Last weekend I spent my Saturday morning serving up snacks and running keiki through an obstacle course at the grand opening of the Manoa Valley Public Library. I made a delicious, nut-free version of these banana-coconut cookies; I can vouch for their tastiness because I had no leftovers at the end of the day and I wasn’t the only sampler. I was really excited to come across this recipe because I wanted to serve something that fit in with my food philosophy, while at the same time was kid-friendly.
I really hate it when I go to a health-centered event and all that is available is junk. Processed, trans fatty foods after a race or a childhood obesity prevention seminar filled with deep dish pizza doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. Not to say that I don’t like a sweet treat, but I’d much rather have one made with ingredients that carry some nutritional value along with sugar.
When indulging in dessert, you can try substituting whole grain flours for refined versions, applesauce for some of the oil (a trick my Busia used all the time in her fudge brownies), reducing the amount of added sweeteners you use, or using a lower-fat dairy.
Now, you can only take all of this lightening so far before your favorite cookie starts to taste like cardboard diet food, which is the total opposite point of indulgence. In situations like these your #1 best option is to watch your portion size! This is important for all foods, actually. Devouring 10 small “healthy” treats is not a great option either. Having one, small full fat, sugar laden cookie will not ruin your health or your training plan. Having three bites (actual bites, not enormous, mouth-filling, I’m-only-going-to-record-three-bites-in-my-food-journal bites) of chocolate cake will not be the end of you. Just make sure that you really want whatever it is you’re about to indulge in, take the time to enjoy it, and don’t enjoy it too often. Fresh, ripe fruit should be your everyday go-to sweet fix.
Do you have any cleaned-up desserts you really enjoy? Please share them!
Everyone has certain not-so-healthy foods that they just love and cannot imagine living without. Some people are in to cakes, others muffins. I’m in to ice cream, and I’ve got it bad. There are two ways to deal with this. I can either figure out a substitute or hardly ever have any icy treats. I can’t really deal with the prospect of the latter so I figured out an alternative: my beloved Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.
I love this thing, and it’s super easy for me to make low fat, creamy sorbets and ices with no added sugar. I usually just puree fruit in my blender and throw it in the Cuisinart for about 30 minutes and enjoy. I’ve also been experimenting with coconut milk for a richer frozen treat, and it is just as amazing as you think it is. Below is a recipe I whipped up yesterday afternoon. And be sure to check out the nutrition information: A half cup (and who REALLY eats that miniscule amount anyway) of premium ice cream like Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs can easily run up to 360 calories and 24 grams of fat!
Keep in mind, however, that this ice cream does contain calories and a bit of fat. So, as always, make sure to exercise portion control and moderation!
Coconut Ice Milk
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup lowfat milk (or you could get adventurous. Several people have suggested almond milk might work well here)
3tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
a pinch of salt
a splash of 100% fruit juice for sweetness. Pineapple, mango, or any tropical fruit will work well. Make sure it doesn’t contain any added sugars!
Combine the above ingredients in your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Nutrition Information per serving: 190 calories, 13g fat, 11g carbs, 1g fiber, 6g protein.
The US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 last week, but it contained few surprises. The report urged Americans to reduce their portion sizes, reduce their intake of refined carbohydrates, added sugars, sodium, and solid fats, and increase their consumption of whole grains, vegetables, and other nutrient dense foods. Overall, it is hard to argue with the recommendations (perhaps except for the HUGE push to consume more low-fat dairy products, even in the face of lactose intolerance) but whether or not Americans will follow them is another story. You can get the full report here.
Some of my favorite statistics included in the report:
Alcohol is the #5 top source of calories for adults! It is right below soda. Grain based desserts like cakes and cookies are #1. Whoa. That’s a ton of calories consumed with no nutritional value. A diet centered on whole grains, fresh produce, lean protein sources, and healthy fats will provide all the health supportive nutrition you need while helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Less than 5% of American adults get the recommended 30 minutes of light to moderate activity a day. Exercise does not have to occur in 1-2 hour blocks in a concrete gym. You can add a 10 minute walk to the end of your lunch break, actively play with your kids for 10 minutes, and add another 10 minute post dinner walk (which will also aid your digestion) and reap most of the health benefits of exercise. This type of activity will probably not leave you with rippling muscles and 15% body fat, but it will lower your risk of all sorts of lifestyle-related diseases.
Solid fats and added sugars account for about 35% (around 800) of the calories the average American consumes every day. A much more reasonable percentage would be somewhere between 5-15%, according to the report. Beverages alone account for about 450 of those calories. Think about this, a pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. If you cut out 700 of these solid fats and sugar calories (you can even keep some in my hypothetical example!) you could lose 10 pounds in less than 2 months!
What’s your take on the updated guidelines? Do you think they will have any effect on people’s behavior? What about on your own dietary decisions?
The New York Times published an article about a study about breakfast this week that left me scratching my head. In the study, subjects were instructed to track what they ate for two weeks. Researchers then determined that contrary to popular belief, the subjects that ate a bigger breakfast did not see any subsequent reduction in total calorie intake over the rest of the day.Therefore, the study concludes, having breakfast must NOT be a helpful weigh management strategy. One of the scientists is even quoted saying, “Eating breakfast is just added calories. You’ll never compensate for them at subsequent meals.” Umm…what!?
Maybe the problem is not the fact that the subjects ate breakfast, but the fact that many breakfast options are not high quality. If you are eating donuts, pastries, candy disguised as cereal, white sugar masquerading as white bread, then yes, you may have a issue keeping your total calorie intake in check. Eating mostly carbohydrates (and refined carbohydrates at that) WILL leave you feeling hungry few hours later and can lead to overeating throughout the day. Also, consuming a huge 1200 calorie breakfast of bacon, pancakes, and a three egg omelet with cheese in the hopes that you won’t eat the rest of the day is not a very good strategy either. Just like with many other things in life, too much of a good thing (in this case breakfast) CAN be bad for you.
Numerous other studies over the course of the last decades have proven time and time again that people who consume breakfast not only maintain a healthier weight than those who don’t, but the also have improved cognitive function as well. Plus, eating in the morning kickstarts your metabolism and gets your body out of the conserve mode it goes into while you sleep at night. I think the key here is to have a QUALITY, SATISFYING meal. Breakfast, just like any other meal, is going to be most beneficial to you if it is a low sugar, high fiber mix of whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This combination will keep you full and give you the energy you need to make it through your morning. Most American breakfast options as I said before are nothing but sugar, especially the most popular and convenient item of all: cold cereal. If you want to find you what you should look for when you purchase cereal, please check out my video below.
It’s no secret that Americans love their pizza; the average American will have eaten 23 lbs or around 46 slices of it this year! That can mean some serious damage to waistlines, blood pressures, and hearts, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can have your pizza and eat it too!
I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to swear off popular comfort foods in order to lose weight or maintain your health, you just need to degunk them a bit. I love pizza just as much as anybody, but I do not love the nutrition facts that generally come with a grease-stained box of delivery. According to the company website, an Italian sausage personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut contains 720 calories and 36 grams of fat, 14 of which are saturated, and 1 gram is ultra horrendous trans-fat. Now don’t think that it’s only the sausage doing all the contributing to those facts either, a plain cheese personal pan pizza still weighs in at nearly 600 calories and 24 grams of fat, 14 of which are saturated, 0.5 grams of trans-fat.
My healthy pita pizza to the rescue!
As I said before, I really do like pizza, and sometimes I’ll even make dough from scratch so I can experiment with different whole grain flours like rye and buckwheat in addition to whole wheat. But that requires time and planning, which sometimes even I can’t manage. So, in times when I’m craving pizza but don’t feel inspired enough to do it all by hand, I DO NOT pick up the phone! Instead, I pick up a bag of whole wheat pita bread (make sure it’s really 100% whole wheat!), spread some toppings and pop it into a 400 degree oven for about 8-12 minutes. That’s it! And, perhaps most importantly, not only is this pizza healthy, it is super delicious!
These basil, feta, chicken sausage pizzas each came in right under 300 calories, with only 8.5 grams of fat, 5 amazing grams of fiber, 17.5 grams of hunger stomping protein, and only 39 grams of carbs. If you wanted to lower the calorie and fat count even lower, you could try topping your pita pizza with a leaner protein (maybe shrimp, chicken breast, or even edamame) and omitting the cheese. I always advise people to go with a stronger tasting cheese (not just for pizzas, but anything you make that you really want some cheese on) because you can get away with using a lot less of it without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. Think about a bag of shredded mozzarella. How flavorful is that? Compare that to a small slice of goat cheese, brie, or blue. You want to go for taste and quality NOT quantity.
The fact that I use whole wheat pitas also boots this pizza’s nutritional value; the fiber and protein in the pita itself will help keep you full (so you’ll be satisfied with less) and will not wreak the havoc on your blood sugar that white dough does. That type of dough also tends to stick in your intestines and cause all sorts of distress, which besides being uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing, can also contribute to bulging out the area right below your belly button.
A final thought for you. If you were to swap out your 23lbs a year of takeout pizza with my pita pizzas, you would lose roughly 5 lbs! How do I know this? A pound of fat is 3500 calories and the difference between a year’s supply of my pizza versus that standard takeout is a bit over 17,500 calories. The math is clearly in my favor!
What other “diet disaster” foods have you cleaned up so that you can still enjoy them on a regular basis?
I love pasta, and I eat it as a part of my normal diet, not just birthdays and holidays. I have found that the trick to having my rigatoni and eating it too (without gaining those telltale tortellini thighs) is threefold.
1. I make sure I add a ton of vegetables as well as a bit of lean protein to a standard 2oz serving of pasta to fill me up without filling me out. A 2oz serving of pasta looks so sad all by itself, and is really unsatisfying. By making my pasta dishes a complete meal, I still get to enjoy it, but I also don’t find myself accidentally eating 3 or more servings of pure carbohydrates (which is pretty easy to do with noodles and red sauce).
2. I look for a higher quality carbohydrate. I like whole wheat pasta, but I know that it really disturbs some people. Check out soba (buckwheat) noodles; they are a delicious high fiber and high protein alternative to spaghetti. Try to avoid the white flour pasta, which will spike your blood sugar levels and signal your body to start storing fat.
3. I avoid the excessive and gratuitous use of cheese. Can you taste the 4 cups of mozzarella you have mixed into your lasagne filling? I usually can’t. If I am going to use cheese in a pasta dish, I save it for last and sprinkle it over the top right before I bake it (if it’s baked) or right before I serve it. I find that I can use a lot less of a higher quality more flavorful cheese and enjoy it more if I do things this way than if I’m using bags of shredded cheese throughout my dish. An ounce of cheese (about the size of the tip of your thumb) usually has about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat, give or take a few. You can easily slim things down by cutting here.
When you start a new exercise program, lift more weight than you usually do, or just are active in a way you usually aren’t, you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness: that ache in your muscles that can last anywhere from 1 to 5 days after a workout. The good news is if you are feeling this you are making progress! When you use your muscles to a degree or in a way they are not accustomed to, tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle fibers. The muscle will then build back a bit stronger, and you in turn will also get stronger, but you may feel a bit of discomfort while the healing process occurs.
The bad news is that there is no consensus on what you can do to quicken your recovery time, but here are some suggestions that may work for you:
Wait. The soreness will go away on its own within a couple of days.
It’s no secret that over the past few decades Americans have become larger. The slow, steady increased portion sizes that have accompanied our expansion has been much more subtle. I’m not talking about the super-sized restaurant-sized portions that can fill up two or more people; that kind of excess is pretty obvious. I’m talking about things like muffins, bagels, and sandwiches, things we now expect to be really big, but weren’t always.
Take muffins for example; they used to weight roughly 1.5 oz. Today’s 5 oz coffee shop muffins are notorious calorie bombs, some coming in at 20 grams of fat and 500 calories or more. The “normal” serving size has more than tripled! I try to avoid these “fat traps” altogether by making my own muffins, which have the added benefits of not only being reasonably sized (because who really has the willpower to carefully dissect a muffin in half and eat the other properly portioned half tomorrow), but are also jammed packed with fiber to keep me fuller longer than a sugar laden sweet.
Let me let you in on one of the biggest secrets there is to losing weight.