How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Posted by anna on April 14, 2016
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The holiday season is upon us, and that means party after party and get together after get together, with at least three more holiday themed evenings thrown into the mix.  We all know what that means, food galore. As a foodie, I like to experiment in my kitchen. I love to try new things, and see how I can lighten them up or make them healthier. I once made brownies with oat bran in them and asked the people tasting them what they through the little white flecks were and everyone answered ground nuts. Needless to say, they were all very surprised to hear that it was really oat bran. Here are some tips to avoid going overboard during the holiday season.

If you are hosting the get together or dinner and preparing the food you can control just what goes into what you make. Use lean ground beef, or half ground chicken or turkey and half lean ground beef for the meatballs, and use a sugar substitute for the sauce. Use 2% milk and a mushroom bullion cube thickened with a little cornstarch instead of full fat condensed cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole. Desserts can be lightened up using lower fat alternatives, such as light cream cheese and sour cream for cheesecake, fat free sweetened condensed milk, and sugar substitutes. Eggnog can be made lighter using egg substitute and low-fat or skim milk and fat free half and half as well.

What to do about the abundance of finger food goodness? Most of us have the two or three things they absolutely love and must eat, be it the warm brie with cranberries and pistachios, Aunt Ida’s famous mashed potatoes, or maybe the Swedish meatballs, the green bean casserole, and the desserts, oh the desserts.

When attending an affair elsewhere, like an office holiday party or in a friend’s home, decide in advance that you are only going to eat two or three different things and even then one or two of those things, say a two stuffed mushrooms, one crab cake, and two small bites of brie, then stick with the crudités or the little fruit or vegetable skewers. There are also the obvious foods to avoid like most creamy cheese laden dips and cheese balls, anything fried, and most of the chips and crackers. Use vegetables instead of crackers for the dips you must eat, artichoke dip on celery sticks is actually quite tasty.

total abs

Drink a glass of water before you go, and watch what you drink while you are there. Decide on one drink ahead of time, be it the requisite eggnog or a glass of wine, after that drink water, seltzer, or diet beverages. The more alcohol you drink the less likely you are to pay attention to how much and what you are eating.

As for Aunt Ida’s mashed potatoes with all of their buttery creamy goodness that no one can resist, put two or three bites worth on your plate. After you eat them, and are done eating from everything else your plate, which by the way no one says you have to finish, if you still want more potatoes you can always go back and get another small spoonful. As for the rest of that food on your plate, healthier choices are white meat chicken and turkey, and don’t forget to fill half your plate with vegetables.

The Lowly Potato

Potatoes always get the bad rap as fattening and every dieter’s worst nightmare. In all of the diets I have come across I can think of maybe three that say potatoes are good, please eat them, albeit in moderation, but yes they are actually good for you. That’s not to say you should eat one at every meal, but in place of rice or pasta or another carb at a meal is fine. A medium sized baked potato, which is a little smaller than your fist, has about 160 calories, less than half a gram of fat, almost four grams of fiber, a little over four grams of protein, and it has a quarter of your daily needs for Vitamin C. What’s that? A plain baked potato has no taste?  Cut it in half and spice things up with some salsa, or a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt, some chopped broccoli and two tablespoons of low-fat Cheddar cheese, or top it two teaspoons of low fat mayo and a dollop of mustard and you have potato salad for the lazy person. If you are so inclined you can scoop out the insides and mix them with the mayonnaise and mustard and put them back into the potato shells and serve them as appetizers or finger foods if you use small new potatoes. The possibilities are endless, be creative, your taste buds will thank you.



1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons sesame butter or tahini made from whole sesame seeds
juice from one lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt


Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth adding more water if necessary. Serve as dip for vegetables and whole grain crackers or as a sandwich spread.

Makes 12 one quarter of a cup servings. Nutritional information: 73 calories, 2.225 grams fat, 180mg sodium, 10.5 grams carbohydrates, 2.87 grams fiber, 1.75 grams sugar, 3.24 grams protein.

Variations and add ins: Use half a can of cooked white beans or pinto beans in place of chickpeas, serve on a plate with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of reserved chickpeas and sprinkle with paprika

For spinach artichoke humus add in 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts drained and one ½ cup cooked chopped spinach, drained.

Holiday diet Without Fearing for Your Waistline

Posted by anna on April 13, 2016
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Eat at Holiday Parties Without Fearing for Your Waistline (What to Eat and What to Steer Clear Of)
1. When eating nuts stick with raw or dry roasted, oil roasted and spiced nuts have added fat and sugar.

2. Stick with regular or spiced wines and ciders, and simple cocktails such as vodka and cranberry juice or a Bloody Mary. The more ingredients in the cocktail the more calories it contains.

3. Eggnog is made with eggs, cream, sugar, and alcohol. Unless there is a light version only have a few sips or drink something else.

4. Unless you know what is in hot dishes like artichoke and crab dip steer clear. They are usually made with full fat mayonnaise, creams, and cheeses.

diet plate

5. The cheese platter can be your friend of your enemy. Choose one or two pieces of flavorful cheese such as Camembert or Cheddar. They will satisfy more than a cheese log.

6. Olives contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats. One medium olive, black or green, has about five calories.

7. Watch what you dip your vegetables and/or crackers into. Safer choices are hummus, salsa, and roasted eggplant dips. Onion and spinach dips have sour cream and mayonnaise in them.

8. Unless it is air popped, popcorn will have extra fat, salt, and even sugar. Pretzels make for a better crunchy food choice.

9. For a sweet craving, stick with a handful of jelly beans or a candy cane. They are fat free and last longer than one or two cookies, which are generally made with margarine or butter.

10. Drink a glass or two of water before you go, it will make you feel more full and you will eat less. Do not starve yourself for the entire day before the party, this leads to overeating.

Cardio workout

Posted by anna on April 11, 2016
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Sick of the stationary bike? Tired of the treadmill? Boost your fat-burning efforts with these boredom-busting fixes for the five most-popular cardio machines.

Most individuals have a love/hate relationship with cardio machines. You appreciate that you can hop on a treadmill or bike and get a quick, effective fat-burning workout, but oh, can those handy machines get dreadfully, mind-numbingly boring when they’re your main mode of cardio. There’s nothing worse than a five-miler where your only view is the wall in front of you (or worse yet, a TV tuned to QVC, with no remote in sight).
If you’re tired of the same old grind when it comes to cardio, there’s hope. All it takes is a willingness to put aside the same-old sessions of 30–60 minutes at a steady pace and make use of all the options each machine has to offer. Whether it’s ramping up the treadmill incline, ratcheting up the resistance on the bike or even slamming your elliptical ride into reverse, these tricks will spark your workout creativity … and your body’s fat-burning furnace.

1. Stationary Bike

The biggest drawback to this otherwise high-potential exercise is the ability to zone out and think about anything else but the task at hand — burning maximum calories. Let’s face it, lots of texting, magazine reading, TV watching, texting and daydreaming (did we mention texting?) gets done on stationary bikes.

On the stationary bike, then, you need to counteract the tendency to settle into a lackadaisical cardio session by engaging your competitiveness. That means changing up your intensity and effort throughout your workout through the use of sprints and resistance levels.
Here’s a sample of what we mean. Say you plan on a 25-minute cycling session. Warm up for five minutes at a steady cadence and easy resistance. Now, for minute six, do an all-out sprint. Then, for the next two minutes, dial back to a slower speed that’s just a touch faster than the warm-up. For the ninth minute, knock the machine’s resistance level up one notch and do another sprint, again followed by two minutes at the normal pace. Then, repeat the sequence. When you reach minute 20, slow to a cool-down pace for five minutes to round out the workout. There you have it: you’ve just completed a solid high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session! And a bonus is that you’ll burn fat for hours after leaving the gym.


2. Treadmill

The ubiquitous treadmill may just be the busiest piece of cardio equipment at the gym. And why not? It offers all the painful, arduous challenge of running outdoors, but without all that pesky fresh air and change of scenery. All sarcasm aside, however, the treadmill doesn’t always need to be a plodding chore. Despite its straightforward nature, there are unique opportunities to crank up the innovation and still get a great workout.
One approach is to adjust the incline; the higher it goes the harder you work, although you don’t have to max out the machine to reap the benefits. Research indicates that just a 1% incline is all that’s needed to burn as much as you would doing a similar workout on an outdoor track.
Another method to battle monotony is to incorporate some lateral shuffling — say, in bouts of 30 seconds to a minute — while on the flat setting, according to Delf Enriquez, CSCS, a fitness trainer and consultant based in Los Angeles ( “It’s a way of spiking your heart rate, as side shuffles demand more overall effort and intensity,” he says.

Of course, shuffling in this manner takes a well-balanced ego resistant to the potential judgment of others. The fact is, though, you’re the one who’ll end up on the right side of the physique balance sheet sooner, and you’ll be able to chuckle at their lackluster bodies.

Rowing Machine

The row machine is beneficial because it engages your whole body in a concerted, coordinated effort, and mandates that you give it your full focus and energy from start to finish. Having said that, however, like every cardio machine, the repetitious nature of it can bore even the most avid of land scullers. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you take full advantage of the machine’s controls. “The row-machine program I like to use is the ‘race’ setting, where you work on speed/pace against the machine’s computer,” Enriquez suggests. “Competitive type-A personalities will love using this feature.”

Another option is to vary your speed and your rowing style, for instance, by alternating minutes of long rowing motions with shorter, quicker bursts. It’ll make the time seemingly go by faster, as you’re breaking up a longer workout into one-minute segments.

4. Elliptical

The elliptical was designed to offer the cardiovascular benefits of running while drastically reducing the impact on the joints that running entails. To that end, it succeeds, but still at the price of the mind-numbing repetitive motion you’re locked into. To break the tedious cycle, literally and figuratively, you have to break the habit of using only the forward motion of the machine. Part of its design is the function to go backward as well. Doing so shifts emphasis to the all-important quadriceps, specifically the rectus femoris on the front of your thigh (the typical forward motion places emphasis on the hamstrings). Ideally, you should use both strides in a typical workout. Try alternating the forward and backward motions, switching every three or four minutes.


Speed is another great element to manipulate — the elliptical is well-suited for sprints of anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute in duration. One handy tip to keep in the workout bag of tricks is to sprint for the last 15 seconds of every minute during a 20–30-minute bout on the machine. You’ll be surprised at just how quickly the time will elapse when you’re moving in this manner.

5. Stair-Stepper

The stair-stepper, increasingly going the way of the dodo, has gotten a bad rap among guys as being more of a female-oriented machine, but that doesn’t deter stunt professional and fitness trainer Rocky Abou-Sakher in the least. “Aside from burning a ton of calories, this machine works out some of the most important muscles in the body,” he says. “So let people stare. After incorporating it into your workouts for a few months, people will be asking what your secret is to losing fat and having such strong, muscular legs.”

Here’s a 20-minute stair-stepper interval program that’ll give you a great cardio workout: To make the most of your fat-burning efforts, alternate one-, two- and three-minute periods of assorted intensities (following a three-minute warm-up). Mix steady steps, jogging steps, running steps and hiking steps with at least one two-minute recovery period midway through a 20-minute belly-fat blasting session that ends with a two-minute cooldown.

Dairy Products for Weight Loss

Posted by anna on April 08, 2016
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For quite some time now, I have been seeing a lot about increased consumption of dairy products and calcium supplements to help people lose weight. The National Dairy Council heavily promotes its three servings a day for weight loss, but that has to be based on something. Studies go back as early as the 1980’s to see if eating more dairy products can help lose weight.

In his earlier studies, Dr. Michael Zemel, a professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee found that people who did not eat a calcium rich diet to begin with added two to three servings of low fat dairy products to their low calorie diets in place of other less healthy foods they were able to lose more weight than people who ate low calorie diets without the addition of dairy. The results were that people who did not eat have enough calcium in their diets before starting the study lost more weight than those who did get enough calcium in their diet.


Skeptics to the dairy for weight loss claims, which include many health care professionals, say that it is not the addition of dairy to the diet that is causing the weight loss, but rather overall healthy improvements being made, replacing more healthy foods like more produce, whole grains, and low fat dairy in place of processed grains and junk food. Someone who drinks a glass of milk in place of a soft drink with the same amount of calories will feel more from the milk because of the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, that soft drink is just empty calories. The skeptics also point out that if these dairy products are added to an already healthy diet, or replace healthy foods lower in calories, the increase of the number of calories consumed will rise and cause weight gain, the opposite effect.

Does eating dairy foods really aid in weight loss? More studies need to be done to know for sure. In the meantime, what has been found so far is that eating dairy products is more effective than taking calcium supplements alone as means to aid in weight loss when eating a healthy, low calorie diet. Researchers believe this is because of how all of the components of dairy products work together, the calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, as opposed to just a calcium supplement.

What this does not mean is give license to eat high fat and full fat dairy products with reckless abandon. What this does mean is that incorporating two to three servings of low fat dairy into a low calorie healthy diet, not in addition to everything you already eat. Low fat dairy products are milk, kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese, low fat – part skim cheeses like mozzarella and 2% American cheese, etc. You can eat full fat dairy products, hard cheeses like Parmesan, Cheddar, and other flavorful cheeses, just don’t go overboard. Limit yourself to one serving, and use them as condiments, a sprinkle on some salad, a thin slice on a sandwich, things like.


What’s the Deal with Calcium?

Calcium is important in younger years for building strong, healthy bones and teeth, and later in life for maintaining those same strong, healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also necessary to make muscles contract. Not consuming enough calcium over the long term, through food or supplements, can cause rickets (which is also caused by not enough Vitamin D, and one of the factors in osteoporosis. Calcium is found is found in dairy products, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli, dandelion leaves, and okra, beans, figs, and fortified foods like orange juice. The most common forms of supplemental calcium are calcium citrate and calcium carbonate.  Calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach, calcium carbonate is best taken with meals. Supplemental calcium works best when taken together with magnesium and Vitamin D.


What’s the Deal with Flax Seeds?

Flax seeds are one of the greatest sources for omega 3 essential fatty acids and can help lower cholesterol. They are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals. Because flax seeds are high in fiber, they can have a laxative effect. Flax seeds release a gel like substance that works wonder for a sore throat, and it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Let one teaspoon sit in a cup of hot water for fifteen minutes, stir, and drink. Enjoy flax seeds ground and sprinkled in yogurt, salad, and baked goods. Because of its high fat content ground flax seeds will spoil quickly, so keep them refrigerated.

What is the new food pyramid

Posted by anna on February 11, 2016
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Since 1980, the US Department of Agriculture has been publishing recommendations of how much people need to eat in order to stay healthy. These recommendations are revised every five years, and the latest set of dietary guidelines is now available in 2010. Prior to the release of latest food pyramid, called MyPyramid, in 2005, the USDA has made some radical changes in its dietary guidelines, which we have seen in the changes made to the Food Pyramid. Though most of the recommendations are made to prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, some are to prevent nutritional deficiencies, but the biggest change is in promoting a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and daily physical activity for everyone, starting from an early age.

The old food pyramid goes something like this, six to eleven servings of carbohydrates on the bottom level, then three to four servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruits on the next level up, then two to three servings each of dairy and protein on the next level up, and the top level is sweets and fats to be eaten sparingly. This pyramid promotes a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. There is nothing wrong with a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, it just doesn’t suit everyone.

6 packs

The new food pyramid is divided into slices going from side to side, instead of from top to bottom, with a person climbing stairs on the left side. Each slice represents a food group, grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, dairy products, and protein. The slices filling in the pyramid going from side to side represent different portion sizes and moderation, because not everyone has the same needs from each food group. Their needs depend on age, sex, and level of activity. The different colors represent variety in foods, emphasis on making at least half your grains be whole grains, different types of grains, sources of protein other than meat, color diversity in fruits and vegetables, even the different types of fat. The stair climber represents the need to be physically active on a daily basis as part of a healthy lifestyle. It also shows that changes made to lead a healthier lifestyle can be made gradually, one step at a time.

The logo underneath the pyramid is ‘steps to a healthier you.' These steps can be learned on the USDA website, where you can learn how to make healthier eating choices, different options within each food group, how many servings, what makes a serving, healthy recipes, and even build a personalized menu and make an exercise plan. You can do all of this not just for you, but for people of all ages, children included, using the tools provided such as coloring sheets, charts, podcasts, and you can even follow them on Twitter. Check it out, they have a lot of ideas to help lead a more healthy lifestyle.