Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feel Like Snack? They Can Make or Break Diet

Snacks, by definition, are eaten in between meals to help curb hunger or give you a boost of needed energy.
They can be part of a daily nutrition plan to get all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. They can also derail diet plans if a bite of this and sip of that puts you over your limit. So as you pop into convenience stores while you’re out and about or linger longingly near the candy display at the supermarket check out counter, think before you succumb to a snack attack.
When snacks are good
Snacks should be considered mini-meals with a mix of nutrients that includes whole grain or high fiber foods and some lean protein. Here are some healthy grab and go snack ideas:
• Small oatmeal raisin cookie with a small carton of fat free or 1 percent milk.
• A few pieces of dried fruit such as prunes, apricots or raisins with a small carton of lowfat yogurt.
• A couple of packaged cheese sticks (Colby, cheddar, reduced fat if available) with whole grain crackers.
• Fresh apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter.
• Make-your-own lettuce wraps — a slice of turkey or leftover chicken wrapped in a romaine lettuce leaf.
• Hard boiled egg with a couple of carrot sticks.
Snacks can be a great opportunity to sneak in the needed number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A bunch of grapes and a handful of nuts make a great snack while driving on a long car trip or during an unexpectedly long commute home. The fruit is not only a source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but it also contains fluids to help keep you hydrated.
When snacks aren’t good
Some folks chomp on snacks because they’re bored, not hungry, and that of course is not a good thing, especially if you’re trying to limit calories for weight management. Salty snacks can put daily sodium intake over the limit. Fried snacks can put you over your daily fat and calorie limit. Sweet snacks can spike blood sugar levels that come crashing down too fast, causing an energy crash, too. Any snack that puts you above and beyond your calorie level for the day is overkill nutritionally and you’ll see the results on the bathroom scale as the numbers go in the wrong direction! Just because that fried chicken finger choice at a fast food place is called a “snack pack” doesn’t mean it’s the right snack for you.
Best diet snacks
Snacks are not only a welcome part of a weight management plan, they can be allies in the battle. You should plan on no more than 200 calories per snack. The fiber, fluid and lean protein in small portions of foods chosen as snacks can keep your blood sugar on an even keel to help you curb hunger pangs and keep energy levels up so that you get the physical activity that you need.
Healthy snacks include combinations of fruit ( fresh, frozen, canned in juice), vegetables (fresh, cooked, in juice form) whole grains (breads, crackers, tortillas or cereals, lowfat or nonfat dairy products (glass of milk, carton of yogurt, serving of cottage cheese, slices of cheese, frozen nonfat milk desserts), nuts (a handful, not a canful), legumes (black bean dip, hummus spread) and lean protein (hard boiled egg, roast beef, turkey, smoked salmon).
Look for products that are portion controlled for you, such as small packets of nuts, applesauce and yogurts. Look for whole grain products with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Look for frozen dessert products with less than 100 calories per serving.
Kid-friendly snacks
Children need snacks. Depending on the age, they just seem to do better with smaller meals spread throughout the day. So, again, think of snacks as mini meals and great opportunities to deliver needed nutrients. Junk foods are often defined as foods that don’t deliver any nutrients, just fat, sugar and calories. So since tiny tummies have room for only so much food, why fill them up with junk foods’ empty calories? Now, there’s nothing wrong with cookies, crackers, chips and even the occasional candy. But choose versions that sneak in needed nutrients such as oatmeal raisin cookies (fiber), whole grain pita chips or other crackers (fiber, and whole grain nutrients). Dipping fruit into chocolate sauce such as strawberries, chunks of pineapple or banana is preferred over chocolate bars. Also, some fast food places offer cut up fruit to go. It’s a treat that delivers vitamins, minerals and phyto nutrients (plant nutrients) that help children’s bodies and minds develop.
Need snacks in the car?
Easy-to-peel-and-eat Clementine oranges are in season right now and the perfect size for kids. How about slightly sweet tasting grape tomatoes (just like fresh grapes, cut these in half for kids under age 3 to prevent choking) or those fresh carrot chips? Offer with lowfat ranch dressing or hummus (chickpea spread) as a super after school snack that serves up many nutrients.
Beverages as snacks
Yes, beverages count! In fact, staying hydrated is vital to support good health for your body and mind. Even if you’re mildly dehydrated you can feel lethargic, irritable and it can diminish mental focus. The best liquid snacks deliver plenty of water whether they’re in the form of plain water, flavored waters, nonfat milk, unsweetened iced tea or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices. But when liquids contain calories, remember the liquid portion of portion control. A glass of fruit juice should be 6 ounces (which counts as a fruit serving) not an 18-ounce tumbler. And of course, that 36-ounce Big Gulp cola can add up to a lot of unneeded excess sugar and calories.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jump Start New Year's Diet Now

Happy New Year!
Well, I'm popping the Champagne early to celebrate
the fact that the Holidays can actually be the best time
to start putting your New Year's Diet Resolutions into
The holidays may not seem like the ideal time to start a diet. After all, isn’t this the season when platters of cookies litter the office and neighbors invite you over for huge holiday buffets? Add to that the family celebrations with your aunt’s triple chocolate fudge and uncle’s rum soaked eggnog and the holidays can be a mine field of fattening foods. But, ask yourself “Is it really any different the rest of the year?” Every season brings its own timely temptations from Super Bowl Sunday’s snacks to Fourth of July fried chicken and ribs. So why not resolve to recognize these waist widening challenges and learn to apply some slimming strategies when the landscape is fat with indulgent food choices. Research shows that the most successful dieters- those who lose weight and keep it off for the long haul- practice healthy eating and exercise habits all year long. They don’t have New Year’s diet resolutions that lapse by January 31st because they don’t make big promises that are impossible to keep. For instance, if you’ve ever vowed on January 1st that “I’ll never eat ice cream again!” or “I’ll never order French fries again!” then you made one of the biggest New Year’s diet mistakes- biting off more than you can chew. Instead, set a time limit or portion limit. “I’ll only eat French fries once a month.” Or “I’ll only eat ice cream in a really small bowl.”
There’s no time like the present to make a fresh start and begin new healthier eating habits- even if you’re headed out to a holiday party tonight! So, hit the reset button to refresh your screen and follow the FRESH start rules to help your hips survive the holidays.

Fresh Start Diet Rules for Surviving the Holidays

F- Freshen up your food life- Keep fresh fruit and other healthy snacks such as whole grain crackers, nuts, and fresh veggies on hand at home. A handful of almonds or walnuts before heading out to a party can calm your appetite so you don’t dive into the buffet the minute you arrive. Stock your pantry with whole grain pastas, brown rice and your fridge with low fat or non fat milk and yogurts.

R- Recognize barriers- OK it’s going to be tough to say ‘No’ to holiday favorites like chocolate fudge and that creamy cheesy hot artichoke dip. Know your splurge foods and resolve to enjoy them in small quantities. Use a small plate to serve yourself. Research shows your mind will think it looks like a lot more food than the same amount on a large plate.

E- Enjoy the taste of eating right – Did you know that the deviled eggs, steamed shrimp, roast beef and chicken on skewers often served at holiday dinner parties are all diet-friendly lean protein choices? Feel free to add low-cal flavor with mustards, horseradish, cocktail sauce and salsas. Remember that some foods are actually allies in the weight loss war. Broth based soups, veggies, fruit and whole grains fill you up with out filling you out.

S- Start new habits- Keep a list of what you’re eating and drinking for a few days. Be as specific as possible on types of foods and amounts. Don’t know what a cup of mashed potatoes looks like? Get some measuring cups out and become familiar with portion sizes. This snap shot will help you keep track of over eating and while you’re at it- write down your physical activity. Did you take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall? That counts, too!

H- Have a plan – Eat breakfast. Schedule time to take a walk or go to that yoga class. If you’re going to a pot-luck bring the salad or vegetable side dish. If Friday involves a big dinner party, eat less on Thursday and walk more on Saturday. If it’s a three hour car ride to Grandma’s pack fresh fruit and a turkey sandwich for the road so you don’t have to stop at a fast food joint. Save the calories to enjoy holiday treats when you get to Grandma’s. Successful long term weight control is a balancing act.

Keep in mind that most people gain about one pound over the holidays. That doesn’t sound like much but if you don’t lose it- after ten years that’s ten pounds. If you maintain your weight this time of year, that’s great! You won’t even need a New Year’s diet resolutions! If you’d like to share your healthy holiday eating tips I’d love to hear them. Please email me at or
visit my blog

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tis the Season for Slimming Cocktails

Tall and slender. Bubbly and bright. Luscious and cool. Ah, the temptations of cocktail hour.

From retro whiskey sours and Kir Royals to trendy pomegranate martinis and green tea infused vodkas, the clever concoctions created by bartenders today offer a fantastic assortment of enticements long before the dinner menu even hits the table. So, the hospitable greeting, “Would you like to start with a drink?” introduces the first challenge to diners with an eye on calorie control when dining out. Got your eye on a shaken and not stirred martini? Here’s how to do the metabolic math on alcohol. The standard 1.5 ounce serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories even before you add any mixers. Whether you're drinking a beer or a Bellini; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories.
For example:
80-proof vodka (40% alcohol; most common) - 64 calories per 1oz
100-proof vodka (50% alcohol)-82 calories/1 oz
And it’s real easy to overdo it with alcohol calories. Here’s why. 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories, compared with only 4 calories for a gram of carbohydrates or protein. There are 9 calories per gram of fat. So, even though you won’t find the number of grams of alcohol per ounce on a wine list, you get the idea that alcohol is a pretty concentrated source of calories.

But Green Tea is Healthy, right?
The restaurant’s bar often isn’t far from the kitchen these days and modern mixologists are borrowing from popular culinary trends. Enter the pomegranate martini. Sure pomegranate juice is super high in antioxidants and research does show that the kind of nutrients it contains can be heart healthy. But, most studies looked at the effects of 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for 45 days- not eight drops in a martini on a Friday night. Same goes for green tea infused vodkas or other concoctions including green tea in the recipe. There’s generally not enough to pack a health promoting punch. Enjoy the flavor. It’s a cocktail not a cure. Well, guess it depends what ails ya!

Dessert in Disguise
From frozen strawberry pina coladas to Key Lime pie martinis served with graham cracker cookie crumbs on the rim-they’re creamy, delicious and loaded with calories. If you must imbibe say hello to your liquid dessert! And goodbye to any other splurge items on the menu tonight. If you want to end the meal with a sweet drink, order a small (1.5 oz) after dinner liqueur like Grand Marnier or Amaretto, over ice and sip slowly for 120 calories.

Bottom’s Up?

400+ Calorie Splurge Club- It’s the fat in the cream that ups calorie counts.
Pina Colada (5oz), Chocolate Martini (5oz), White Russian (5 oz),
Eggnog with rum (8 oz), Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps (8 oz)

300+ Calorie Caution Club – It’s the sugar in the mix that drives up calories.
Mojito (8oz), Margarita (8oz), Whiskey Sour (8oz), Mai Tai (6oz), Cosmopolitan (5 oz)
coffee or chocolate liqueur (4 oz)

200 and under Calorie Slender Sipping Club
Martini (2.5 oz): 160 calories -This is a small martini by restaurant standards!
Port wine (3 oz):128 calories – High alcohol content means high calorie content.
Bloody Mary (5 oz): 118 calories – Good source of vitamin A but watch the sodium.
Red wine (5 oz):120 calories- Higher alcohol reds will have more calories.
White wine (5 oz): 120calories-Sweeter whites will have more calories.
Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or other M├ęthode Champenoise wine (5oz): 106-120 calories- Is this why French Women Don’t get Fat?
Wine spritzer with sparkling water (5 oz): 100 calories – More hydration, same festive glass!
Spiced cider with rum (8 oz):150 calories- Hot beverages take longer to drink, too.
Vodka, Gin or Rum and tonic (8 oz): 200 calories- Order with diet tonic or club soda and save 100 calories.
Screwdriver (8 oz): 190 calories- Sub half of orange juice with club soda and cut 50 calories.
Mimosa (5 oz): 100 calories – About the same calories as Champagne alone but you get some Vitamin C in your drink.