Always Learning

Lenny's

Photo from Lennysnyc.com

One of my favorite quotes is one attributed to Socrates, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” Even when we think we know it all; there is more to learn. That goes for fitness and nutrition, even for a health coach.

This morning, I was trying to figure out what I wanted for dinner. I have a bootcamp style class at 5:30 and I’m running  to an event at 6:30, so I need something that’s quick, easy, and healthy. I decided I would stop at a Lenny’s (a NYC chain) for a quick salad or sandwich. I looked on their website to see what the choices were and found that they provide a handy nutrition counter so you can try different options and their nutritional value. I looked at the bread choices and immediately went to the whole-wheat wrap. I was surprised to see it was so high in calories! The bigger surprise was that the whole wheat roll was less than half the calories and much less fat.

As I played around with the website a little more, I was surprised to see how much I didn’t really know about the nutrition in bread. Bread is one of those things that I generally avoid; choosing whole grains when I do indulge. Clearly, I never paid close attention.

Learning something new doesn’t mean you weren’t doing well before; it just means you have one more tool in your arsenal to help you make the best choices possible. For me, this is one more lesson that I can give to my clients, one more tip to help them on their weight-loss and fitness journey.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to take a look for yourself. What I love about resources like this is you can use it for other restaurants that don’t do such a great job of posting information.

Have you ever been surprised by the nutrition information in your favorite foods? What’s one small thing you’ve learned that’s made a big impact?

3 Tips to Beat Your Sweet Tooth + 10 Low-Sugar Sweets

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SUGAR. One of the biggest challenges to anyone trying to lose weight or just be healthy. Why is it so hard to give up sweets? Whether your cravings tend towards Snickers, brownies, or Sweet Tarts, why is it so hard to say no? Well, there’s actually a reason for it and it isn’t that you lack willpower. According to the ADA, ‘sweet’ is the first taste that humans prefer. Carbohydrates actually stimulate the release of the chemical serotonin which is one of the chemicals responsible for happiness. The catch is that carbs come in many forms like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And while these are much healthier options, it doesn’t change the fact that we crave sugar. So what’s a girl to do?

I’m a little over half-way through with my two-week challenge to cut down on my sugar intake, and it’s been tough. One obstacle I’ve had is that many sweet, low-sugar processed foods are made with sugar substitutes. That means lots of chemicals that I don’t want in my body. Another obstacle is the high sugar content in fruit. A banana has 16 grams of sugar! The truth is, I haven’t hit my 25 gram goal every day, but I have learned some valuable lessons that will help me stay low-sugar even after my challenge is done.

  1. Naturally occurring sugar can be ok. If cutting down on sugar means cutting fruit out of your diet, there’s a problem. Fruits have important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and it’s much healthier to get these from real foods than a supplement. You still need to keep portion control in mind and not go overboard, but don’t stop eating apples and oranges. Focus on reducing your added sugar.
  1. Find a balance. I try to cut down on my chemical sugar substitutes as much as possible, but I’m not perfect.Therefore, I try to stick with foods that use the plant-based Stevia instead of saccharin and aspartame. The tick here is to limit them (especially the chemicals) and not beat myself up if I indulge every once in a while.
  1. Sugar hides in a lot of unexpected places. When I started paying attention to my sugar intake, I was shocked to see where it was lurking. From soups to yogurts to sauces, even your savory packaged and restaurant foods probably have more added sugar than you realize. Start looking at the sugar content when looking at nutritional information and you’ll be one step closer to making smarter sugar decisions.

So with that, here are 10 snacks that have helped me through my two-week challenge.  Just make sure to read the packaging before buying and make sure you get a version without added sugars!

  1. Cut up pineapple and shredded coconut
  2. Frozen grapes
  3. Trail mix with dark chocolate chips
  4. Oatmeal made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, and dried fruit
  5. Light yogurt (but make sure you check the sugar count and the ingredients! Not all yogurts are created equal. I suggest Siggi’s if you want a flavored yogurt, but your better off buying plain and flavoring yourself with fresh fruit)
  6. 100% fruit popsicle
  7. Banana ice cream – you just blend a frozen banana until it’s smooth. You can add cocoa powder or peanut butter for a little extra punch
  8. Fat free pudding
  9. Enlightened Ice Cream (this can be found in health food stores)
  10. A spoonful of natural peanut butter. (or on a banana, or apple, or celery, etc)

How do you beat your sugar cravings??

Happy New Year + SMARTer Resolutions

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Happy New Year everyone! Whether you were relaxing at home or out on the town, I hope you had a wonderful New Year and holiday season. I had an amazing vacation with Jared to Vegas and Dallas (two cities that always go together!) We gambled a little, saw Jerry Seinfeld, ate a lot of delicious food, and caught up with friends. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things after a long time off, but I’m so excited to be back on my blog, back at work, and back to my normal workout routine.

With 2015 finally here, it seems like everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions and I’m no exception.

It can be tempting to make sweeping resolutions like “be a better friend” or “eat healthy and exercise” but I’ve always found that being specific with my resolutions (and goals in general) is the best way to keep them. One easy way to think about resolutions is to ask yourself if they’re SMART. SMART is an acronym that’s often used in project management, but it can really be used for any type of goal. It stands for:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – achievable

R – results focused

T – time bound

If your resolutions fit these criteria, you’re off to a great start! If not, how can you break them down so that they’re SMARTer?

Jared and I decided to start of the year on a physically clean slate by cutting out caffeine and alcohol for the first two weeks of the year. Depending on how our bodies feel at the end of two weeks, we may add them back into our diets, but in a more limited way. I’ve decided to challenge myself a step further and cut out added sugar for the two weeks, as well. The American Heart Association suggests women have no more than 25 grams of sugar a day which is surprisingly low. It’s going to be tough, but my goal is to stick to 25 grams daily for two weeks and see how I feel at the end of it.

This resolution is:

Specific – cut down on sugar

Measurable – 25 grams a day

Achievable – It will be tough, but it’s totally in my control

Results Focused – By January 19th, I’ll hopefully have less sugar cravings and more energy

Time Bound – 2 weeks

What are some of your resolutions for 2015? Are they SMART?

Happy Hanukkah! +3 Tips for Staying on Track this Season

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Happy Hanukkah everyone! Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love the decorations, the festivities, the candles, and of course, the latkes and donuts.

This month, my monthly pot-luck dinner with the girls fell on the first night of Hanukkah and I was thrilled.  I immediately offered to make latkes. They make your entire house smell like fried oil, but it’s always worth it. Our dinner included latkes, pistachio chicken, an apple and cranberry salad, plus a yummy tofu dish and sides of brussel sprouts and broccoli. We ended the meal with hot-from-the-skillet munchkins. It was a feast and we enjoyed every single bite.

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There was a time when I meal like this would have caused me a ton of stress. First of all, how are you supposed to track all of this food? And more importantly, aren’t the latkes and donuts going to completely derail my diet? But I look forward to them every single year, so what am I supposed to do?

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I’m a big fan of tracking calories and nutrition and there can be so much stress when you know you can’t track everything perfectly. I’ve learned a couple of lessons over the years to help me stay on track (and stay sane) in these types of situations. Because at the end of the day, celebrations should be just that – CELEBRATIONS! Not added stress in our lives. Here are my tips to help you track your way through the holidays.

  1. Be aware of portion sizes and make your best nutrition estimate based on what the dishes are and whatever food database you choose to use.
  1. Ask your friends for their recipes and use them to track what you ate. Again, you’ll have to be aware of portion size and try to estimate the best you can. I do this one all the time and have collected some of my favorite recipes this way!
  1. This one might be a shocker, but consider disregarding your tracking for one night. Yesterday, I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch and kept my snacks minimal. I didn’t have time for the gym because the dinner was at my apartment so I tried to get extra steps in. And I relaxed. I kept my portions reasonable and I tracked what I could (like the latkas, which I made and the donuts, which I got the recipe for) and this morning, I’m right back to tracking again.

Not every tip will work for everyone and that’s ok. If you have an all-or-nothing personality, tip #3 might not be your best choice. If you’re going to a party where you don’t know people well enough to ask for recipes, tip #2 might not work for you. But remember, what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. And enjoy the holidays!

Entertaining, the Healthy Way

Entertaining

This weekend, we had friends over for Friday night dinner. Jared and I love to entertain, and it’s important to us that our guests feel special and welcome when they’re in our home. One of my goals as a health coach is to prepare a meal that isn’t just delicious but is healthy, as well. I think it sends a message that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, bland, or unappetizing. And often, health-ifying a recipe doesn’t take much more effort than its unhealthy counterpart.

This Friday, I made chicken puttanesca with the option of whole wheat pasta, apple-walnut salad with cranberry vinaigrette, and chocolate cupcakes. I will say that dessert is often the hardest for me because it can be tough to find recipes that are nutritious. The recipe I made isn’t exactly healthy and I wouldn’t suggest it as a regular option, but for special occasions, it was a delicious and much lower in calories and fat than the original recipe.

Here are the recipes for our Friday night meal. Where do you go for healthy recipes?

Delish

Chicken Puttanesca

Apple-Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Chocolate Cupcakes (I used seltzer water)

Happy Thanksgiving + Recipe Round-Up

Autumn_Trees_2_by_Kaela1221

Big family meals can be a bit of a challenge at our house.  Jared and I keep kosher which means that not only does all of the meat need to be purchased from a kosher butcher, but we don’t eat milk and meat together in the same meal.  Basically, there can’t be any dairy in the sides or the desserts. My cousin is allergic to nuts, which tightens our parameters even more.  Add in the fact that most of the people at the table are trying to be healthy and make smart food choices and you’ve got a challenge on your hands.

Luckily, we’re a pretty supportive and accommodating bunch and every year, we seem to work it out.  This year, I offered to make the desserts so I could create something dairy free, peanut free, and guilt free. I did a lot of internet searching and experimentation before choosing my recipes, so here are some of my favorite health-ified Thanksgiving recipes!

Remember, not everything on your table has to be perfect, but choose one or two of these recipes and you’ll know that you’re offering healthy and delicious options. It’s important to note that these recipes have no fake sweetener or chemicals in them. They’re delicious classic Thanksgiving recipes with just a bit less sugar, cream, etc than the originals.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Recipe Round-Up

Turkey Gravy

Low Calorie Stuffing

Quinoa Stuffing

Easy Green Bean Casserole

Crispy Roasted Green Beans

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Healthy Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad

Cranberry Orange Sauce with Thyme

Pumpkin Carrot Bars with Cream Cheese

Cranberry Pear Crumble

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

 

3 Tips to Win the Willpower War at your Thanksgiving Table

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Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to avoid snacking in the morning than after dinner? Or if you’re really sad about something you care less about getting to the gym? Well, there’s a reason for it and it’s not that you’re lazy.  It’s called the Principal of Limited Self Control or Ego Depletion – the idea that self-control and willpower are limited resources that can actually be used up and need to be replenished by rest. That’s why when you’re tired after a long day of work; it seems harder to resist that cookie. Or when you’re stressed out by family issues it’s harder to get to the gym. When you’re using all of your willpower just to get through the day, you have little left over for things like exercise and healthy food.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many, that means potentially stressful travel, potentially stressful family time, and a lot of tempting food – things that can easily deplete your self-control. Here are a few tips to help you win the willpower war this Thanksgiving with just a little advanced planning:

  1. Plan Ahead. Planning for obstacles in advance means you’ll need less willpower when the situation comes up because you won’t have to think about it. Find out what will be on the menu ahead of time and create a game plan. Decide in advance what you’ll fill up on (like roasted veggies and lean turkey) and what you’ll indulge in. You won’t feel like you’re missing out and you won’t go crazy when you see all of the delicious food out in front of you.
  1. Develop an ‘If-Then’ Strategy. For example, “If Aunt Martha asks me to try one of her cookies that she made just for me; I will take one, eat half of it, and put the other half back on the table.” Or, “If everyone has a drink in their hand before dinner, I will have a glass of club soda and put a lemon in it.” Like the first tip, if you’ve already developed a plan, you won’t have to think about it when the time comes.
  1. Offer to make something. What’s your weakness at the Thanksgiving table? Whatever it is, you can make a healthy version to bring with you so that you can indulge without the guilt. I have a sweet tooth, so this year, I offered to make dessert. I know exactly how much is in a serving size and I can enjoy without having to worry.

Another tip that’s been shown to help with willpower is exercising in the morning, before the meal.  Studies have shown that when you work out before eating, you tend to eat less because you’re more aware of the work you just did.  Another tip is to not starve yourself before you sit down for dinner.  You’ll be wasting that valuable resource of self-control and won’t have as much left for the actual meal.

And remember, that no matter what happens this Thursday, it’s only one day. So even if you’re not the picture of perfect nutrition, give yourself a break, enjoy the holiday, and jump back on that horse on Friday.

 

Cauliflower and Leek Soup + Tajine Chickpeas

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I’m excited to share this delicious recipe with you – something that I haven’t done yet on this blog. I love cooking my own meals because you know exactly what goes into them and have total control over portion sizes.  Cooking is sometimes tough in my tiny New York kitchen and we all know what it’s like to be short on time, so I’m always on the lookout for a recipe that has these qualifications:

  1. Quick to put together
  2. Easy to find ingredients (or easily substituted)
  3. Healthy (this means nutrient filled for meals and low in fat and sugar for snacks and desserts)

This wonderful Cauliflower and Leek Soup from Gina Homolka at Skinnytaste.com fits the bill completely.  If you haven’t discovered Skinnytaste yet, I highly recommend it.  When Gina posted this recipe on Monday, I immediately decided I needed to have it for dinner that night. It hit all of my qualifications and was absolutely delicious.

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I adapted the recipe slightly and added my own twist to it – tajine chickpeas that worked as a side and were equally as yummy when put in the soup.  People usually think of the North African cooking dish when they hear the word tajine, but it’s also a Mexican spice that consists of chili peppers, lime, and salt.  The lime gives is a great kick. Jared and I found it on a recent trip to Dallas and have been putting it on everything ever since.

tajin

The chickpeas were easy to put together.  One can of chickpeas (rinsed well), olive oil and lemon juice to taste (about  2 teaspoons of each), pepper and tajin to taste.  Start out light on the spices and add slowly until it’s just right.

For the original Cauliflower and Leek Soup recipe from Skinnytaste, click here!

 

Enjoy!!