Weekly fitTip: Eat More to Lose Weight

In order to lose weight faster and  more efficiently, you need to eat more.  That doesn’t make any sense, right?  It sounds too good to be true and it contradicts the whole concept of dieting, however, it’s a hard and proven fact.  But wait, before you start planning a binge, here’s the catch, you need to eat more of the good stuff.  Now, there’s no need to roll your eyes, it’s actually very simple!

Think about it like this, for a fire to keep burning it needs to be stoked every so often on a regular basis. much like our metabolism, which is our internal fat burning furnace.  Stoking your metabolism requires eating a small meal or snack approximately every 3 hours (like throwing a log on the fire).  Over the course of a day this will add up to 5 or 6 small meals (for example: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack).  The size of the meals will depend on your total daily calorie allowance.

A general recommendation is that snacks should be between 100 and 200 calories each.  You’re probably wondering what types of snacks could possibly be 100 to 200 calories and still be satisfying?  It certainly rules out any sort of processed or junk food options, which are loaded with empty calories and next to zero nutrition.  Processed snacks are a waste of calories since they will not satisfy you for long. They generally cause a drop in blood sugar levels causing you to feel hungry again, which can then lead to unhealthy food cravings.  The key to avoiding this viscous cycle is to find foods that are naturally low in calories and nutrient dense (high nutritional value).

Here’s a list of 10 nutrient dense snacks that will not only keep you full longer, but will also satisfy the taste buds.  A good idea is to keep these items stocked in your fridge and pantry so you have them on hand for the next snack attack.  Many of these snacks are great for on-the-go or for at your desk at work, so keep a stash handy wherever you can.  This will take the guess work out of eating healthy and keep you on the right track.

Top 10 Nutrient Rich Snacks:

  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts)
  • Dried Fruit (raisins, dates, prunes, cranberries, cherries – unsweetened)
  • Veggies (baby carrots, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, etc)
  • String Cheese
  • Fresh fruit & Berries
  • Popcorn (air popped, unsalted, no butter or margarine)
  • Cottage cheese & fresh/frozen berries and honey
  • Whole grain cracker with Hummus, Peanut butter
  • Smoothie
  • Dark Chocolate

Portion control is very important even with healthy snacks. Measure out and pack proper portions in advance so they are ready when you need them, this requires a little planning and preparation, but is well worth the effort.  By having these healthy snacks readily on hand, you can avoid any dietary pitfalls and feel good that you are stoking your body’s fat burning potential.  Combine these healthy eating habits with a structured exercise regime and watch your body transform!

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Low Fat Leek and Potato Soup

Low-fat Leek and Potato Soup

The best leek and potato soup I’ve ever had was at this little French boulangerie in downtown Vancouver; come to think of it, everything they served was fantastic and so authentic.  The soup, however, was a culinary masterpiece, in my opinion.  I couldn’t get enough of the velvety smooth texture and the uncomplicated yet delicate flavor.  It tasted fancy and gourmet, and for that reason, I assumed it would be a complicated recipe.  Much to my surprise when I started researching recipes.

Fresh leeks and potatoesLeek and potato soup is generally a calorie rich soup made with heavy creams giving it that  gourmet flavor.  I’ve reinterpreted the recipe to come up with this super ‘skinny’ version that has all the flavor but a fraction of the calories!   There are so many new and interesting variations of this soup; some by combining other vegetables; some with garlic and white wine, and even spicy variations.  However, I still prefer the traditional recipe that dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries, it’s simple with only a few key ingredients:  leeks, potatoes, broth, and cream (for which I’ve substituted low-fat buttermilk).  The combination of these simple ingredients is like heaven on earth!  Served with crusty whole grain bread and it’s a meal in itself.

Ingredients

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T unsalted butter
4 Leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced
1 Bay Leaf
3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups Chicken Broth
½ t white pepper
½ t Kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 cup Low-fat Buttermilk

Directions

Wash leeks in a colander under cold water and let drain for a few minutes.

In a medium stock pot over medium heat, melt butter in olive oil.  Add leeks, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon of salt, allow to sweat for 5 minutes.  Decrease heat to med-low and cook for another 15 minutes, until leeks are tender.  Stir occasionally, making sure the leeks do not brown.

Add potatoes and chicken stock, turn the heat up to med-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and let potatoes cook until very soft (almost falling apart), approximately 20 minutes.

Turn off  heat, remove bay leaf from soup, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add the buttermilk and white pepper.  Season with additional kosher salt as per taste.  Serve immediately as is, or topped with a dollop of sour cream and croutons.  Enjoy!

Makes 10 cups

Per Serving:  96.3 cal, 2.8 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2.7 g protein

Super Healthy Homemade Hummus – Easy and Diet Friendly!

Healthy Homemade HummusThis homemade hummus is packed with healthy goodness.  Don’t let the calories scare you!  These are nutrient rich calories, the kind we all need.  The high-calorie ingredients in hummus are the tahini (or sesame butter), and extra virgin olive oil which can be substituted for lighter alternatives, but in my opinion, these greatly contribute to the flavor, richness, authenticity, and nutritional content of the dish.

The word hummus means chickpea in Arabic, which is the primary ingredient in this ancient dish.  Chickpeas are a great source of fiber which helps reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).  When served with a grain, such as pita, it’s a complete-protein food and extremely low-fat.

Tahini or Sesame ButterTahini is a paste made by grinding up sesame seeds and dates back as far as 1600 BC.  Tahini contains a lot of natural oil, almost 50%, which gives it a high fat content.  The oil, however, is mostly in the form of monounsaturated fat which is beneficial for the body since it contains increased levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  Tahini is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with a multitude of vitamins and minerals.  Antioxidants along with vitamin E in tahini reduces the aging of body cells which helps slow down the aging process.  Tahini is an extremely rich source of calcium, one of the best sources, even better than dairy (which is hard for the body to digest).  And finally, it is also one of the richest sources of protein, being almost 20% complete protein, it beats out milk, soy beans, most nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Extra virgin olive oil contains extraordinary amounts of antioxidants that fight everything from fat buildup, cravings, inflammation, to helping boost your metabolism.  It is also an extremely rich dietary source of monounsaturated fat containing oleic acid, which is a proven fat loss agent when combined with a low-calorie diet.

This goes to show that you can’t always judge a food simply based on the calorie content.  The focus should be quality over quantity, when it comes to calories.  The high-calorie ingredients in hummus are also high quality, and the health benefits they offer are worth the extra calories.  Having said that, you should still exercise portion control.  According to this recipe, one serving of hummus is 2 tablespoons per person.  Use instead of mayo on sandwiches or in wraps.  Makes a perfect mid-day snack with some veggies.  Is also great in salad dressings.  The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

    1 can Chick Peas (15.5 oz)
    2 T Tahini
    2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    ½ cup Low Fat Yogurt
    ½ Lemon, juiced
    1 t Lemon zest
    1T Flaxseed meal
    1 garlic clove
    1 t sea salt
    ½ t ground cumin
    ½ t ground coriander seeds
    ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until a creamy consistency.  If too thick, add 2 tablespoons of water and mix.

Makes 12 servings

Nutrients per serving: 76.4 cal, 4.4 g fat, 7.2 g carbs, 2.3 g fiber, 3.1 g protein

Featured Exercise: The Plank for Toned Abs

The Low-PlankWhen it comes to abdominal exercises, the Plank gets rockstar status.  It is ranked one of the top 10 most effective ab excercises.  The plank is an isometric exercise that primarily strengthens the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus), but also recruits the core muscles as synergists and stabilizers.

There are different variations of the plank, starting with the low-plank, as shown on the left.  Begin by holding the pose for 20 seconds at a time.  Over time, as your muscles gain strength, increase the time held up to a minute or longer.  Proper form and alignment  is essential for the safety and effectiveness of this exercise.  View the detailed step-by-step instructions by the American Council on Exercise for the proper execution of the Low-Plank.

Modified Low Plank
Modified Low Plank

If the low plank is difficult for you or causes any pain (especially in the back), then try the Modified Plank.  This version takes the pressure off the lower back and allows for more support by using the knees.  Progress to the low plank once you’ve mastered this modified pose and feel stronger in your back.

High Plank
High Plank

There are several progressions of the plank that can be followed, it really depends on your strength.  The length of time you can hold a pose will be an indication of your increasing strength and when it’s appropriate to progress.  The next progression from the low plank is the high plank.  The high plank is done by using straight arms and requires a strong lower back and shoulders.  This is a yoga inspired exercise that works not just the core, but the chest, shoulders, triceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

The Side Plank and Modified Side Plank are yet another version that target different abdominal and core muscles.  This exercise targets the obliques and the deep ab muscles (transverse abdominus) along with the glutes and adductors.  Once again, start with the modified version and work your way up.  View the step-by-step instructions by the American Council on Exercise.

Modified Side Plank
Modified Side Plank
Side Plank
Side Plank
High Side Plank
High Side Plank

Guilt-Free Brownie Bites!

These are so absolutely delectable that you’ll never know they’re guilt-free!  The texture comes out perfectly moist and the flavor is so rich and fudgey that a mini bite-size muffin is all it really takes to satisfy that chocolate craving.  The best part is they contain only a fraction of the calories and fat!  The mixture for these can make 12 regular size muffins or about 30 generously topped mini muffins.  The rule of thumb seems to be 1 regular muffin to 3 mini muffins, but I like to make my minis a bit more substantial, therefore, I only get about 30 minis instead of 36.

I’ve omitted the eggs and oil in this recipe and replaced it with a healthy natural substitute that doesn’t alter the taste.  The secret ingredient in this recipe is pure pumpkin puree, which is naturally low in calories, zero fat, and provides dietary fiber (and who couldn’t use a little extra fiber!).  Sounds really healthy right?  You wouldn’t know it from the taste!  These are super easy to make and a great way to sneak in some extra veggies for the kids.  To make them even more decadent, add a cup of chocolate chips.

Guilt-free Brownie Bites

1 pkg Devil’s Food Cake mix
1 can pure pumpkin puree
¼ cup milk (skim or low-fat)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl blend together the pumpkin and milk.  Add box of devil’s food cake mix, combine well.  Batter will be sticky.  Fold in the chocolate chips, if using.

Line mini muffin tins with paper liners and spray the inside of the liners with cooking spray.  This will keep the brownie from sticking to the paper when you are peeling the liner off.  It would be a shame to waste any of the brownie goodness to the paper, especially since they’re mini muffins, every bit counts!

Spoon the batter into the liners, bake for 12-15 min.

Makes 24-36 mini muffins, each serving is 70 calories

Or 12 regular sized muffins, each serving is 183 calories

Weekly fitTip: Make ‘Room’ for Treats

Now that Halloween’s come and gone, what’s left behind is the hoard of candy and the daily temptation that comes with it.  An ideal solution would be to get rid of it by giving it away, sharing it, or just throwing it out.  In reality, that’s just not going to happen!  Whose going to take your candy when everyone’s got tons of their own.  Throwing it away seems a little extreme and irrational, I mean, why take it in the first place to throw out in the end?

The reasonable solution is what I like to call, “making room”.  Allowing yourself a treat is fine, even if it is daily, but you need to compensate for that treat.  In order to ‘fit’ that treat into your diet, you’ll need to make room in terms of calories.  Give up some extra calories during the day, like a soda, latte, cookies, or chips, to make an allowance for the treat calories.  I emphasize giving up ”extra calories” because these are calories that you could otherwise do without, as opposed to nutrient rich calories which are a necessary part of your daily dietary requirement.  By practicing ‘making room’,  you can enjoy your treat guilt-free without consuming extra calories or packing on extra pounds.

Be sure to watch the portion size of your treat and avoid over indulging.