Tag Archives: food

Cooking Corner: Easy Casserole Recipe

1 Mar

I attempted a recipe I found on food.com this week that was via Weight Watchers. I jazzed it up a bit as the recipe seemed bland at first glance. Overall it was pretty good and only 153 calories per half cup serving.

Weight Watchers Chicken Cheese Casserole
Follow recipe but add garlic, onion powder and black pepper. Also sautée mushrooms and onions to mix in. If you like spicy, add some crushed red pepper flakes.

A decent low calorie meal that makes good leftovers. It’s easy for a week night meal too when you don’t have a lot of time.

Restaurants Pledge Healthier Menus

19 Sep

My apologies for my absence this past week, but I had company in from out of town. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

ABC News: Olive Garden, Red Lobster Pledge Healthier Menus

An article on ABC News announced that Darden Restaurants, Inc. is working with First Lady Michelle Obama and pledging to produce healthier menus over the next decade. The corporation owns restaurant chains Red Lobster, Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze and Season 52. They are pledging to cut their calories and sodium by 20% over the next decade.

While it overall seems like a small amount over quite a long period of time, this is a step in the right direction. Right now at Olive Garden, the dinner portion of the lasagna is 850 calories and has 2830 mg of sodium. With this change, the entree will come down to 680 calories and 2264 mg of sodium. Is it still too high in sodium and calories? Yes, but it’s a start.

The company is also pledging to revamp their children’s menus by having vegetable side dishes and low-fat milk as the standard. McDonald’s and Burger King have also gotten on Mrs. Obama’s healthy bandwagon and are revamping their menus as well.

Whether you’re democrat or republican, one can safely say that Michelle Obama has worked hard to make a difference with our country’s obesity problem. While these are all small steps and are far from fixing the overall issues with the food’s calories and sodium, they are positive steps for change. If she gets the ball rolling, in the future, we can maybe see more dramatic changes.

Restaurants take the easy way out of enhancing their food with massive amounts of sodium. I never cook with salt, but I use other seasonings to make my food flavorful. If I can do it, then surely talented chefs can revamp restaurant menus to include very little salt. I make dishes using lots of healthy substitutions like Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream or heavy cream, and they taste the same. Again, this is something that seems like a no brainer for someone who went to culinary arts school.

Small steps make big changes, so hopefully this news will pave the way for the future of other restaurants following suit and revamping their menus.

Weight Watchers a Success

8 Sep

ABC News: Weight Watchers Most Effective Diet

A recent study has shown that the popular diet Weight Watchers is the most effective weight loss plan. Over 700 obese adults in Australia, the UK and Germany were studied and given different diet plans. Those who did watchers as opposed to checking in with a regular nutritionist or doctor as well as other plans were the most successful.

Weight Watchers participants lost on average about 11 pounds while those on other plans lost only 5 pounds. The diet is basically calorie counting and portion control, but uses an easier, faster system with points. No food is off-limits in Weight Watchers and it is basically a lifestyle change as opposed to a weird, fad diet.

I can see how it would be the most successful. Not only is the food plan the most realistic, but the weekly group support can really do wonders for people in terms of sticking with it. It helps to have other people in your situation and share your highs and lows of the week.

I basically did Weight Watchers when I started losing weight, though I just counted calories and kept a food journal. No foods were off-limits as long as they fit within my daily allotment of calories. This is honestly the simplest method to losing weight and it is the most successful because people CAN stick to it. It is a lifestyle change of cutting portions and exercising. That can be done over a lifetime. Never eating carbs again or drinking liquid syrup with lemon juice cannot be maintained!

The only downside to Weight Watchers is that it’s somewhat expensive. Plans can cost as much as $40 a month, which is a lot of money depending on your income level. However, think of all the money you’ll save in medications and doctor visits if you can get your weight and health under control. You only get one life and it’s worth investing in. Try Weight Watchers or just try keeping an online food journal like I did. Small steps make the biggest change.

5 Steps to a Healthier Life

25 Aug

Starting a new diet or exercise plan can seem really overwhelming. Whether you’ve tried and failed on numerous occasions or have a lot of weight to lose, surmounting the weight demon can seem impossible. The way I achieved my weight loss success was through a series of small steps. I couldn’t imagine a drastic change in my life when I was going through recovery from surgery, so I made small changes. These are 5 simple steps that I feel will really help you make a change in your life for the better without being overwhelmed.

1. Keep a Food Journal
Start keeping a food journal. Use an online resource like My-Calorie-Counter.com or Livestrong.com and record everything you eat for a full week. Write down the good and the bad and see what you consume in a week. Let’s say you’re consuming 2700 calories a day, which is a pretty big number. Rather than doing something drastic like cutting it down to 1500, cut it by 500 calories a day. It’s a small amount you won’t probably notice, but this allows you to lose a pound a week at a healthy, safe rate. As you lose weight, adjust your caloric intake gradually.

2. Go the Distance
Start incorporating small forms of exercise into your daily life. Park your car in the furthest slot away from the door so you have to walk more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a 20 minute walk after dinner. Start small. If you try to take on a huge exercise program right off the bat, chances are you’re going to get sore and give up. Try to move for 30 minutes a day. If you can keep that up for a month or so, join a gym.

3. It’s All Greek to Me
There’s a reason the Mediterranean Diet is worshipped by doctors for its health and nutritional benefits. One of the big staples is Greek yogurt. Use plain non-fat Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream or heavy cream in recipes. You can’t taste the difference and you cut hundreds of calories with this simple substitution.

4. Breakfast of Champions
Eat a good breakfast. A good breakfast is not a donut in your company’s break room nor is it an Egg McMuffin. And don’t go thinking you can skip out on this important meal. Eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast will jump start your metabolism working right away. If you don’t eat in the morning, your metabolism slows because your body thinks it’s in starvation mode. You feel sluggish and irritated because you have no nutrients to get you fired up in the morning.

Try 1/4 Cup Greek Yogurt, 1/4 Cup Non-Fat Milk, 8 Blueberries, 4 – 5 Strawberries, and 1/4 TSP of Honey for a great morning smoothie. Eat with a slice of bread with 1 TBS of Peanut Butter. This 350 calorie breakfast will keep you full and get the metabolism going.

5. Be Strong
Lift weights. Cardio is an extremely important part of exercising. It burns calories and builds a very strong and healthy heart. However, you can reap far more benefits from your cardio workout if you incorporate a good strength training program as well. Lifting weights builds muscle which burns fat. You will burn more fat if you both strength train and do cardio. Ladies, you will not bulk up and look like a guy with strength training. It is healthy and especially necessary for women to prevent osteoporosis.

Remember, start small and work your way up. Don’t get discouraged. Know that making small steps towards a healthy life will result in a big payoff.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Produce Section

18 Aug

I went on vacation in June and indulged greatly in culinary delights. I was on a cruise through Italy, Greece, Turkey and Israel, I was not about to eat healthy. I hit the gym and running track every other day, plus walked a lot. But when you eat gelato 4 times a day, it’s bound to catch up with you. I gained 5 lbs upon my return on June 28. Today I lost the last pound, so the mission has been accomplished.

Before I went on vacation, I was able to be a bit more lax with my food than I had been during my weight loss. I could splurge a little more and was playing roulette with the scale. I kept not gaining and was getting to sneak in a few extra treats——ice cream and fries. When I returned from my trip and saw the 5 lb weight gain, I got very strict with my food again. My splurge days turned into one day a week, but I was much more meticulous and anal about what I ate and writing it down.

A funny thing happened during all this. I actually feel better than I did before. I have an ulcer as a result of the medications I had to take during my surgical recovery, so I was downing Maalox most nights after I ate. Once I switched over to a 100% fresh, whole foods diet and didn’t veer away except once a week, the Maalox went back in the medicine cabinet. Could it be all those health experts and doctors are right? Does eating healthy make you feel better? Eeek! Who knew? The even funnier thing is that I don’t really want to go back to getting extra treats and splurges even if the scale did stay the same. I feel sick when I eat out at restaurants more than once. Fast food really tastes gross now for the most part.

I really am happier and feeling better just eating my fruit for a snack, carrot sticks, yogurt. I’m doing a lot better in the gym too with my running and stamina, and it’s probably because I’m fueling my body with the proper nutrition. Whodathunkit?

Don’t get me wrong—my once a week treat of pizza or some ice cream is really good. I still enjoy it. But I can’t eat more than that now. I actually crave fresh fruit and am not really tempted by fast food as much anymore. It just doesn’t taste very good and I usually feel pretty crappy by the end of the day.

I’ll keep these habits up for the long-term now even though I’m not trying to lose anymore weight. I love feeling so good and having more success with my workouts. Try it out. It may seem tedious at first and you may madly crave French fries, but if you eat really healthy for several weeks, suddenly a bowl of cherries may be the best snack ever.

Extreme Dieting = Longer Life?

30 May

USA Today: Extreme Dieting = Longer Life?

The above linked article is about a new study that shows people who do extreme calorie deprivation tend to live longer. The reason? People who eat less have lower core body temperatures which allows their organs to function more ideally. The article focuses on a 6-foot plus tall man who only eats 1800 calories a day. He’s lost 60 lbs and has a BMI of 19 (only one number than 18, which is considered starvation).

I’m 5’7 and weigh 140 lbs. In order to maintain this weight and based on exercising 4 – 5 days a week, I need to consume 2200 calories. The man in the article is at least 5 inches taller than me, and he’s eating 400 less calories. I absolutely don’t understand how in any way this form of dieting can be A. Healthy or B. Promoting a happy existence.

Food is great. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Yes, we need it for fueling our bodies and yes we, as Americans, tend to over indulge way too often, but food is wonderful and should be savored. So I don’t know how this person in the article is not angry 100% of the time, because he’s starving all the time.

Furthermore I don’t understand how this can be healthy. While it makes sense I suppose about the core body temperature, being one point away from starvation cannot be good for you in the long run. I think this study could promote a lot of unhealthy eating behavior like anorexia and bulimia. Studies far more numerous than this one urge consuming the proper amount of calories from healthy sources like whole grains and veggies, not starving yourself.

If you work out, it is even more important to eat a certain number of calories each day to keep your athletic body strong and healthy. Consuming far less than what your body needs cannot be healthy in the long run.

Let’s say the study is right, I can’t imagine anyone is happy being hungry all the time. So as a food-a-phile, I would much rather live to 80 instead of 90 if it means getting to enjoy all the culinary delights this world has to offer.

Interested in your opinions on this article, please share!

Quick Link: 40 Healthy Snacks

16 May

Shape Magazine posted 40 healthy snacks on their website. There are a nice variety of snacks to choose from to satisfy sweet and salty cravings. The calorie amounts are listed for each snack as well as exact measurements. Next time you hit the grocery, pick up a few of their suggestions and try them out when you get a craving during TV.
Shape Magazine: 40 Healthy Snacks