Start the holiday party season with a plan to control excess calories

Simple Solutions to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

This post was originally written as a guest blog for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org. You can read the original post here.

I know it can seem impossible to control what you eat during the holidays due to all of the parties and special occasions that occur, but weight gain is not inevitable! Instead of worrying about weight loss during such an overwhelming time, focus on maintaining your current weight and adding in exercise when possible- a game of touch football while Christmas dinner is in the oven or a walk with family before dessert. Below I’ve put together five simple substitutions for a happy and healthy holiday season.

BE SELECTIVE

Whether you have 3 social engagements in the same day or 3 in the same week, you can’t walk into each one and eat and drink as if it’s the only party of the year. Instead, you need to be selective about where your calories are going to come from so you can stay within your personal calorie “budget.” A good place to start is with the beverages. A no calorie diet soda or glass of seltzer with a twist of lime can save 150 to 300 calories compared to a glass of wine or fancy mixed drink. And choosing a non-alcoholic drink will also help you make the rest of your food decisions with a clear head.

MAKE TRADE-OFFS

When it comes to weight control, every calorie counts! That means you need ways to offset the added calories you’re likely to eat when the tins of homemade cookies and boxes of assorted chocolates are passed around. It’s possible by making lower calorie substitutions throughout the day. For example, order a Skinny Latte made with a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, and nonfat milk instead of your usual mocha coffee drink. Or you can swap out your mid-morning muffin for a reduced-calorie, high fiber granola bar. How about passing on the croutons at the salad bar and taking an extra scoop of crunchy cauliflower for another calorie-saving trade-off? By saving calories throughout the day, you can enjoy a few more later on.

BE PREPARED

We can’t add more hours to the day to get all those extra errands done we have this time of year, but keeping plenty of better-for-you foods on hand can help fuel us while doing them. The best choices provide protein and fiber so we’ll feel satisfied longer. Try a container of light yogurt with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top, a cheese round or wedge with a few whole wheat crackers, or a small container of hummus with some baked soy chips for great grab-and-go snacks that can curb your hunger until your next meal.

PLAN TO EAT

Even if it feels like your “to-do” list gets longer every day, skipping meals is not a good way to catch up. Eating on a regular schedule keeps your energy levels on track so you can get to the bottom of that list! It will also help prevent the impulsive eating that can occur when you get too hungry and face a food court full of temptation. You can make your meals as simple as a healthy frozen dinner heated up in the microwave or a soup and sandwich combo from the nearest deli. The key is to take the time to stop and eat a planned meal instead of over eating an unplanned one.

DON’T LET STRESS GET THE BEST OF YOU

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so make sure you keep your sights focused on the fun, not just the work. Delegate, improvise and take shortcuts to reduce some of the demands on your time and the stress eating that can go with it. Wouldn’t a massage, a facial or long soak in the tub make you feel more relaxed? Making time to pamper yourself is often all it takes to put things back into perspective.

WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON!

Abuse of the word addiction may explain why some people believe they have food addiction

Popular Diet News: Do You Have a Food Addiction?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

ABUSE OF THE WORD ADDICTION MAY EXPLAIN WHY SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THEY HAVE FOOD ADDICTION

When I saw the advertisement for a shampoo that said you would become “addicted” to it because it made your hair so silky, I knew things had gone too far. Can we really become addicted to shampoo? What about food addictions and addictions to texting, tanning, video games, the Internet, cosmetic surgery, shoes? If you believe the latest headlines, those things all have the power to turn us into addicts.

While I doubt that using the same shampoo everyday can do any harm, abuse of the term addiction can.

In my 30+ years in practice as a Registered Dietitian I’ve had many clients tell me they believed they were addicted to certain foods. Those foods were the same ones everyone else ate, but somehow they got hooked. These people couldn’t just eat a normal portion. They obsessed over the food, kept secret stashes of it and felt guilty after eating it, usually in large quantities.

The one thing these people all had in common was a feeling of helplessness once they labeled their problem an addiction. I often wondered how they would fare if they simply said they really “liked” the food?

Finding Another Word for Addiction

There is little agreement in the medical community about whether you can actually have a food addiction. When you compare it to an addiction to heroin, it seems trivial to even ask. But as in the example of the shampoo ad, I think the real problem is that the word addiction is being used too casually.

What people mean when they say they are addicted to chocolate, potato chips or pizza is that it tastes really good to them and when they eat it they want to eat more of it. That is not evidence of an addiction. If you eat more chocolate than you should, that may be a sign of emotional eating or compulsive overeating or a problem with impulse control. Or it may be nothing more than a craving.

The definition of addiction used by the American Society of Addiction Medicine states it is a chronic disease with biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. There are a lot of chocolate lovers in the world, but they don’t all have a chronic disease. In fact, when it comes to so called food addictions, it’s interesting to note that only some people are affected. There are significant gender and cultural differences in what becomes an addictive food. That is not the case with alcohol, nicotine or opium.

I understand that it is very difficult for some people to control their consumption of certain foods. Their genes, brain chemistry, and personality may predispose them to becoming dependent on certain substances or behaviors. But when it comes to food, it just may be a question of too much of a good thing.

If you think you are addicted to a food, try to reframe the way you think about it, starting with the language you use. You’ll enjoy that chocolate much more if you focus on how much you love the taste while eating it, rather than fearing you won’t be able to stop eating it because you’re addicted to it.

If someone offered you a million dollars to never eat your “favorite” food again, could you do it?

Celebrate National Trail Mix Day by combining your favorite trail mix ingredients and taking a hike

Trail Mix Ingredients You Can Mix & Match

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

CELEBRATE NATIONAL TRAIL MIX DAY BY COMBINING YOUR FAVORITE TRAIL MIX INGREDIENTS AND TAKING A HIKE

The end of August signaled the end of summer vacation and the start of school to me when I was growing up, so I always felt a twinge of dread as it approached. That all changed when I learned August 31st is National Trail Mix Day. Trail mix has been a staple in my life and brought me endless pleasure as I’ve combined different trail mix ingredients to make batch after batch.

There’s plenty to celebrate about trail mix, even if you aren’t taking a hike!

Portable, nonperishable, compact and satisfying are the qualities that make trail mix the ideal travel food, whether on foot, bike, boat, or skis. You can customize your mix to make it savory, sweet, or spicy and opt for a crunchy, chewy or crispy combo.

Do’s and Don’ts of Trail Mix Ingredients

Chocolate is not a good idea if you (and your trail mix) will be exposed to warm temperatures since it will melt and turn your mix into a lump. Same for marshmallows and soft or sticky candy pieces.

Salty items will increase your thirst and add unneeded sodium if you’re not in the Amazon. Go for herbs and spices to add flavor, but be careful you don’t get carried away. You could end up with a culinary collision of Cajun-Curry-Chinese mix!

Calories can be lowered by using a higher ratio of cereal, popped and baked items to the dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Shoot for a 2:1 ratio to keep the mix under 200 calories a cup.

By using flavorful ingredients, like smoked nuts, cheese-flavored crackers or spicy bits, you can bypass the step of having to coat the whole batch with oil, season and bake as some recipes instruct. Skipping that step, and any fried or greasy ingredients, also makes it less messy to eat since you are using your fingers.

Mix and Match Your Trail Mix Ingredients

Cereal

  • Squares, like Chex® or Crispix®
  • Circles, like Cheerios® or Kashi Heart-to-Heart®
  • Woven, like Mini Shredded Wheat or Cracklin’ Oat Bran®
  • Balls, like Kix® or Barbara’s Puffs®
  • Chunky, like Granola

Nuts

  • Honey-roasted peanuts
  • Roasted soy nuts
  • Toasted corn nuts
  • Smoked almonds
  • Spiced walnuts
  • Shaved coconut
  • Cajun cashews

Seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds

Crackers

  • Cheese-flavored
  • Herb seasoned
  • Oyster crackers
  • Mini graham crackers

Dried Fruit

  • Cranberries
  • Banana Chips
  • Dark or Golden Raisins
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Crystalized Ginger

Popped & Baked Snacks

  • Popcorn
  • Mini popped rice cakes
  • Popchips®
  • Pirate’s Booty®
  • Pretzel nuggets
  • Baked Oriental rice cracker mix
  • Wasabi peas

Check out my post about which is the best nut and to learn more about dried fruit.

What’s in your trail mix?

Learn the habits of those who are successful at managing their weight

Weight Loss Success: Lessons Learned from Successful Losers

Posted on

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows the work isn’t over once the pounds are off. Keeping them off can be an even bigger challenge. That’s because so many people still think all they have to do to lose weight is go “on a diet,” and once they lose weight they can get “off the diet.” Sadly, it’s often just a matter of time before their weight is right back where they started, or even higher.

If this sounds familiar, there’s a group I want to tell you about who have beat that system. They are members of The National Weight Control Registry and they have all lost weight and kept it off – and for most of them, for more than five years!

Whenever I read about this amazing group of successful “weight losers,” one of the first things that always stands out is how few of them credit their success to having gone “on a diet.” Instead, what most of them have done is adopt a new lifestyle. And as we all know, diets have many stops and starts, but lifestyles just keep plugging along.

How to Successfully Lose Weight & Keep it Off

This lifestyle approach is reflected in most common traits used by the Registry members to maintain their weight loss. For example, 78% report they eat breakfast every day of the week and the majority of them follow the same meal pattern on weekends and holidays as they do any other day of the year. Eating meals on a consistent schedule is just an everyday occurrence. They also monitor their weight on a regular basis and deal with any weight gain quickly so it doesn’t get out of control. Stepping on a scale once a day is all it takes. Another routine they’ve built into their daily lives is getting some physical activity, which they apparently have the time to do because they watch less than 10 hours of television per week.

When it comes to what they eat, keeping tabs on the caloric and fat content of their diets is a winning strategy for Registry members. Of course this involves reading food labels, being aware of portion sizes and not eating out too often, but that’s just a way of life for them.

A recent study on the use of low-calorie sweeteners (such as SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener) and fat-modified foods by weight loss maintainers (WLM) found these are helpful tools. When compared to normal weight (NW) subjects who reported consuming a low calorie, low fat diet, WLM used more low fat strategies, such as reduced fat dairy products, spreads and sauces, than NW, and they drank more sugar-free beverages and water than those who had never been overweight.

This may come as a surprise to those who have heard about the studies reporting an association between low-calorie sweeteners and increased weight, but it wasn’t a surprise to these researchers. They said their results are consistent with those found in several other randomized clinical trials on obese individuals that found greater weight loss among users of low-calorie sweeteners than non-users. In fact, the authors concluded that the use of sugar-free beverages may actually assist the weight loss maintainers in adhering to their reduced calorie diets when faced with the many triggers to overeat that are all around us.

If you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off, take a look at the successful people in the National Weight Control Registry for inspiration. What you’ll see is it takes more than a diet, and that the use of low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, can be a helpful part of your new healthy lifestyle.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

References:

  • Wyatt HR, et. al (5). Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. Obes Res.2002;10(2):78-82
  • Phelan S, et. al (3). Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always normal weight individuals. Int J Obes. 2009;33(10):1183-1190
  • Wing R, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):2225-2255
Eliminating foods you love is much harder than enjoying them in the right amount

Why Elimination Diets Don’t Work

VARIETY REALLY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!

Given all the restrictive food fads that have come and gone over the years – no fat, no wheat, raw food, only liquids – it’s time to acknowledge that they do not work long term. More importantly, they don’t help people adopt better eating habits. When I meet with a client who has tried to avoid eating a particular food or beverage as a way to lose weight or improve their health, they often confess their abstinence didn’t last very long. They then tell me that once they ate the “forbidden” food again they felt so guilty about their “failure” they lost hope of ever improving their diet, and ended up eating more carelessly. It’s a story that gets repeated over and over.

Unfortunately, many people believe weight management is about having the willpower to give up certain foods, but research has shown deprivation does not yield results. The calories in everything we eat and drink count, so learning to balance them all is what matters most. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states, “In studies that have held total calorie intake constant, there is little evidence that any individual food groups or beverages have a unique impact on body weight.”

WILL POWER vs WON’T POWER

Dietary change and compliance are easier when we keep the familiar and favorite foods and beverages on the table. It is also a misconception that food elimination is necessary for good health. Unless someone has a medical reason to omit a specific food or ingredient, such as a diagnosis of celiac disease requiring the avoidance of gluten, every other food and beverage imaginable can be included in a balanced diet. The goal is to establish healthy and sustainable eating habits, and that requires adjustments in the amounts and types of foods you eat and how often you eat them, not removal of any specific food. These modifications are the key to having an eating plan you can live with for life.

Planning your meals in this more inclusive way has many advantages. The most important of all is that it accommodates the many generational and cultural food traditions that are part of our diverse population. I can’t imagine asking a family of Mexican heritage to stop making flan because it contains too much sugar or telling a woman of Indian descent that the Masala Chia she serves with pride is too sweet. And for my clients who enjoy a soda now and then because it’s what they grew up drinking, it means they don’t have to give it up altogether.

WE DON’T ALL LIKE THE SAME THINGS

It’s important to balance all of our food and beverage choices to best meet our nutritional needs. This may mean decreasing certain foods and increasing others, but eliminating all sugar, red meat or cheese does not solve anyone’s weight maintenance challenges. The Dietary Guidelines also state “a healthy eating pattern is not a rigid prescription, but an array of options that can accommodate cultural, ethnic, traditional, and personal preferences and food cost and availability. Americans have flexibility in making choices to create a healthy eating pattern that meets nutrient needs and stays within calorie limits.”

In the end it helps to ask yourself what makes more sense: never having that piece of cake (can of soda, order of fries, whatever) again for the rest of your life, or enjoying it once in a while as part of a balanced diet. I choose the cake!

sugar rationing won't reduce obesity rates

Sugar Rationing Helped Us Win the War!

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN FOODS ARE RATIONED

While many Americans view Cinco de Mayo as a day to feast on nachos, tacos and burritos, another food is closely tied to this date that has nothing to do with the 1862 Mexican victory at the Battle of Pueblo. Wartime sugar rationing began in the U.S. on May 5, 1942.

Sugar bowls quickly disappeared from restaurant tables as honest Americans struggled to get by on the half pound of sugar per person per week their “sugar stamps” allowed them to purchase. This was about half their usual pre-war intake.

We all know that since the end of World War II sugar consumption has escalated well beyond those 52 pounds a year our forefathers enjoyed before it started. We also know that rates of obesity have increased during that same time period. Due to this correlation, some people believe sugar is uniquely responsible for obesity. Of course, many other things about our way of life have also changed over the last 5 decades that make it easy to gain weight, but more importantly, correlation ≠ cause.

As I considered the implications of the rationing that began on this day 80 years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if we rationed sugar again? Would it help the 66 percent of Americans who are overweight or obese shed some of their excess pounds? Would it reverse the frightening increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes afflicting children? Would it make us choose healthier foods to replace the sweet desserts and drinks we now enjoy?

My guess is it would not.

Based on my 35+ years providing diet therapy and nutrition education to clients and consumers, I do not believe rationing sugar, or even removing it from the food supply, would solve our health and weight-related problems. Here’s why.

  • Prohibiting a food does not reduce our desire for it. The reason the foods and drinks eaten only on holidays take on such importance to us is that they are not served at any other time of the year. They become more highly valued as a result.
  • The demand for something sweet will be met by something else. It could be anything from an exotic fruit nectar to a chemical spray for the tongue that makes sour foods taste sweet, but the void will be filled. What we have no way of knowing is whether the alternative will be better than what we gave up.
  • Millions of people who do not abuse sugar are obese. Removing this one ingredient from the food supply will not help them or the millions yet to be born who will need a multi-faceted strategy to deal with this multi-causal problem.

So when I read about efforts to tax sugar-sweetened drinks, or limit their serving sizes, or put warning labels on them, I wonder, “What will policy-makers try next when they realize restricting sugar didn’t change anything?” Maybe they’ll borrow another idea from the war years and ration gasoline – at least that would help us all get more exercise!

Disclosure: I am a consultant to The Coca-Cola Company and the Calorie Control Council, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

a soda tax won't change what we choose to drink

Why Taxing Soda Won’t Reduce Obesity

TAXING ONE SOURCE OF CALORIES IN THE DIET DOES NOT MEAN WE WILL CONSUME FEWER CALORIES

I’m in favor anything that might help Americans reduce their caloric intake in order to curb obesity, but I don’t believe taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is the way to go. Economists use mathematical equations to “predict” the potential weight loss benefits of a penny per ounce soda tax, but they can’t factor in all the complex variables that shape human eating behavior.

People adjust to price changes all the time. Think about the last time the price for your favorite English muffins went up or a tank of gas. Initially, you may have bought the store-brand muffins or combined errands into one trip to save gas, but as you grew accustomed to seeing the new price, you probably drifted back to your favorite brands and old driving habits. No doubt you were making adjustments somewhere else in your budget by then. Our ability to continually reshuffle our priorities to pay for what we need, and what we want, gets plenty of practice since the cost of everything we buy only changes in one direction — and that’s up!

Price Isn’t the Only Factor in Food Choice

Another reason why a soda tax won’t change our buying habits is because a wide range of prices for sugar-sweetened, unsweetened and low-calorie or diet drinks is already available on the shelf. If you can’t afford the premium brand, you can always pay less for something else. But price isn’t the only, or even the main, factor that governs our selection.

I walked past 20 feet of refrigerated drinks in a convenience store recently and spent more than 5 minutes evaluating my options. I ended up choosing a brand of iced tea in a flavor I really like. I could have tried something similar that was less expensive, but I went with what I knew would satisfy my thirst and taste preferences. Taking a chance on an unfamiliar product to save a few cents wasn’t worth it to me if it meant I might not enjoy it as much. Serving size and type of container were two of the other factors I considered besides price.

All Calories Contribute Equally to Weight Gain

But some economists believe that adding a 20 cent tax to the price of a 20 ounce sweetened drink will make us switch to an untaxed and unsweetened one. The folly in this plan is that it ignores the fact we could switch from a taxed orange soda to an untaxed orange juice, which won’t reduce our caloric intake one bit since they have the same caloric value per ounce. We could also go from a brand name drink to a generic one that costs less, even with the tax, but it, too, will have the same number of calories as our original choice. How is that going to reduce obesity?

Consuming fewer total calories is the best way to lose weight, and it doesn’t matter where those calories come from. Taxing one source of calories as a means to deal with the problem is misguided. It makes far more sense to focus our efforts on teaching people how to balance the calories from all of the foods and beverages they choose with enough physical activity so they can achieve and maintain a healthy weight. And if we did that, the savings we would realize in healthcare costs could go a long way towards paying for the next hike in gasoline prices!

Disclosure: I am a consultant to The Coca-Cola Company and the Calorie Control Council, but the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

Keep your New Years Resolution to eat well with these tips for Super Bowl appetizers

Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight Even During the Big Game!

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living. You can read the original post here.

Put SPLENDA® Sweetener in Your Game Plan!
I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

There’s nothing like a new calendar signaling the start of a brand new year to motivate us to lose the weight we may have gained during the holiday season. That must be why New Year’s Resolutions are so easy to make But by the end of January the first big obstacle many of us will have to tackle is around the corner – parties to celebrate the Big Game. If your year of healthier eating has started off strong, don’t let this football feeding frenzy throw you out of bounds.

What you need is a strategy to carry you through game day, just as your team’s quarterback needs a playbook to move the ball down the field. In fact, planning to win will help you with every “interference” that may come your way in the year ahead.

Step Up Your Activity

One way we can get in shape after the holidays, and to prepare for the extra calories that often go with football parties, is by increasing our energy output long before game day. Wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps is a great way to set goals and measure your progress.

If you regularly work out in a gym, try adding 10 minutes or more to each workout or add another day to your weekly workout schedule to burn more calories. The best part is, if you stick to this new routine you should reach your weight management and fitness goals even sooner.

Plate Every Portion

Party food tends to be indulgent, but even worse, we sometimes eat it mindlessly. How can you keep track of how many chips and how much dip you’ve eaten when you’re cheering on your favorite team? I know I can’t.

The best way around this dilemma is to plate everything you’re going to eat before putting it in your mouth. You can use a cocktail napkin, small paper plate or drink cup to serve yourself the portion you want to eat instead of endlessly reaching into the big bowls of snacks and platters of food all around you. I find this especially helpful when faced with easily munchable treats like roasted peanuts, kettle corn and candy.

Even vegetables can be a problem if you end up eating too much high calorie dip with them. That’s why I use a piece of celery to scoop a tablespoon of dip onto my plate, then add plenty of vegetables to go with it. Not only does it help control the amount of dip I eat, it prevents double-dipping, too.

Rethink Your Recipes

Another way to save calories you’ll never miss is by preparing your party foods using low calorie ingredients, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners instead of sugar, Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese, and reduced fat sour cream instead of regular. Best of all, these simple substitutions can lower the excess saturated fat and added sugar content of many recipes in addition to lowering the calories, and that’s good for everyone.

Of course, we still want these popular dishes to taste delicious, which is why I turn to tried-and-true recipes like those found on SPLENDA.com. Three big winners for me are Sweet Red Pepper Hummus, Raspberry Cocktail Sauce with Chilled Shrimp and Sweet and Crunchy Nuts. If you’re asked to bring something to the party, why not make one of these and see if you agree with me?

Score Every Point You Can!

Staying on track with your eating and exercise resolutions for the New Year is one way you can win by losing, so make every calorie count. Using SPLENDA® Sweeteners instead of sugar can help, especially since Valentine’s Day is just two weeks after the Big Game!

For more delicious appetizers and salads sweetened with SPLENDA® Sweetener: http://recipes.splenda.com/recipes?category_id=1-Appetizer

If you haven’t signed up for the SPLENDA® Recipe Club, to receive THE SWEET DISH® e-newsletter (for free), you can do so here: https://www.splenda.com/recipe-club-signup.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

Calories, nutrients in food, physical activity and more can all be tracked using new online tool

Keeping Track of Food, Calories & Fitness Just Got Easier!

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original blog here.

CALORIES, NUTRIENTS IN FOOD, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND MORE CAN ALL BE TRACKED USING NEW ONLINE TOOL

Have you been eating more fruits and vegetables? If so you can credit the USDA and its private sector partners for getting out the message to “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” That campaign began in September 2011 following the release of the ChooseMyPlate icon, designed to help reshape the nations eating habits.

Now it’s time to take it up a notch.

From January through April 2012 the key message is “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” I love the message because it reinforces the fact that eating is meant to be enjoyed – not something we hear too often from a government program!

The best part about this new campaign is that it comes with a great line up of online tools to help you plan and keep track of your food, fitness and health. It’s called SuperTracker and includes:

Food-A-Pedia – Includes over 8000 foods you can look up to see their nutrient content and make comparisons to other foods

Food Tracker – Lets you enter the foods you eat each day to track your intake and compare it to your nutrition goals

Physical Activity Tracker – Lets you enter your daily activities and tracks your progress

My Weight Manager – Get weight management guidance by entering of your weight and tracking your progress

My Top 5 Goals – Select your personal health goals then sign in for tips and support from a virtual coach

My Reports – Get reports to see progress towards goals and trends over time

All you have to do is login and create a personal profile to take advantage of all these valuable tools and resources. I can’t think of a better way to learn how to “enjoy your food, but eat less.”

See my related post: Weight Control, Healthy Diet and Fitness Are All a Numbers Game

Making simple substitutions can reduce sugar, fat and calories in favorite dessert recipes

3 Tips For The Perfect Pumpkin Pie

This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.

I know, I know, you’ve heard enough already about how to make your holiday pumpkin pie a little healthier. But if I can have your attention for just a few minutes longer I want to wrap up all of the great advice about how to shave some calories, trim the fat, and knock down the added sugar in this seasonal dessert in just three – yes that’s 1-2-3 – simple tips.

Are you ready? Here goes!

#1. CUT THE CRUST

The standard pastry dough lining a 9 inch pie plate is made from 1 ¼ cups of flour, half a stick or butter (or other fat), plus a little water. It delivers a whopping 975 calories and 46 grams of fat to that pie before you put anything into it! That’s works out to more than 120 crust calories per slice and nearly 6 grams of fat if you get eight equal servings out of it.

You can put a big dent in those numbers by using a spring form pan and replacing the pastry crust with a crumb crust made with crushed low fat graham crackers, a sugar substitute, and a little heart-healthy oil and yogurt to replace the butter, lard or shortening.

For a 10” spring form pan you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon canola, peanut or walnut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cups low fat graham cracker crumbs (about 8 full sheets)
  • your favorite sugar substitute equal to 2 tablespoons sugar

 

#2. FIX THE FILLING

Pumpkin pie filling is nothing more than a pumpkin custard. It sets up so well you don’t really need a crust because it will conform to the shape of the pan you bake it in. But since I’ve already dealt with the crust, I want to focus on how to make the filling less filling.

By making smart substitutions for the sugar, milk, and eggs you add to the pureed pumpkin, you can drop the fat, sugar and caloric content without changing the flavor or texture one bit. Here’s all you need to do for a recipe that calls for 2 cups of pumpkin (or a 15 ounce can of pure pumpkin puree).

Mix pumpkin puree with:

  • 12 ounce can fat free evaporated milk (undiluted)
  • 2 whole large eggs (or ½ cup refrigerated egg product like Eggbeaters®)
  • your favorite sugar substitute equivalent to ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger, and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg OR 1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract

Stir everything together until thoroughly combined, pour into prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes or until the center is set.

Savings per pie: 820 calories, 6 grams fat, 150 grams sugar

#3. LIGHTEN THE HEAVY CREAM

There’s no need to forgo the traditional dollop of whipped topping on that slice of pumpkin pie, but you do have options on how heavy the cream must be to make it. While there are plenty of fat free versions already whipped up for us in the store, if you choose to make your own, here are some tips to help you lighten your load.

Instead of 1 cup of heavy whipping cream use:

  • ¾ cup canned evaporated 2% milk, chilled
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • your favorite sugar substitute equal to 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • nutmeg for garnish (optional)

Chill the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing. Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in the chilled bowl and beat with an electric hand or standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment starting at low speed and gradually progressing to high as soft peaks start to form. Continue beating until peaks hold their shape when beaters are lifted from bowl, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately as it will lose volume at room temperature, or you can make dollops on a waxed paper lined tray and store them in freezer until needed. Garnish with nutmeg.

Savings per batch (about 2 cups): 470 calories, 63 grams fat

Wishing you all a happy, healthy holiday!

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her other posts here.