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!


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!


Weight Loss Guide for Deli Style Restaurants

Many of us enjoy grabbing a sandwich for a meal, typically lunch! What is there not to enjoy about an easy to put together meal that never gets boring thanks to many topping options, kinds of breads and endless condiments and dressings? Whether you are in the mood for a hot or cold sandwich, one with meat, ham, fish or a maybe a tofu sandwich, even this simple meal can be a bit overwhelming. At MakeMyPlate we are aware that many of our users often eat out and want to provide you with all the tools you need to stay on track when it comes to your weight loss diet plan This week will focus on deli’s/café sandwich menu options.

A sandwich can make for a healthy and satisfying meal. When you make smart healthy choices, they contain carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables. On the other hand, they can also add up to hundreds if not 1,000 calories! About half of your daily caloric needs when on a general meal plan of 2,000 calories. Here are some hints and tips on how to make a healthy choice for your weight loss plan, especially when dinning out.

Who doesn’t enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread? With today’s variety and choices, you can really get confused when it comes to picking the best bread when on a weight loss diet. My general tip is opting for bread slices instead of a roll, ciabatta or specialty bread. Those options usually contain more calories. If possible, make it even a better choice and order your sandwich on whole wheat or multigrain bread. These kinds of bread contain more fiber and are richer in nutrients. If you are counting your calories, you can also ask to see if the restaurant has flat bead, “light” bread or even ask to have most of the inside part of the roll removed before making your sandwich.

Condiments and dressings
For someone trying to watch their weight, this can defiantly be a danger zone when it comes to calories. Thinking about our basics, condiments that you want to cut back on are those based on mayonnaise. These usually have a creamy appearance. Examples for these kinds of toppings are thousand island, honey mustard, ranch, spicy mayonnaise etc. These dressings are high in fat, and not the kinds of healthy fats you want to consume in moderation. Another ingredient that can be found in many of the dressings is sugar commonly found in sweet onion, teriyaki or vinaigrette. Instead of the condiments and dressings mentioned above, good options are mustard, hummus, avocado spread, roasted pepper spread or giving your sandwich a kick by using strong herbs such as basil, oregano, cilantro, mint leaves dill etc.

In most cases, this is the main ingredient in your sandwich. As mentioned above, there are many options when it comes to creating your masterpiece of a sandwich. If you choose to go with a meat or fish option, try to stick with low fat options such as low fat cold cuts, ham, tuna or salmon. As a substitute, other good options include tofu, tempeh or a lentil/ bean spread. Both options can be combined with cheese or the cheese can even stand alone as a protein source. One common down side of cheese toppings at restaurants is that many restaurants offer cheeses that are generally high in fat. At your restaurant of your choice, ask if they have a low fat cheese option on hand, or consider skipping the cheese altogether if consumed with other protein sources.

This is the place where it’s time to pile it on! Adding vegetables to your sandwich adds bulk, colors, variety and nutrients, with very little calories. Try a different variety of vegetables to keep your sandwich exciting every time.

As you see, a sandwich can be a great option for a meal, even when on a weight loss diet. Use these guidelines at your next visit to a deli or café and enjoy a guilt free meal. Bon Appetite and Enjoy!


5 Basic Steps to Creating Healthier Meals

Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be on a diet. Many people use the word “diet” to describe food restriction of some sort. However, in actuality it is a general term to describe one’s nutritional consumption. Dietary habits can be adopted at every point in one’s life and at any age. Keep in mind however; that the earlier you start the easier it is, since it simply becomes a habit. It is never too late to make changes in order to eat healthier meals and live a healthier life style.

Go Natural
Much of the food that we consume in the United States is processed in one way or another. Processed foods often contain fats, chemicals, (some that we can’t even pronounce), and are loaded with sodium. While it’s true that they are convenient, try to cut back on them as much as possible. My rule of thumb is that if a food item contains more than 10 ingredients then it’s one that I want to try to avoid. Instead, try to make meals on your own from scratch. This is fun to do with family or friends, and who knows; you might discover a new hobby in the process.

Up the Liquids
Consuming plenty of fluids throughout the day is important for your health. The question is what kind of liquids are we fueling our bodies with? Even though many of us are aware that water is best for us, we have a hard time breaking the habit of drinking coffee, tea, soda and juice. Make a new year’s resolution to try and cut down on these caloric drinks and increase your water consumption. You can even be creative by adding some “spice” to you water by using mint, lemon/lime/cucumber/orange slices, cinnamon sticks, etc.

Boost Your Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and fiber, all of which are important for good health and disease prevention. Not only do they add color to your plate, they are lower in calories and benefit your digestion process. Experts recommend eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Make this number a dietary goal by including them as a snack, smoothie drink, desserts, and of course, on your plate.

Make Your Food Whole
Another simple way to consume healthier meals is by consuming whole wheat and whole grains. Whole wheat/whole grains are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and will keep you satisfied for a longer period of time, more so than processed products.. Consuming whole wheat/grain products doesn’t mean you have to break your piggy bank. Today a variety of these products are offered in supermarkets, restaurants, cafeterias and schools at minimal additional cost, if any.

Cookie Cut Your Plate Smart
Try to use the following reference to allow for a balanced plate at each meal and snack: Half of the plate; vegetables/fruits, one quarter of the plate grains and one quarter protein. This is an easy way to stay on track as opposed to counting calories, points or constantly measuring portions.

Here you have it! A New Year, a healthier lifestyle and diet, a new you.