Weight Loss

  • 5 Ways to Stop Wasting Food and Start Saving Money

    We all have the best of intentions when it comes to healthy eating.  Many times, those intentions translate into buying all the things we think will make the difference in our lives (acai berries, anyone?). Unfortunately, though, we buy foods that sound good or are trending but don’t really know what to do with them or we get busy and eat out only to see those foods we carefully picked out on trash day. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), 40% of food Americans buy goes uneaten. Not only is it a huge number but a significantly larger number than people in other countries.

    In fact, the average American wastes 10 times as much food as a person in Asia. All this wasted food is not only a huge loss of resources, 80% of America’s freshwater goes to grow food, but equates to a lot of money down the drain.  A few simple steps can result in eating more healthfully, reducing waste, and saving money:

    1. Make a Menu

    I know the typical philosophy is to make a list and stick to it but, let me tell you, I have made many a list…only to wind up with a vegetable drawer full of garbage at the end of the week.  A list alone just doesn’t work.  What I have found to work much better is making an actual menu for the week and then building a list from that menu.  When I’m going for extra points, I create this menu during a family meeting.  I’ve found this to work better because you just plug in those nights when you have a late meeting at work or a baseball game going until 7:30pm and you know you will be picking dinner up on the way home.  Plus, you have the opportunity to game plan how you can use the same ingredients for different meals and cut down on buying specialty items just for one meal (saffron, cilantro, and green onions, I’m looking at you). Plus, if you have kids, they can get all their complaining out on menu planning day and be moved on to the acceptance phase by the time the food is actually served.

    2. Get Real

    Maybe no one in your house likes kale, or cauliflower, or peas.  That’s OK.  Get over it.  Buy foods the people in your home will actually eat.  I have been known to go a week where the only vegetables served were cucumbers, carrots, and green beans.  Guess what…we all lived and no one complained and my family actually ate the vegetables they liked.  When you buy what you like, you buy what you will eat.  I definitely advocate for trying new things but buy those items in small quantities until you’re sure you’ll actually eat what you purchase.  It’s also fine to acknowledge you’re not a good prepper…many fruits and vegetables come pre-washed and cut so you can get straight to eating them; if you actually eat all of what you buy already prepared, you may actually save money versus buying whole foods you never touch.

    3. Go with the flow

    A great way to save money and reduce waste is to get fruits and veggies fresh in season.  If you’re lucky enough to live near farmers markets, you can’t beat the variety and price of those items coming to you straight from the grower.  This is also another great opportunity to get your little ones excited about different foods or, if you’re only cooking for one, to buy only the amount you truly need.  For many people, the months between October and May don’t allow for many visits to farmers markets or a large offering of fresh foods.  One great option is to shop for frozen fruits and vegetables; this way you can have not only enjoy fruits and vegetables all year round but you can use only the quantities you need for a given meal and save the rest for later.

    4. Get Creative

    Even the best laid plans don’t always work out.  Sometimes you’re in the middle of making a recipe and realize you’re out of one ingredient.  Don’t let that throw you or make you feel like the whole thing is a loss.  Mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and sour cream can often be used interchangeably. Need buttermilk but don’t have any?  Regular milk and vinegar can be combined to do the trick. Don’t have enough butter? Try applesauce or vegetable oil instead.  You’ll be amazed at the substitutions you can find online when you’re in a pinch.  And, if all else fails, pack up what you’ve got for tomorrow night and do breakfast for dinner.  Pancakes for dinner are always a hit.

    5. Learn to love leftovers

    I have never been a fan of leftovers but, as I’ve gotten older and life has become more hectic, I’ve learned to not only deal with but truly appreciate leftovers.  The key is to get beyond simply re-heating and really make something enjoyable with the extra bits of a carefully crafted meal.  At our house, Friday is pizza night.  If you find a good pre-made dough at your favorite grocery store, you will be surprised at how good those loose veggies or leftover meats are with cheese and sauce…and it only takes a few minutes to put together.  Soups, lasagna, quiche, and frittata are also great options for incorporating left over items.  If you find yourself with a bunch of leftover sides, a quick solution is to swing by your local grocery store on your way home and pick up a rotisserie chicken to serve as your main dish.

     

     Julia Todd earned her MBA from Brandman University. She spends her working days in Healthcare Administration, her weekends at the little league field, and free time reading or traveling.

  • Fine-Tuning Your Diet : 10 Simple Tips

    Sometimes we think we are making healthier decisions, when in reality, we can be choosing foods that are high in sodium and fat. Making sound, healthy decisions every day is not only important for our waist line, but also for our health.

    The new dietary guidelines coming out in 2015 are stressing the importance of reducing sodium, added sugar, and saturated fat intake; half of starches and grains should come from whole grains; and overall consuming a diet that includes fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, nuts and low in red or processed meats.  These guidelines are here to help us achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease.  So what can we do to tighten our belts and make healthier choices?

    Here are 10 ways to fine tune your diet and keep it in check!

    • Soda/juice. Both beverages contain an excessive amount of sugar and empty calories. One can of soda (12 fl. oz.) contains roughly 140-150 calories and 34-39 grams of sugar, while juice can range anywhere from 120-150 calories and 30-45 grams of sugar. (8 fl. oz.).The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily calorie allowance.

      For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. By consuming either soda or juice we take in 8-11 teaspoons of sugar which is close to meeting the recommended intake solely by drinking these sugary drinks! So what should we do instead to consume less sugar and less calories? Ditch the soda and juice and drink water! Water not only keeps us hydrated, but it provides several benefits such as regulating our body temperature, aids with weight loss, gets rid of waste through frequent bathroom trips and perspiration, maintains normal bowel function, and cushions and lubricates our joints. Not a fan of water on its own? Try infusing it with fresh squeezed lemon, blueberries, strawberries, or watermelon and mint!
    • Salad dressings. A salad can be a great healthy choice full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. However, when we start adding regular salad dressings we are adding sodium and fat. The serving size of regular salad dressing is 1 Tbsp. which is tough to stick to at a salad bar when they provide ladles to serve, a pour yourself option from a large industrial bottle, or someone else pouring for you who is not measuring or sticking to the serving size. Instead, ditch the bottled salad dressing and use olive oil and vinegar (red wine or balsamic are great options) or olive oil and squeeze fresh lemon juice over your greens. Keep the serving size of olive oil to 2 tsp. max! This will provide approximately 8g of healthy unsaturated fats.

    • Salad toppings. Since we are on the subject of salads let’s talk about salad toppings! Again our salad can be full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories, but when we start adding toppings that are full of fat, we are going to end up with a very calorically dense salad. Some toppings to limit: croutons, cheese, olives and bacon bits. If cheese is a must, choose one that is low in fat or fat-free.

      Great choices to put on your salad instead? Try to make it as colorful as possible! First choose your bed of lettuce: spinach, arugula, spring mix or romaine lettuce. These compared to iceberg lettuce contain more nutrients such as vitamin A, B2, C and K. Then top with colorful non-starchy vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, purple cabbage, and endive. During the summer month’s you can try some fruit as well, such as blueberries, strawberries, and grapefruit slices. Finally, top with lean protein to keep you fuller, longer such as grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, beans or tofu.

    • Pizza. The healthiest pizza is the one you make at home. Why? Because this doughy meal at your local pizza shop can be packed again with lots of sodium and fat. Instead, try making this at home and choose whole wheat pizza dough, limit the cheese (choose low-fat or fat-free), choose a low-sodium pizza sauce and spread lightly, and pack on the vegetables! Add veggies such as broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and eggplant. You can also add fresh basil leaves between the pizza sauce and cheese for more flavor. Looking for a sweet kick? Add some pineapple chunks!

    • Sweets, candy, cookies, and cake. Let’s face it. We do not need dessert after every meal or even as a snack. These goodies contain lots of sugar and fat which could be detrimental to our weight and waist line. Instead choose fresh fruit such as a small apple, pear, orange or a cup of strawberries. Fruit, compared to candy and sweets will keep you feeling fuller, longer because of the fiber. Need a little bit more than fresh fruit? 

      Try 6 oz. of plain non-fat Greek yogurt topped with ¾ cup fresh blueberries and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of natural peanut (or any nut) butter, or you could try a small apple, chopped with 1 Tbsp. of natural nut butter. When choosing nut butters, make sure the ingredients listed only contain the nut itself, and when opening, you can see the oil sitting on top where you have to mix and stir with a spoon or knife before serving.

    • Fried foods. Definitely skip this. Unfortunately fried foods are calorically dense because the oil used to fry is absorbed to the food we are frying, like a sponge. Fat contains the most calories per serving (9 calories per gram) therefore calories add up quick with this cooking method!  Instead try baking, grilling, broiling, roasting, or using a non-stick cooking spray or olive oil and lightly grease the pan. During the summer months, do more grilling outside! A delicious healthy meal to try is grilled chicken with bell peppers, onions, eggplant, tomatoes and even pineapple! Make a little side salad too if you need a little more to fill you up.

    • Heavy creamed soups. When it is cold outside and you are craving comfort food avoid the creamy soups and choose broth based soups instead such as chicken noodle, vegetable, or minestrone. Creamy soups are made with just that…cream which is high in saturated fat therefore in turn very high in calories. Your best bet! Make homemade soups in your own kitchen using low sodium/fat chicken or vegetable broth, lots of vegetables and add some lentils and/or beans for some protein!

      Does the recipe call for sour cream by any chance to top it off? Try a dollop of non-fat Greek plain yogurt instead! You’d be surprised at how similar they taste with less calories and fat!

    • Pretzels. This is another empty calorie snack that provides very little nutritional value except for sodium. Pretzels are refined carbohydrates which are broken down quickly into simple sugars and absorbed readily in our bloodstream which causes a spike in our insulin levels. Despite being low in calories and fat, pretzels provide little satiety as they are low in fiber. Pretzels also contain a good amount of sodium if salted. If you’re looking for something to crunch on that will keep you satisfied choose a snack that’s going to provide nutritional value and benefits. When choosing a balanced healthy snack, always choose a protein and fiber. Some great snack ideas: 12 unsalted almonds with one small apple, 6 oz. Greek Plain yogurt with ¾ cup fresh blueberries, 1 low-fat string cheese (or 1 oz. low-fat cheese) with 17 small grapes, 1/3 cup hummus with 1 cup bell peppers, or 1 hard-boiled egg with 1 small banana.

    • Dairy products. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt have received some bad rap for the past few years. The belief is that if you are consuming these products they are going to put a dent to your weight maintenance/loss goals. The truth is that they can be part of a healthy diet as long as you are choosing non-fat and low-fat options and paying attention to the serving size. When choosing dairy products choose either non-fat or 1%. This is a better choice than 2% or made with whole milk because these counterparts contain more saturated fat. A serving size of cheese is 1 oz. (picture 4 rolling dice to compare size). 1 serving of yogurt is 8 oz., plain Greek Yogurt is 6 oz., and for milk a serving size is 8 oz. or 1 cup.

    • Balanced plate! In order to get the correct amount of nutrients and portions it’s important to follow a balanced plate for lunch and dinner! The recommended size plate for meals is a 9” plate. First step fill ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. This can either be a nice salad or steamed vegetables. Some great examples are romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and bell peppers. One quarter of your plate should be starches/grains. A typical serving size here is 1 cup cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, or barley. And lastly, the other quarter of the plate should be 3-4oz. of lean protein.

      Some ideas are chicken breast without the skin, 93% lean beef/turkey, fish such as tilapia, haddock, salmon, and tuna. As for breakfast, always pair 1-2 servings of protein with 3-4 servings of carbohydrates. A few breakfast ideas? 1 hard-boiled egg with 1 whole grain English muffin, toasted and 1 ¼ cup whole strawberries, or 1 cup cooked oatmeal topped with ¾ cup fresh blueberries and 2 Tbsp. natural nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut, soy), or ½ whole grain bagel with 1 oz. avocado (1/5th of a medium avocado) spread with 1 sunny side up egg on top garnished with ground black pepper to taste.

    Maika Luongo is a registered dietitian for American Well in Boston. Maika enjoys working out, healthy eating, and running. She has completed three Boston Marathons, one NYC Marathon, and nine half marathons ranging from Boston all the way to Key Largo, Fl.

  • The 9 Best Ways to Curb Sugar Cravings

    Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain processes sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you eat a lot of sugar, you're reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit. According to a 2012 study Americans consume 756 grams of sugar every five days, or 130 POUNDS of sugar a year.  Sugar gives you an initial high, then you crash, then you crave more, so you consume more sugar. It’s this series of highs and lows that provoke unnecessary stress on your adrenals. You get anxious, moody (sugar is a mood-altering drug) and eventually you feel exhausted.

    Tired of the roller coaster ride?

    Here are 9 ways to help curb your sugar cravings:

    1. Only people who smoke crave nicotine and people that eat sugar crave sugar. Companies love to sneak sugar into their products so it's important that you read food labels. The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely sugar is going to be included on that list. So check the grams of sugar, and choose products with the least sugar per serving.

    2. It's common to mistake thirst as a food craving, so it's crucial to drink enough water everyday. The health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon.

    3. Staying consistent by eating three meals and two snacks, or five small meals a day, will help curb those sugar cravings. If you don’t eat regularly, your blood sugar levels will drop, and will cause you to crave a sweet sugary snack.I suggest eating every 4 hours to maintain stable blood glucose levels.

    4. Processed foods tend to be loaded with salt and sugar. Avoid refined foods such as cereals, bagels, croissants, or pastries. These foods contain sugar and/or break down quickly into sugar, causing an initial blood glucose spike followed by a crash. When your blood glucose drops too low and you crave sugar, what you actually need is protein.

    5. Take 1000 mg of the amino acid glutamine every 4-6 hours. This will trick your body into thinking its getting glucose, which helps curb your craving for sugar.

    6. Make sure you get enough sleep! When we are tired we often use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion.

    7. Many people turn to sweet foods when they're stressed, depressed, or angry. But food doesn't solve emotional issues. Consider whether emotions are involved in your sugar cravings or if you need help to find other solutions to those emotional problems.

    8. People believe that "Fat" makes you fat, but don't underestimate the power of healthy fats. Like protein, healthy fats help keep blood sugar stable in the body. Healthy fats are found in nuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil and natural fats that are found in animal products. 

    9. Spice it up. Spices like coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom will naturally sweeten foods without the need for added sweeteners. It does wonders for reducing cravings. 

  • 5 Reasons You're Not Leaning Out

    No matter how hard you try, you're just not leaning out. Your killin' it at the gym. You're consistent. You're eating right. So what's wrong?

    YOU'RE BLOATED

    So you're eating right and getting to the gym but still feel a little soft here and there? You may just be bloated. It may be as simple as too much sodium in your diet. Are you eating anything pre-packaged - salad dressing, tv dinners, canned vegetables? All these contain extra sodium for taste and as a preservative - sodium you DON'T need, sodium that is telling your body to retain water. Get rid of packaged foods from your diet, and you may find that not just hidden sodium was holding you back but some hidden calories as well. It could also be that you're eating something you're allergic to.

    Do you get bloated after drinking a protein shake? You may be lactose-intolerant. Very often protein powders have some trace of lactose in them - usually part of added whey or casein which come from milk. Try looking for something lactose-free or switch to egg whites for a while. This small change can possibly help you feel better and finally unveil that six-pack. Nutrition is one of the hardest parts of a successful workout regimen. You've got to understand food and its chemistry, and then you have to understand how that applies to you. This last part is a lot of trial and error.

    YOU NEED TO CHANGE IT UP

    Are you doing everything right and still don't see the results? You may be doing things TOO well. Your body is an amazing machine that learns to adapt to anything and everything. It will always find a way to establish a new normal. This is great if you want to create muscle memory to take into your old age or teach your body to bounce back after surgery or injury, but it's not so great if you want to keeping growing or keep leaning out. You have to constantly change it up so your body doesn't get comfortable. This includes resistance training, cardio, and diet.

    YOU'RE NOT RESTING ENOUGH

    Sometimes we want something so bad that we'll do anything to get it. Awesome - except when you don't understand that "anything" doesn't really mean "anything." There are rules to building a great body, and one of those unbreakable rules is REST. During rest we build muscle and recharge our energy stores. But beyond the biological goings-on, we also recharge our willpower stores and mental muscle. It's rest that allows us to make the right decision when deciding whether or not to work out. It's rest that allows us to kill it at the gym and walk out triumphant. Work out like a beast, and rest like a beast.

    YOU'RE EATING HIDDEN CALORIES 

    If you're not cooking your own food from raw ingredients, then you are likely a victim of hidden calories. Salads are great, but salad dressing can kill a good diet. A whole wheat turkey sandwich loaded with vegetables from the deli down the street is likely to have a fat-laden sauce smeared on the bun or even too many slices of cheese. Even a simple chicken breast with a side of veggies at a restaurant can be unknowingly saturated with butter. Even nuts, as healthy as they can be, are high in fat and calories. Get to know your food.

    YOU'RE NOT EATING ENOUGH

    When your body is not given enough nutrients, it gets scared. When it gets scared, it goes into survival mode. This includes slowing down the metabolism and burning fuel at a much lower rate. In order to make it through, your body will hang on to energy stores - like fat - a little longer than usual. So, although it may seem counter intuitive at times, you have to eat to get lean.

  • Lose The Weight For Good - Eat Like Your Grandma

    More often than not, we don't know exactly what we are putting in our bodies. Modern day is filled with so much eating out, food-on-the-go, take-out, and pre-packaged meals that we're eating more saturated fats, trans-fat, genetically manipulated foods, and sodium than ever - sometimes without knowing it. What's more, the food industry is not straightforward with the true nutritional value of foods using undefined terms like "wholesome" or "natural" for foods that are not exactly what we think those words mean.

    A good way to know if you're picking up the right foods in the supermarket is to think of our ancestors. Although their lives were tougher than ours, they somehow ate healthier and were more physically fit. In a society where everything has to be faster, bigger, and cheaper, it's not always easy to know what's good for you. We end up making the wrong choices based on convenience, perceived health, and instant gratification. 

    When you pick up an apple or a banana, you know that's something our ancestors would have recognized, welcomed, and feed their family with confidence. But when you pick up a TV dinner, a pre-packed meal, or a sandwich from your favorite lunch spot, you have to ask yourself: would my great grandfather/grandmother have eaten this? If the answer is no - perhaps because it may have been science fiction in their time - leave it. If you go for fresh, you can't go wrong.  

    These days, everything is available all year round; however, your best choice is seasonable fruits and vegetables - not only because they taste great, but also because they tend to be cheaper for you and beneficial to local economies. Try preparing your food with more herbs/spices, and you'll notice you will need less salt or sugar. Chose lean cuts of meat, and don't forget to have fish at least twice a week.

    Invest in yourself, know what you eat, and your body will thank you for it.

     

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