The Big Game is on this weekend and whether you are in it for the football, the commercials, or the halftime show, I know food will also play a large role in you Super Bowl experience. The traditional tailgate fare of nachos, burgers, pizza, chips, and deep-fried delicacies is not exactly health food. I’m not trying to set you up with a spread of baby carrots, celery, and hummus (although that IS delicious) but just because it’s a party doesn’t mean you have to make the worst possible food decisions. Portion control should always be your #1 strategy, but these cleaned up snacks look great too!
If you’re feeling extra fancy, and have some time to spare, homemade baked chips are a great vehicle for dips of all kinds! You can get creative here and use other veggies: beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes also make tasty chips.
Mini Cauliflower Pizza BitesPoor Cauliflower. It rarely gets the love it deserves. When was the last time you had really great cauliflower dish? This is a genius use of the cruciferous veggie, and you may even get the picky eaters in the room to eat it!
I am a big fan of winter squash, even more so now that some island-grown varieties are becoming available, including one of my favorites: butternut squash As with many things in Hawaii, butternut squash can get to be an expensive buy at the grocery store, especially considering that most squash weigh several pounds. So, whenever there is a sale, I am the crazed woman buying 5-10 at a time. They keep pretty well for several weeks, even in a tropical climate, and I can always cube and freeze a few if I can’t get to them before they would go bad.
Butternut squash is a great option if you are trying to keep you calorie and carbohydrate intake in check. It is a flavorful and filling way to add a lot of substance to a meal; I often use it in place of sweet potato. When you compare the facts: 45 calories & 11g carbohydrate in 100g of butternut squash versus 86 calories and 20g carbohydrate in 100g of sweet potato, it’s easy to see how this substitution can add up to results. Butternut squash also contains significant amounts of vitamin A, an antioxidant that protects and improves the health of your skin and eyesight and may protect against lung and oral cancers.
So how can you get some of this great stuff into your diet? Roasted, with olive oil, salt and pepper is a classic favorite, but there are a ton of options.
I really like the spice flavor combinations in this Moroccan stew. You can always add chicken, lean beef, or tofu to bump up the protein. I eat this with quinoa instead of couscous; I’d rather have a whole grain.
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!
One of the most common reasons my boot campers and personal training clients say they have difficulty sticking to their nutrition plans that they don’t have time to cook. With just a little bit of planning, taking advantage of the evening or weekend afternoon when you do have some time spend in the kitchen, you can make several meals at once. I’m not talking about eating the same leftovers for days, either. In the video below, I’ll show you can get a main dish salad, a soup, and a quiche out of a couple trays of roasted beets and carrots. Please leave a comment if you have any big batch cooking tips to share!
Oat Flour Pie Crust
1 1/2 c oat flour, plus additional for work surface
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 c low-fat milk
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat over to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
2. In a spouted bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk, oil, and vinegar. Slowly pour ½ of the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly and repeat with the remaining liquid. The mixture will be partially crumbly, but will stick together when squeezed.
3. Dump dough out onto a well-floured surface. Squeeze dough together into a singular mound and pat it down together into a disc.. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until 12 inches in diameter. Transfer dough to 9 inch pie dish. Gently press dough into the edges of the dish and up the sides. Fold excess dough under and pinch, creating a roughly 1/2 inch rim. Using your fingers, or with the tines of a fork, crimp entire rim. Poke Dough all over with fork to create stream holes.
4) Transfer to over and bake 20 minutes, until edges and center are just golder. Remove dish from over and cool completely before using.
VARIATIONS: Substitute 1/4 cup of oat flour with 1/4 cup unsalted nuts of your choice, finely chopped or ground.
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.
What you choose to eat for breakfast has a huge impact on how the rest of your day will go. Are you going to set yourself up for a 10am blood sugar crash which will be repeated several times throughout the day, or will you choose something that will keep you full and balanced until your next meal or snack? Most standard breakfast options like cereals, pancakes, pastries, and flavored yogurts will set you up for the spike and crash option. Why? Because of all the sugar and refined flours (which behave like sugar in your body) that these desserts masquerading as meals contain.
To help you stay on track you should include a bit of protein and fat and choose whole grain options at every meal, not just breakfast. This mix will help keep you full and help you avoid the mid afternoon sugar snack attack. But what can you do if you still want something sweet? Fruit! But fruit alone will not fuel you until lunchtime; you’ll need to get creative.
I’ve made these savory-sweet quesadillas for breakfast a few times now and not only are they super tasty, with a subtle sweetness to them, but they are really satisfying as well. The original recipe I found called for mozzarella, but I chose goat cheese because it has a much stronger flavor, and I can get away with using a lot less of it without feeling like I’m depriving myself. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think apple-brie would also be a nice combo. A cup of Greek yogurt served alongside this would make for an extremely satiating meal.
Pear Goat Cheese Quesadillas
1 large high fiber tortilla
½ pear, sliced
1 ½ ounces goat cheese
1. Place cheese and pear slices on on half of the tortilla and fold in half.
2. Heat skillet on medium heat, then place folded tortilla in pan. Cook until lightly browned, pressing the quesadilla with a spatula to seal. Carefully flip and brown other side. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Nutritional Information per quesadilla: 244 calories, 11g fat, 24g carbs, 10g fiber, 13g protein.
Chicken breast is a great lean protein source, and you may even have some in your freezer or fridge right now! But if the thought of boiled chicken breast with plain steamed broccoli makes you a little depressed, don’t worry. Nutritious food that supports your health goals doesn’t have to be bland, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. This recipe is super easy, quick (minus the marinade time when it needs absolutely none of your attention), and delicious! You will probably even be able to get your kids to eat it without much pleading or bribing. I use wheat germ here because it adds a ton of fiber and protein, but you can also use whole wheat bread crumbs or panko if that’s what you have on hand. These chicken fingers would be great with that steamed broccoli or garlic sauteed kale.
Orange Coconut Chicken Fingers
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup 100% orange juice
1 cup wheat germ
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
salt and pepper to taste
Mix orange juice and garlic in a medium bowl. Toss with the chicken breast strips and cover. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for any time between two hours and overnight, stirring occasionally on evenly flavor the chicken.
Preheat oven to 400F. In a small bowl, beat the eggs; set aside. In a large bowl, combine wheat germ coconut, salt, and pepper. Coat one piece of chicken with the egg, then coat it with the wheat germ mixture. Place the coated chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the chicken, and then bake until cooked through, 20-25 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving. 382 calories, 13.2g fat, 20g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 43 grams protein
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 am originally from the Midwest and every Fall I get a little nostalgic for fall foliage, apple orchards, corn mazes, sweaters and stew. So imagine my excitement when I discovered a pumpkin patch here, on this very island!! I must say that the Waimanalo pumpkin patch was not at all like the farms I grew up with, but I did get to walk through some corn fields and went home with a lovely squash.
At home I cut off the rind, removed the seeds for roasting, and cubed all the pumpkin flesh. I roasted two pan’s worth for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees. When it was done, I had enough pumpkin for several meals. It really helps to plan ahead for leftovers like this, that way, later in the week when I don’t have time to cook, or just don’t feel like it, I have some options that I can throw together and have a delicious, healthy meal with practically no effort. For example, I combined some of the leftover pumpkin, along with some lentils I had cooked, paprika, coriander, some goat cheese, leftover chicken, and baby spinach and made a killer salad for lunch a few days later. It was awesome! Doing just a little more work when you’ve already psyched yourself up to cook can go a long way in helping you stick to a healthy eating plan.
I also made a really tasty soup and some savory muffins. I really like muffins like this for breakfast or as a snack. They give me more sustained energy than their sugary counterparts, help keep me satisfied because of the high amount of protein and fiber, and aren’t likely as a scone to send me down the dark sugar binge path. Now keep in mind that I made my muffins with whole wheat flour; regular refined white flour does not impart all this nutritious goodness, and is in fact recognized just like sugar in your body.
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.
In my last post, I stated the fact that a dismal 26 percent of American adults consumed 3 or more servings of vegetables a day, less that the minimum daily recommendation of 4 to 5 servings per day. I also said that there are tons of ways to pile more veggies into your diet, and here I will give you a concrete example: a delicious, Mediterranean style eggplant dip recipe!
This dip is similar to baba ganoush, but uses yogurt instead of tahini. I like this dip because it is super yummy (which is obviously important!), and it is packed with protein and fiber, which help keep me satisfied until my next meal. I also have a slight addiction to nut and seed butters of all kinds, so an open jar of tahini, beckoning to me in the night, is a scenario I try to minimize. Yogurt does not have quite the same effect. This dip works great as a sandwich spread, with crispbread or pita bread, or as a vegetable dip. Imagine, vegetables piled on top of vegetables! Amazing!
Just because something sounds healthy, doesn’t mean it is! Fast food and processed convenience foods can be jammed with sometimes shocking amounts of sugar, salt, and fat, even in places you wouldn’t expect.
I have been spending a lot more time outside recently than I had been during the spring and winter months, and I can definitely feel the difference in the sun’s strength. I always make sure to slather on my sunscreen before I leave the house, as well as throughout the day as its potency wears off, but some recent studies have shown that I could be doing even more to protect my skin by eating foods high in Vitamins E and C!
Vitamins E and C are antioxidants, substances which can prevent or slow damage to cells in the body. Research suggests that these vitamins, especially when combined, can reduce sunburn reaction in the skin, which may in turn indicate a reduced risk of UV induced skin damage. Essentially, the mixture of these two antioxidants acts as a sunblock! While I am not advocating that it might be a good idea to use food INSTEAD of sunscreen, a little added protection from harmful cancer-causing UV rays is probably not a bad idea. In addition, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that Vitamin C lowered the likelihood of the appearance of dry, wrinkled skin and generally helped skin age better.
I love the Saturday Farmer’s Market at KCC! It does get really crowded and parking is a nightmare, but I try to get there early and ride my bike, so I avoid just a little of the chaos.
This past weekend I stocked up on all sorts of salad greens, including my new favorite, sorrel. If you’ve never tried this leafy green, I really recommend it; it has a great citrus-y taste, and goes really well with Mexican-inspired foods. While cruising for breakfast, I tried a bit of salmon fried rice, and while I ended up going with some bananas to hold me over until I got home, Gene was inspired to create his own interpretation of the rice at home for lunch later that day.
Salmon is full of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which studies have shown can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, lower blood pressure, promote healthy skin and hair, and improve cognitive brain function. Additionally, fat is the macro-nutrient that takes the longest to digest. This means that eating small amounts of healthy fats throughout the day will help keep you satisfied longer than consuming meals compromised of only carbohydrates and proteins, and can help you ingest fewer total calories if you are trying to lose weight.
What is one of the easiest ways to keep hunger at bay while still cutting calories? Eat more soup!
In a recent Pennsylvania State University study researchers found that participants who ate soup before their main meal consumed fewer calories and felt more satisfied than those who did not have soup. The scientists proposed that the volume of the soup, rather than the actual number of calories contained in it, cued the participants satiety signals, and they ended up eating less. Soup is mostly water, and unlike calorie-laden coffees and sodas, the body actually perceives soup as food.
It is important to keep in mind that not all soups are created equal. Steer clear of cream or cheese based soups that can pack in hundreds of calories per cup, and pay attention to the sodium content of canned soups and broths. Also, you cannot live by soup alone! I am not endorsing a diet consisting solely of low-calorie soups, but rather I am suggesting that broth-based soups can be used in conjunction with a well-balanced diet in order to maintain or get to a healthy weight without suffering through as many hunger pangs. The infamous cabbage-soup diet may work for some people for a few days or weeks, but eventually people will stop restricting themselves so severely and regain any weight they may have lost.
One of my favorite summertime soups is gazpacho; there is something undeniably refreshing and restorative about chilled fresh seasonal produce. This twist on the traditional gazpacho replaces the tomato with watermelon, which is just coming into season! Continue reading Watermelon Gazpacho
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.