easy to set boundaries and limitations in our eating habits and makes it even harder for us to be consistent with our choices. Often, this information overflow causes us to constantly change our program, one day believing we should be vegan, the next day deciding to cut out all bread, and two days later avoiding all dairy products. This is why it is important to keep in mind these 5 tips:

  • Healthy nutrition is a function of reorganizing. First, stop and think about the changes we want to make. Only then, can we truly start the process. We need to think in terms of baby steps: “What changes can I start with that will work for me, yet not rock my world?” Keep in mind that changes that are too big and difficult for us to handle actually prevent success in our weight loss efforts
  • “Every limit or border set should be in place at all times”. For example, if one of your goals is to eat mindfully at the kitchen table instead of in front of the television, or straight from the pot, than this should be implemented without question and at every meal.
  • Think about how many times you tell yourself “NO” when it comes to food. Instead, train yourself to say, “No, but…”, or even better, talk to yourself in a positive fashion. Instead of saying “I am not allowed to eat chocolate” train yourself to instead say, “I should eat a piece of fruit for dessert as it is healthy”.
  • Give yourself positive feedback. Often times we notice our poor decisions rather our good ones. Similarly, it is often easier to see our negative qualities rather than notice our positive ones. Take the time to acknowledge the good decisions you make in your weight loss effort. They go a long way.
  • Remember that we often have less control when eating outside of our home. Since we can’t impose our limitations and boundaries on others, it is important to learn to handle these situations in order to remain in control of ourselves even when we are not in control of the situation. This can be done by setting expectations and visualizing success.

Sticking with a weight loss plan is not easy because, let’s face it, most of us like to eat and enjoy food. However, if you set boundaries wisely you will find this process is both easier and more enjoyable.

 

New-Year-New-You

Weight Loss Resolutions Done Right

As a registered dietitian, one of the issues that I notice many of us face in the desire for health and weight loss is that many of us look for easy and quick solutions to achieve a preferred weight. Often times these effortless solutions are advertised quite well on the TV, radio or internet, making them hard to avoid and resist. In fact, some are advertisements for products or diets that are impossible to maintain or have no scientific backing to support them. The problem with these diets, weight loss pills or even weight loss gadgets is that results are hard to maintain, and if unsupervised, often can cause damage to ones health in the process. If your New Year’s resolution is to live healthier and lose weight the right way, this blog post is just for you.

Baby steps
In my opinion, one of the most important things to keep in mind when changing a lifestyle or starting a weight loss plan is to remember that this process should be looked at, as a “marathon”, not a “sprint”. This means that in most cases, you will encounter ups and downs, will need to practice your behavior, and take this process step by step to achieve your desired goal. The path to being able to keep the lost weight off, or maintain your newly developed health habits, should be built by setting realistic and specific goals which will help you move forward, yet not be too hard to achieve.

Get your fans on board
If you were actually running a marathon, wouldn’t you like your family and friends cheering you on or meeting you at the finish line?
Discuss your health and weight loss goals with those who impact your everyday life. Not only will you enjoy their encouragement, but will be surprised how long their support in your efforts goes. Sharing your efforts with them may get their support regarding certain tempting foods that you wish not to bring into your home, may get them “on the same page” when it comes to a healthy cooking style or may even to agree to a healthier choice of restaurants when dinning out.

Turn your efforts social
Making and accepting any kind of change can be a challenge. This is especially true when it comes to our eating habits. I do, however, find that making change with others makes the process a little easier. Take actions to maintain an active lifestyle by joining a physical activity you enjoy with a friend or partner, join weight loss support groups that meet on a regular basis, or even reach out online to individuals who share your efforts. In addition, make your shopping trip or cooking into a social affair and enjoy it.

The finish line
I used to hear others say “everyone is built in a different way” and be annoyed with that sentence. Regardless how hard it may be for us to accept this fact, it’s true. It is important to understand your body’s limitations going into a weight loss process, and understand that your body has a set point with which it is comfortable with that may be different than your best friend’s or your siblings’. Set a goal and set measurable objectives so you know when you have reached your goal. There is no better feeling than accomplishing something you worked hard for.

Keep yourself motivated and excited about the process
Often times I ask people who did not complete a weight loss plan, why they quit. Upon further analysis, I conclude that the plan wasn’t “working” anymore because they simply got bored with it. Since this is a common phenomenon, I believe in providing clients with tools on how to make healthier food choices as opposed to telling them what choices are better. Keep your plan interesting by trying new foods, cooking new recipes, participating in different physical activities, and acknowledge your accomplishments early on.

Starting a weight loss program may be easy, but the trick is to be able to stick to the plan. Remember that baby steps are key and that if you lose the weight too fast without changing your eating habits, most likely you will put all that weight back on just as fast. Use our tools to help you focus on your goal and you too, will reach your finish line.

 

Food-Table-Healthy-Delicious

Healthy recipes for the best Holiday Parties

It’s hard to believe but we are only one week away from celebrating the New Year. This is a perfect time to start afresh, set goals, and become more motivated than ever. Whenever I host a party, I always like to be creative and bring something new to the table. Why not make foods that are not only unique but are also healthy and fun? It’s our mission to help you stay on track and this week we aim to help you flourish at your upcoming parties with creative foods and ideas to keep you focused on your goals.

As mentioned in earlier posts, on days we know we have a social gathering, and this usually means that food will be involved, it is important to plan your meals accordingly throughout the day. Keep to your meal plan so that you don’t arrive at the party feeling like you haven’t eaten all day and certainly, don’t let that literally be the case. This is the case when most of us tend to think, we only ate half of what we actually ate.
Instead, have an inner conversation with yourself in advance and set goals you feel comfortable with.

Thinking of healthy foods to bring? Making party foods at home? Why not try one or all of our ideas:

Cream Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Roulade

Serves 8

What you need:

  • 8 ounces low fat cream cheese
  • ¼ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • ¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch of salt

How you make it:

  1. Place cream cheese between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and gently roll out to a 9-by-6-inch rectangle. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Remove top sheet of plastic and spread roasted pepper over cheese, leaving a 1-inch border on one of the long sides. Scatter scallions on top.
  3. Using plastic wrap underneath and on top, roll up cream cheese into a log, with plain border at end. Wrap tightly with plastic and chill for at least 8 hours.
  4. Remove plastic wraps.
  5. Place a small skillet over low heat to warm. Add pumpkin seeds and salt. Toast, shaking pan often, until seeds are fragrant (about 5 minutes). Transfer seeds to a bowl to cool. When cool, chop roughly.
  6. Before serving, unwrap cheese roulade and gently press chopped pumpkin seeds all over outside. Serve with whole wheat crackers.

Crostini with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Fig Jam

Serves 12

What you need:

  • 2 cups vertically sliced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Goat cheese spread
  • 24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette, toasted
  • Fig jam

How you make it:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add onion, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
  2. Uncover and continue to cook 20 minutes or until onion is deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. While onion cooks, add 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup at a time, to keep onion from sticking to pan. Set to cool.
  3. Spread 1 teaspoon cheese over each baguette slice. Top each slice with about 1 teaspoon onion mixture and 1 teaspoon jam. Sprinkle evenly with thyme leaves.

Date and Tahini Bites

Serves 15

  • 1 container date spread (can be found in middle eastern market shops)
  • 3 tablespoons raw sesame Tahini
  • 2 cups gram crackers crumbs.
  • 1 cup small coconut flakes.

How you make it:

  1. Crush graham crackers and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the date spread and Tahini and mix with a spoon.
  3. Add graham crackers to the mixture and mix until dough-like texture appears.
  4. Roll small, 1 inch diameter balls from mixture with hands.
  5. Coat in coconut and place neatly on tray.
  6. Serve chilled.

Baby Artichoke Bruschetta (Recipe by Jaime Oliver)

Serves 4

What you need:

  • 8 baby artichokes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful fresh mint , leaves picked
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

How you make it:

  1. Peel artichokes back to their pale, light leaves. Halve them and remove the hairy chokes with a teaspoon. Place in a pan with just enough water to cover. Add garlic cloves and a little squeeze of lemon juice. Cook until the stalks are tender.
  2. Drain artichokes in a colander. Place artichokes back into empty pan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook 4 minutes. When slightly golden, remove from heat and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Add mint and season carefully to taste.
  3. Remove 4 artichoke halves from the pan and put to one side. Mash the rest in the pan, using a fork to squash the garlic out of the skins (throw the skins away).
  4. Smear across your basicbruschetta. Tear one of the reserved artichoke halves over the top of each. Add a handful of freshly grated Parmesan to the mashed-up artichokes (optional)

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year! and Enjoy!

Breakfast-Rio-de-Janeiro

Your Nutrition Guide to Going on Vacation and Leaving the Guilt at Home

One of the biggest challenges for every dieter is to stick with a meal plan when out of his/her routine. If this is the case when little changes occur in our immediate environment, what happens when we go on vacation? We know that this is the time of year that many of our followers will face this challenge and we are here to help!

The first step to leaving your guilt at home when going on vacation, is to plan in advance. Whether you are traveling within the United States or going overseas, you might want to consider researching your destination’s cuisine and what will be available and of interest to you once you are there. Additionally, you can look up restaurants close to the location you are staying at and write down the names of a few that have options suitable to your needs. Knowing what to expect and having some ideas in advance will help you plan your meals, and provide you with places or foods you feel comfortable with in case you get “stuck”.
Next, you might consider bringing a few items with you. Again, this depends on your destination. I always find it useful to bring a few healthy snacks with me ”just in case”. These may come in handy if you have a full day planned or just want something small to tide you over until the next meal. Having a snack familiar to you from home not only provides comfort, but also helps you stay on track with your meal plan. Some items that are good to consider are pieces of fruit, granola bars, 100 calorie packs, pretzels, dry fruit, nuts etc. Pack in small Ziploc snack bags for convenience and portion control!

Start your travels on the right foot by remaining in control of your dietary intake on your travel day. This will help you set the tone for the whole trip. If you are flying, plan your meals and snacks accordingly so you don’t find yourself wandering around the airport eating junk food at fast food restaurants or buying unplanned sweets at Kiosks. The same is true if you are traveling by car. Make sure to pack plenty of water and healthy snacks for the road. Furthermore, plan your stops in advance so that you are not rushing to the closest rest stop regardless of what type of food they may have.
Once you are away remind yourself that you are on vacation and it’s okay to loosen up your meal plan a bit. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to do so. Keep the idea of balancing your intake in mind. Enjoy new foods and those that you might not eat on a regular basis, but cut back on something else. For example, if your plan for the day includes trying an entrée that you wouldn’t normally have at home, cut back on the dessert and consider ordering a salad instead of bread or a more caloric appetizer.

When it comes to table-service restaurants, customers are asking more and more to “have it their way”, according to a recent National Restaurant Association report. 80% of restaurants with meals averaging $25 or higher per person, and 70% of restaurants with meals averaging under $25 per person say that customers are interested in customized menu items now more than ever. As we encourage you to do at home, don’t be afraid to request changes to existing menu items to suit your needs, and give yourself credit for even the smallest changes you might make, regardless of whether they seem like “no big deal” to others.
It’s almost impossible to give up on specialty treats when on vacation. How do you do it? You don’t. Instead, allow yourself one goodie, and then opt for healthier options during the rest of the day. Or maximize the fact that many of us are more physically active when we are on vacation, and use this as a good balancing tool to stay on track.

Focus on your vacation and let food take the back seat. Let yourself be mindful of it but remember that this is your time to break away – so enjoy!

sangria drink

Your Holiday Calories Through the Looking Glass

Can you feel it around you? It’s everywhere! There is no doubt the holiday season is here in full force. This means lots of time spent with family and friends, holiday parties, TV, movies and plenty more. For those of us old enough, many times these gatherings include drinking alcoholic beverages. One of the problems of these drinks during the holidays when trying to maintain a weight loss or weight balance diet, is that we often disregard or underestimate the calories they add to our daily intake.

Did you know???

One gram of alcohol has more calories than a gram of carbohydrate or a gram of protein. Falling shy of fat, alcohol comes in second when it comes to calories per gram. This is why I find that it’s important to have the knowledge and tools on how to save on these extra calories yet let the fun continue during this holiday season.

Before you enjoy these tips on how to save on calories from alcohol during this holiday season, let’s first view the calorie rundown:

9 oz. Pina Colada ~ 490 calories

4 oz. Margarita ~ 170 calories

12 oz. regular beer ~150 calories

6 oz. Mojito~ 145 calories

2.25 oz. Martini ~ 125 calories

5 oz. glass red wine ~ 125 calories

5 oz. glass white wine ~ 120 calories

12 oz. light beer ~110 calories

1.5 oz. Gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila ~ 100 calories

4 oz. glass Champaign ~ 90 calories

Now that we have our numbers straight, here are some steps we can take to stay on our diet track:

#1: In order to cut down on calories from alcohol in general, but especially on this holiday season, first be aware of the amount of calories your drink contains. From the list above, you can see that one Pina Colada is equal to just about a light lunch, or one glass of wine equals +/- a granola bar.

#2: If you know you will be drinking during the weekend, save up on calories in advance. This will allow you to eat normally during the holidays and enjoy a few drinks on the special occasion.

#3: Dilute your drink with club soda or sparkling water, e.g. wine spritzers are a low-calorie classic.

#4 Try to alternate water or a non-alcoholic alternatives with your alcoholic drinks, or try a non-alcoholic cocktail for a refreshing change.

#5 Commence the evening with a large glass of regular or sparkling water. This will satisfy your thirst and save on using alcohol to do the jobs for you.

#6 Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Having food in your stomach helps slow the rate that alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Eating can also slow your rate of drinking, but avoid eating too many salty party snack foods which can encourage you to drink more alcohol.

#7 If you know you are at a party and have some time to spend there, or are even sitting at home with friends for several hours, pace yourself when it comes to your drinks and take small sips to enjoy the atmosphere, yet not feel guilty the next day.

#8 As with other meals and snacks, have a plan in place. This helps to set a limit when watching your calorie intake.

#9 Spread your drinks. If you know you have several parties to attend, budget your drinks accordingly so that you don’t overdo it on the calories from your beverages.

Keeping these tips in mind, enjoy your holiday season but don’t forget to watch out for those calories that come in a glass or bottle. Have a happy and healthy holiday season!