Monday, November 7, 2011

Keys to Keeping the Weight Off

Is it really that hard to lose weight? Many of my clients and students have lost 20, 30, even 50 pounds, and many of them have lost that much weight more than once. When we sit down and add up all the pounds they've lost over the decades, it often totals well over 100 pounds. When people are in their teens, 20s, and 30s, in particular, weight loss is reasonably easy.

The challenge, it seems, isn't so much losing weight as it is keeping the weight off. That's why I was so excited when I ran across this article at last week, which summarizes a study that examined hormone changes for a year after people lost weight by dieting. The study found that hormones that increase appetite can remain elevated in the blood for over a year.

If you've taken my online class "Lose Weight," you know I'm crazy about what I call the maintenance mindset, or being aware and honest. This study reinforces the importance of the maintenance mindset. Without awareness and honesty, it's all-too-easy to slip back into bad eating habits when you're hungry!

This study also emphasizes the importance of staying on track with all of the elements we cover in "Lose Weight." Weight managment is about far more than healthy eating and regular exercise. Sleep, hydration, and stress management play substantial roles in managing appetite. If you're tired, dehyrated, or stressed, hunger becomes less manageable.

Finally, this study truly emphasizes the importance of making weight management part of a healthy lifestyle. In the end, the focus should be on health, not weight or youth or attractiveness. While healthy eating and regular exercise are a part of good health, the benefits of sleep, hydration, and stress management cannot be overlooked. Be aware of what you're doing (or not doing!), and be honest. Your body--and your weight--will thank you!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Donna's Top 5 Tips for Handling the Holidays

Happy Halloween! Whether you get into the "spirit" today or not, it's almost impossible to avoid the candy onslaught that begins in October and persists until February. So, today's a perfect day to take a look at some ways to stay on track with your weight management goals. Here's my Top 5 Tips:

1) Write it down. Even if you're skilled at eating awareness, it's oh-so-easy for a reasonable candy treat to turn into a candy binge. In part, that's why my second tip is...

2) Steer clear of scarcity. One of the most common reasons people get carried away during the holiday season is because they're thinking, "Oh, I'll have just one more handful of candy corn...after all, I won't have them again until next year!" If you really want candy corn in June, you can find it on the Internet year-round. But scarcity isn't the only reason we binge on candy, which is why my third tip is...

3) Manage stress. I'm hosting a small Halloween get-together this evening. In the past, I'd spend the day stressing over how clean my house is, whether the menu is adequate, getting my usual day's work done--and, of course, what costume I should wear! By the time my guests arrived, I'd have already been noshing all day, and I'd spend the night eating candy and mentally berating myself. Not any more! I'm reminding myself that "My friends love me for who I am." And that helps me follow Tip #4:

4) Stay on track. Whenever possible, follow your usual successful routines. Keep in mind you don't have to follow them perfectly. It's okay to shorten your workout time, go to bed an hour later, drink a little less water, and have a piece of candy or two. But sticking as close as possible to your routines will help you both today, and throughout the weeks. If you're struggling to stay on track, here's Tip #5:

5) Get right back on track. Remember, you do not have to do weight management perfectly to do it well! The trick to successful long-term weight management is to get back on track as quickly as possible. That means no harsh self-judgment. Instead, learn from it, then shrug it off and return to what works. Don't forget, if you maintain your weight during the holiday season, you'll be ahead of most Americans.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Food Day 2011

Have you heard about Food Day 2011? Organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, this nationwide event is designed to bring together consumers, restaurant owners, lawmakers, and as their Web site notes, "eaters of all stripes," and make a difference in the way we eat. Food Day 2011 is on October 24th. However, events are being held before, on, and after the 24th, so you've still got time to go to Food Day 2011's Web site and see what's happening in your community. Don't forget to come back and let us know what you do to participate!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Salmon in Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce

I've been busy with editing "Luscious" and redoing my cycle menu, but couldn't resist developing a new recipe. It tastes heavenly -- like something you'd order at a restaurant -- but only takes about 20 minutes to prepare. Bon appetit!

Salmon in Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce


1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon rosemary
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn mix
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup roasted red bell pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup sliced green olives
1 pound salmon


Prepare linguine according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook parsley, garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and peppercorn mix in oil in large skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, and vinegar in blender or food processor until smooth. Add to skillet and mix well. Add salmon and olives and cook until salmon flakes easily. Serve salmon on linguine.

Monday, September 19, 2011

To Go Organic, or Not to Go Organic...?

Fruits and vegetables are on the menu at every meal in my house. That's why I'm a huge fan of Environmental Working Group's (EWG) 2011 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. If you're watching your food budget (and who isn't?), check out the "Dirty Dozen" list to uncover which fruits and veggies are most likely to be contaminated. When you choose them, it's worth your money to go organic. In contrast, the Clean 15 fruits and veggies are lower in pesticides. Either way, don't forget to wash 'em!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Is Fat-Burning Underwear For Real?!

I laughed out loud when I first read this article about fat-burning underwear. The idea behind these underwear, which are apparently becoming popular in Japan, is simple: they're imprinted with a resin that prevents stretching, so you have to work harder to walk in them. That work results in greater muscle strength. My first thought was, perhaps skinny jeans will be America's answer to weight management?

Seriously, this article not only gave me a good chuckle, but reminded me of the importance of an often-overlooked element of weight management--lifestyle activity. If you don't want to spring for fat-burning underwear, you really don't need to. Instead, park further away at the store, toss around the football with your boyfriend, walk around the track while your kids are at soccer practice, take the stairs instead of the elevator or get the idea. Instead of finding ways to be less active, challenge yourself to be more active, every chance you get.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Portion Plates Go Glam!

Is your perspective on portions warped? Do you load up your plate with meat and carbohydrate? Many people do, and changing those eating habits isn't just a part of weight loss--it's a crucial, and often overlooked, element of weight mangement. That's why I've been a big fan of the Portion Plate for years. (You can check out their Web site here.)

The Portion Plate has some new competition from Precise Portions, which has developed a set of plates that are subtly divided into portions (click here to view their home page). I'm not a fan of lime green, but otherwise, I have to say the idea's brilliant. My kids would no doubt prefer the colorful Portion Plate, but for those who want to stay on track with portion sizes without advertising their nutritional goals, the Precise Portion sets are an elegant alternative.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Smile When You Eat That Broccoli!

Over the years, I've had parents say to me, "How do you get your kids to eat vegetables? Heaven knows I've tried, and my kids won't touch them." Most of the time, when I ask these parents if they eat veggies, their reaction is predictable: "Ew, no. Veggies are nasty!"

If that sounds familiar, I encourage you to reconsider your approach to veggies. Modeling--setting a good example--is a key parenting tool, and as it turns out, it's just as crucial in teaching children good eating habits as it is in other areas of parenting. A Reuters Health summary of a research study (which was originally published in the journal Obesity) noted that researchers found that the facial expressions of adults influenced children to eat more or less of foods. In other words, if you're all but holding your nose when you eat cooked cauliflower, it's very likely that your kids will turn up their noses.

If you don't have children, you may be thinking this doesn't apply to you. Maybe that's true, but consider this: Many adults try foods (very often vegetables) they remember hating as a child, and find that as an adult, the food is actually enjoyable. Perhaps future research will reveal that what children take away from childhood regarding food isn't as much their own reactions, as the reactions of the adults around them. So, if you've been avoiding green beans or beets for decades, perhaps that's because an adult in your childhood didn't like them. You may be surprised to discover that you feel very differently about those veggies now!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Are Packed School Lunches Unsafe?

I homeschool my kids, but back when they attended a private school, they went to school with lunch. I was just as surprised as the researchers who conducted this study, which was originally published in Pediatrics. The researchers found that almost all of the perishable items--over 90 percent--were at an unsafe temperature an hour and a half before lunch. Many of the lunches were packed with an ice pack, and some were even kept in a refrigerator. Even so, the lunches were well within what's called the danger zone--that is, a temperature at which harmful bacteria and viruses can grow and multiply.

The researchers observed that this study encourage parents to pack lunches with multiple ice packs. They also suggest children remove their lunch from the container and put it in the refrigerator.

In addition, I'd suggest refrigerating all of your child's lunch ingredients. In food service, all ingredients that go into a cold recipe are kept cold, even if the ingredients don't require refrigeration. That's because adding a room-temperature ingredient to a dish can bring up the temperature to the danger zone. So, consider refrigerating vacuum-packed applesauce, chips, cookies, and so on. That way, when you add them to your child's lunch, they won't warm up the container.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Potent New Antioxidant Discovered in Tomatoes!

At first glance, you may think the discovery of a potent new antioxidant in tomatoes isn't newsworthy...even if it is, according to this article on's Web site, "4.5 more potent than vitamin E and 10 times more potent than vitamin C."

However, this discovery beautifully illustrates one of the hazards of relying on dietary supplements. If you've been slacking on a healthy diet while popping a vitamin E capsule and chewing a few vitamin C tablets afterward, you may well have been missing out on the newly-discovered (and fearfully named) antioxidant feruloylnoradrenaline (FNA). In addition to being more potent than vitamins E and C, the researchers reported FNA's antioxidant power "is 14 times higher than that of resveratrol." (Resveratrol is the compound found in red wine that's been linked with a delay in cellular aging.) Talk about a potent substance!

Sure, researchers are already developing a way to get FNA into capsules. But if you choose to pop an FNA pill instead of eat tomatoes, who knows how many other healthy substances you're missing out on?

Gazpacho, anyone?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Big Boy BBQ Sauce

I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel! I'm nearing the end of the first round of edits on "Luscious." Over the weekend, I spent some time updating Lesson 10. One of the changes I wanted to make was to develop my own barbeque sauce for the Caribbean Chicken Pizza. I'm not usually a fan of prepared barbeque sauce, because it's typically too sweet--cloyingly sweet. It's high in sodium, too.

So, I did some research, then did some tinkering. I'm delighted to report that I've developed a barbeque sauce recipe that balances sweet, smoky, and spicy flavors. In fact, it got its name from my son, who tasted it and said, "This isn't as sweet as the stuff in the bottle, but it tastes better. This is big boy barbeque sauce!" (If you'd like it a little sweeter, you can add an extra tablespoon of molasses. If you're keeping an eye on carbs, add sugar substitute or agave nectar, a teaspoon at a time, to taste.)

For those of you who love barbeque sauce, but can live without the carbohydrates and sodium, you'll be delighted with the nutrition profile. Typical prepared barbeque sauce has about 15 grams of carbohydrate--about half of it from high-fructose corn syrup--and 300 milligrams sodium per 2 tablespoon serving. In comparison, my recipe has just 8 grams of carbohydrate and 15 milligrams sodium.

We've still got a month of summer left (here in the desert, we've got another two months of hot weather), so you've got plenty of time to break out the grill and give this recipe a go! Or, use it as the sauce for Caribbean Chicken Pizza, then top your pizza with chicken, pineapple chunks (use the pineapple juice for the sauce) and mozzarella cheese. Enjoy!

Big Boy BBQ Sauce


1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn mix
5 dashes ground cayenne


Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.


This recipe makes enough for at least two (12-inch) pizzas. Leftover sauce can be kept up to 3 days in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator. Or, freeze any leftovers for later use.

Nutrition Information:

Makes 10 (2 tablespoon) servings. Per serving, 36 calories, 0 grams fat, 15 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fad Diet Alert: Is The Meal Monotony Diet Next?

I've read several research studies in the past few years which suggest overweight and obesity are due not only to food availability, but to the sheer variety of food from which to choose. Here's a link to a recent article on this topic, this time from The Independent online. It's based on a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (you can read the abstract here).

The theory goes like this: When you eat the same food over and over again, you become habituated to it. That is, it becomes boring, so you eat less. Since you're now eating less, you'll lose weight.

From an epidemiological standpoint, this makes sense. If you lived in Northern China five hundred years ago, your diet would have consisted of a comparatively limited number of food items. For that matter, a research study I read back when I was in college observed that women who cooked at least four days a week rotated between about eight recipes. It wouldn't be too hard to get bored eating the same eight meals two or three times a month.

That said, I'm not convinced. For starters, this theory fails to explain why I can mow through a bag of pita chips, or a container of cashews--no problem! The flavor never changes; how come I never get bored?

In fact, I was just telling my kids that when I was in high school, I worked at a deli for about six months. We served sandwiches, salads, sides, cookies...and gelato. Mmm, that gelato! My mom, who worked in an ice cream parlor after high school, assured me that eventually I'd tire of it. I didn't. After trying everything else on the menu, I focused exclusively on the rum-raisin gelato, and ate only rum-raisin gelato. To this day, I'm still looking for a rum-raisin gelato that measures up to my memories. (Given that I gained a few pounds eating rum-raisin gelato nearly every day, perhaps that's for the best!)

Maybe I'm the exception to the rule, but I suspect there's far more to weight management than variety versus boredom, at least in practice. After all, if boring diets really worked, the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet would have done the trick decades ago. I'm willing to predict that the Monotony Diet will end in dieters faithfully eating one or two or three foods for a few weeks...and then bingeing at their favorite buffet.

In fact, I'm willing to go out on a limb and suggest that caloric intake is far more dependent on other factors than habituation versus variety. What do you think? Do you believe food choice is influenced by variety, but other factors play a greater role? Or are you on board for the Monotony Diet?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is Grazing Good For You? Maybe Not!

Clients and students often ask for my opinion on frequent snacking or "grazing," the practice of eating five or six small mini-meals a day. This is one of those issues for which I don't need to look far for an answer: While grazing works for some people, it's disastrous for others.

I know this, because I happen to be one of those "others." My husband plans ahead for three meals and at least one snack. My kids eat three meals and two snacks on most days. I've learned that for me, it's best to stick to three meals.

I've also observed that when I'm hungry between meals, it's almost always because my meals are low in protein and high in carbohydrate. Sometimes, it's because I neglected to incorporate enough non-starchy veggies. Either way, snacks seem to find their way into my eating habits when I'm not paying enough attention to balancing my meals. And when I do snack, it's almost never a good thing: I have a tendency to lean toward high-carb or high-calorie snacks, like a handful of pretzels or nuts.

My perspective hasn't been too popular lately. However, that may change soon. recently posted an article about a study conducted by researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The researchers concluded that since 1977, both calorie density and eating frequency have increased. That is, the foods Americans eat began to contain more calories, and Americans began to eat more frequent meals and snacks.

However, they also observed that in the early- to mid-2000s, calorie density began to level off, while eating frequency increased. This led to their conclusion that eating and drinking more often throughout the day may be a contributor to the obesity crisis we're experiencing in the US.

It's a reasonable observation. True, there are many factors that affect weight management. However, activity level and eating habits are probably the two most critical factors. Unless you're very carefully monitoring what you're eating at your meals and snacks, it's all-too-easy for those meals and snacks to undermine your weight management efforts.

So, if you're like me, and grazing isn't for you, consider yourself vindicated, and focus on eating healthfully three times a day. If you'd like to check out the article, you can do so here; there's a link to the full study there, as well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do Children Learn What They Live, Or What They're Taught?

Do your kids sit glassy-eyed in front of the television for hours? You're not alone. Dr. Catherine Birken lead a group which reviewed thirteen different studies, all of which concluded what many parents already know: It's hard to get kids to turn off the TV and work in a little physical activity. You can read an article about the study here.

Interestingly, the article doesn't mention the one intervention I'd assume would have the greatest effect: working with parents to model turning off the TV and being more active. There's a saying that "Children learn what they live."

I grew up in rural Alaska, and for many years, we didn't have running water or electricity. Naturally, we didn't have a television. After I left home, I didn't have a TV for years. I've never had a TV in my bedroom, and we have only one television in our home. My husband and I both set limits on the number of shows we watch, and the amount of time we spend watching TV.

Likewise, my kids know they can only watch a certain amount of TV daily, and only certain shows. They often opt to read a book, work on a project (right now, they're into finger crocheting), or play a game instead of watching TV. If my husband and I weren't setting the example that we do--if we watched endless TV, ate meals with the TV on, went to sleep with the TV on in the bedroom--I doubt that any intervention, no matter how well-planned or executed, would consistently overcome parental influence in the long run.

What do you think? Should we focus our intervention efforts on children? Should studies be family-oriented, and aid both parents and children in making healthier choices? Or should researchers turn their attention to parents? Let's hear from you!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Are You a Good Parent To Yourself?

When I was in college, a nursing student told me, "It must be terrific being a dietetics major. You know how bad some foods are for you, so you don't want to eat them. How lucky for you!" Her perspective caught me off-guard, because my education hadn't had that kind of effect at all. I replied, "Actually, it's the opposite: I know how good some foods are for me, and that encourages me to eat more of them." She smiled and nodded, but it was clear from her expression she didn't relate to my perspective.

In retrospect, I'd bet she's the product of permissive parenting. Permissive parents -- the parent who struggles with setting reasonable limits -- create just as much havoc in a child's life as a harsh, autocratic parent does.

One of the unexpected outcomes of permissive parenting is the effect it can have on eating habits. Permissive parents often allow their children to raid the refrigerator whenever they wish, serve only the food their children want to eat, and even go so far as to prepare a second or third meal if the child suddenly turns up their nose at what's on the table. I have an acquaintance who told me, "I only serve my boys chicken nugget dinosaurs and Jell-o, because that's all they'll eat!"

As is often the case in parenting, it can take years for the results to accumulate and become problematic. Young children are naturally active, and given the opportunity for movement, the lack of reasonable limits and education about healthy eating may not take a toll until the child becomes a teenager, or even an adult.

Nevertheless, the damage is done. The child who grows up with permissive eating habits fails to learn that some foods are healthier than others. On a deeper level, the child doesn't learn respect for their own body. That doesn't make some foods "good" and some foods "bad." It does mean that, if I respect and honor my body for all it does for me, I'll cheerfully choose foods that help rather than harm me. At the extreme, these children begin to associate healthy limit-setting with punishment, rather than seeing it as a loving, nurturing decision.

Even if you grew up with autocratic "Because I said so!" parents, you may have some permissive eating habits. Sometimes people allow themselves to be indulgent with food (or exercise, or other behaviors that affect weight), as a reward for their hard work and sacrifice elsewhere. Or, they swing back and forth between autocratic and permissive eating -- classic yo-yo dieting. When in autocratic mode, they eat their alloted 1,200 calories a day, and no more, regardless of how hungry they are. Eventually, they rebel, and eat whatever they want.

We'll take a look at authoritative parenting, and its impact on eating habits, next month. Until then, I encourage you to give thought to how you're parenting yourself when it comes to food. Are you the harsh autocratic parent we talked about here? Are you permissive? Or do you swing back and forth between these two extremes? The first step in change is identifying the challenge!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Does Calcium Help You Lose Weight?

I've been following this subject with great interest for years. The first studies to hit the mainstream were conducted or funded by organizations with a link to the dairy industry, which looked a bit suspicious. This study looks at seven different studies, and notes that the average weight loss seen with calcium supplementation is 1.5 kilograms, or about 3 pounds:

Calcium and weight loss: Effects are small but significant, says review

In short, calcium is no magic bullet. If you're not getting enough calcium (check out this link to see how you rate), I'd suggest you do so, whether you need to lose 3 pounds or not. It builds strong bones and teeth. Its role in weight management, however, is slight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Macaroni & Cheese

I'm hard at work on editing "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals." Over the weekend, I spent some time on Lesson 3, in which we cover sauces. Several students have remarked that there's quite a bit of coverage given to Bechamel sauce...but no recipes provided that are based on Bechamel.

It's a valid point, so I spent some time tinkering with a recipe my kids have been bugging me about for years--macaroni and cheese. Mac & cheese uses Bechamel as base, so I figured I could feed two birds with one recipe, so to speak. I developed a recipe based on Bechamel, which I'm including in "Luscious," and I also developed the recipe I'm sharing today, which uses Mori-Nu aseptic-pack tofu as its base.

My daughters preferred the Bechamel base, but my son actually liked the tofu version better. They all agreed that either recipe is highly preferable to their beloved blue box of mac & cheese. Enjoy!

Macaroni & Cheese


1 pound macaroni
1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu
1 cup milk or plain unsweetened soy milk
6 ounces finely shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 dashes ground cayenne


Prepare macaroni according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, puree tofu and milk in blender until smooth. Place pureed tofu in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cheese, garlic powder, peppercorns, nutmeg, and cayenne, and heat until cheese melts, stirring often. Add macaroni and cook until macaroni is heated through, stirring well to combine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

No More Food Guide Pyramid...!

That's right--the Food Guide Pyramid is no more. I've done more presentations on the Pyramid than an Egyptian tour guide. However, I'm delighted with its replacement, MyPlate. From my very first Pyramid presentation, and ever since, I've been encouraging people to "imagine your plate is shaped like a triangle." Finally, you won't need any special spatial abilities to visualize what a healthy diet looks like. See for yourself:

It's beautiful. I love it! (Maybe that's in part because, if you've taken "Lose Weight," this image looks familiar--its content is very similar to the plate graphic in Lesson 3, isn't it?)

Naturally, at USDA's MyPlate home page there's plenty of information about MyPlate--details about each food group, recipes, interactive programs, and more. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Discipline or Punishment: Is There a Difference?

One of the many areas in which there's overlap between parenting and weight management is in the area of discipline versus punishment. Most people see no distinction between these terms, perhaps in part because "parenting experts" don't, either. I recently did some Internet research for a presentation on parenting, and every site I found used the terms interchangeably.

That's sad, because there's a tremendous difference between discipline and punishment. Simply put, discipline is teaching, or coaching. Punishment is making someone feel bad, by causing pain, fear, or shame. My son once described punishment as "something you wouldn't want your kid to do to himself when he does the wrong thing." I couldn't agree more. Parents who use punishment are saying, essentially, "You've been bad, and now you deserve to feel bad. You deserve to feel pain, fear, and shame. If you don't feel bad, you'll never change."

Over the years, I've come to see dieting, or what I refer to as the diet mentality, as a form of self-punishment. The unspoken message of dieting is, "You've been bad, and now you deserve to feel bad. You deserve to feel pain, fear, and shame. You deserve feeling hungry, worrying about whether you'll get enough, feeling ashamed of your body. If you don't feel bad, you'll never change."

Frankly, I couldn't disagree more, whether the topic is parenting or weight management. My experience as both dietitian and parent educator has taught me that people, whether they're grown-up or young, are far more likely to change when they believe in themselves, and when others around them freely express their belief in them. It's not that different from working with other animals: If you want your dog to jump through hoops, you're better off giving it a treat when it does, rather than swatting it with a newspaper when it doesn't.

The difference between discipline and punishment is one reason I wholeheartedly reject calorie requirements, points systems, and other methods designed to control, restrict, and micromanage eating habits. Yes, it's good to know my estimated daily calorie intake is 1,600 calories, so I can decide just how much of In-N-Out's 800-calorie milkshake is a good idea. However, not eating when I'm still hungry, just because I've reached the "magic" number 1,600, is punishment, not discipline.

Of course, the flip side of punishment isn't discipline; it's neglect. We'll talk next month about permissive parenting, and its effect on weight management. For now, I encourage you to consider whether you're focusing on self-teaching and self-coaching, because those are the skills that make up self-discipline. If you've been using punishment to somehow motivate you, there's no better time than now to stop hurting yourself, and start treating yourself with dignity and respect.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Protein for Breakfast, Carbs for Supper...?

Remember the article I posted last month about how dieters who ate high-carb suppers lost more weight than those who ate more carbs at breakfast and lunch? Here's a related study: Scientists at the University of Missouri found that teens who ate a high-protein breakfast ate less throughout the day. Even more intriguingly, the researchers used fMRI scanning to demonstrate that high-protein breakfasts led to greater activation in areas of the brain that control food motivation reward.

Here's a link to a short article on the study:

For many people, the trick is finding high-protein foods that are quick and easy to prepare, but reasonably low in fat. I often enjoy a serving of almonds with a homemade banana muffin or two, cashews stirred into homemade yogurt and fruit, or Fruit Tofucotta. My husband is a huge fan of turkey bacon (don't laugh -- it's actually pretty good!), egg substitute, and soy-based meat products like soy chorizo (or soyrizo, as we call it). All it takes to increase your protein intake is a bit of planning and preparation. Bon appetit, and happy Monday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Indian Chicken in Tikka Masala Sauce

My kids are doing a collaborative school report on India this month, culminating in a picnic this afternoon. We made our own yogurt over the weekend, and we'll whip it up into mango lassis just before we leave. Trader Joe's naan is among my favorites, and we're bringing both garlic and curry-seasoned naan.

Finally, we're serving Indian Chicken in Tikka Masala Sauce. The chicken is simmering in the slow cooker as we speak, and I'll be blending up the sauce as soon as I'm done posting this. The recipe is very loosely based on a recipe I found in Cook's Illustrated. This version is much faster -- the original took about two hours to prepare -- and it's much lower in calories and fat, too.

It requires just a small investment of your time to prepare the ingredients for the slow cooker, and takes less than a half-hour to put together. I serve it with orzo because my husband's blood sugars respond better to pasta than rice, but you can serve it over rice, cauliflower rice, or dish it up as-is and serve naan on the side.

Indian Chicken in Tikka Masala Sauce

Indian Chicken Ingredients:

2 cups water
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon bottled minced ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Tikka Masala Sauce Ingredients:

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons bottled minced ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt


Combine water, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne in slow cooker. Add chicken and cook on HIGH for 6 – 8 hours, or on LOW for 8 – 10 hours, or until chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper, tomato paste, garam masala, and sugar in blender. Blend until onion is almost pureed, but still visible. Put sauce in a large skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add yogurt, and stir until combined.

To serve, place chicken on hot cooked rice, cauliflower rice, orzo, or potatoes, and cover with sauce. Or, serve chicken drizzled with sauce and offer naan on the side.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Self-Worth, Weight Management, and You

In addition to working as a dietitian and teaching dancEx classes, I also teach parenting classes. For many people, it's a stretch either way. Participants in my parenting classes often wonder (aloud) if I'm qualified to teach them. Clients and students with whom I interact as a dietitian or dancEx instructor are sometimes surprised to learn I teach parenting classes.

In fact, there's a surprising amount of overlap. Parents are typically the most influential individuals in a child's life, and that influence extends to every element of weight management--body pride, eating habits, stress management, hydration, sleep, exercise, and so on. If parents do a good job, children grow up believing they are worthy of self-care, and develop the skills they need to connect with their feelings and meet their needs, coach themselves through challenges, and generally maintain a healthy relationship with their body.

Unfortunately, parents don't always learn these skills as children themselves. One of the areas where people really seem to struggle is in the area of self-worth, which is described by child psychologist Stephen Bavolek, PhD, as being made up of two components: Self-esteem, or the belief that one is lovable, and self-concept, the belief that one is capable. 

What I've observed is this: When we're children, we look to our parents to answer those all-important questions about our self-worth: Am I lovable? Am I capable? If parents have the skills to do so, they teach their children they are noticed and loved, simply for being the unique individual that they are. They also teach their children they are capable and appreciated for the things they do.

But what happens when parents don't have this skill? For many of us who struggle with weight management, a chunk of that struggle is directly related to poor self-worth. What seems to further complicate matters is this truth: As children, we need our parents to help us develop self-worth. However, as adults, our self-worth is up to us.

It's a simple observation, but it's rife with consequences. For instance, because there's a distinct break between childhood and adulthood, it's easy for people to intuit that since there's an endpoint to what parents can do, there must be an endpoint in adulthood, too--that is, a time and place when self-worth is "done." And that's simply not true...not if we want to continue to grow and develop as human beings.

So, the question becomes: How are you doing with parenting yourself in this area? Do you appreciate yourself for the unique person you are? Do you love yourself, not for the things you do, but for the individual you are? Do you recognize and appreciate the things you do for yourself and others, or do you minimize them? Perhaps most importantly, where and how can you make a positive change to better support your self-worth? When you are confident that you are lovable and capable, it'll spill over into every relationship--including your relationship with your body.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life-Size Barbie Gets Women Talking

I received my first Barbie on my sixth birthday. Did playing with Barbie and her friends have anything to do with the body image issues I've had over the years? It's hard to say. I do remember wishing I looked more like Barbie, with her hourglass curves and long legs. I didn't quite want to look like this, though.

I love that Galia Slayen has created this life-size Barbie. I'm hopeful that her efforts will inspire even more accurate, appropriate recreations of the female form. Perhaps those efforts will inspire Mattel to consider developing a Barbie that's more realistic. I'd also love to see Barbie dolls with different body types, rather than one body with different heads.

In the meantime, I hope that Slayen's work will get women thinking and talking about how we're portrayed in media, and how we interpret it. 

Here's a link to an article published in Today Magazine about Galia and her life-size Barbie:

Life-Size Barbie Gets Real Women Talking
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Need To Burn Off a Few Extra Calories?

Did you spent yesterday celebrating Easter with jelly beans, robin's eggs, or Peeps? The tips in this article won't make up for a day of candy indulgence. But I've found that trying something new can help you get back on track with your usual healthy habits -- or inspire you to start living more healthfully. Check out dietitian Leslie Bonci's tips here:

Make Your Body Earn/Burn What It Eats

I'm planning ahead for mixed veggies with hot curry powder for lunch, and a cool glass of iced tea this afternoon. Feel free to post your plans!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making Carbs Count

Here's an interesting twist in the ongoing debate as to what type of diet is best for weight loss: The journal Obesity published a study in which obese men and women were assigned either a low-calorie diet with carbs spread evenly throughout the day, or a low-calorie diet with fewer carbs for breakfast and lunch, and more carbs for dinner.

While both groups saw weight loss, the group that ate more carbs at dinner saw greater weight loss, lost more fat, lost more weight around their abdomen, and had greater improvements in blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and inflammation markers.

I definitely agree with the researchers' conclusion that this study requires more follow-up. The study doesn't appear to have taken any other factors (like exercise, stress, or hydration) into consideration, and that's critical in this study, because it would be difficult to control for the Hawthorne effect -- that is, people behave differently when they know they're being studied, and when they know that their particular dietary manipulation is supposed to "work," they may change their behaviors, often subconsciously.

It's still an intriguing study, though. If you're working with a health care team to balance medications and carbohydrate counting to manage your blood sugar levels, I don't recommend making changes without checking with your team first. The study's abstract doesn't clarify whether people with diabetes were included. However, if you don't have diabetes, you can easily experiment with a little more protein and a little less carb at breakfast and lunch, and less protein and more carbohydrates at dinner.

If you're interested in reading more about the study, here's a link to the Obesity abstract:

Greater Weight Loss and Hormonal Changes After 6 Months With Carbohydrates Eaten Mostly at Dinner

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fruit Tofucotta

We're enjoying a bit of a cold snap here in the desert, but it won't be long before summer's here. When the morning low is in the 80s, a cool, sweet breakfast is the perfect way to start the day. Tofu's mild flavor makes it a perfect dairy-free stand-in for cottage or ricotta cheese. Its high protein content provides a perfect counterbalance for fresh fruit. And, of course, tofu is loaded with isoflavones, the phytochemicals in soy that offer a wide variety of health benefits. All my family cares about is that it's delicious and easy to prepare!

Some of our favorite fruit combinations are canned, drained pineapple (fast and easy!); fresh mango and strawberries; halved grapes (especially pretty if you use two colors of grapes); or frozen berry mix.

Fruit Tofucotta

If you prefer the texture of ricotta cheese, drain the tofu overnight. The easiest way to do this is by using the inner bowl of a coffee maker and coffee filters, balanced on a large mug. You can also secure several layers of cheesecloth to the top of a small bowl with a rubber band or string. Place tofu on the cheesecloth, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator at least 12 hours, or overnight. Reserve the drained tofu and discard the whey. This process makes the tofu drier, and the final product more like ricotta cheese.


1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu, chilled overnight
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons sugar or sugar substitute
2 cups fresh fruit, as desired


Place tofu in large bowl. Using a fork, crumble tofu until it resembles cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. Add vanilla and sugar, and stir well to combine. Add fruit and mix to combine.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stress, Sleep, and Successful Weight Loss

It's Monday -- time for a pop quiz! Don't worry, it's just two questions. First, how are you doing with managing stress? And second, are you getting enough (but not too much) quality sleep?

I recently ran across an article on HealthDay regarding stress and sleep, and I'll be honest: It caught my eye because it validates my overall perspective on weight management. One of the doctors quoted in the article notes, "People...tend to be healthy and vital not because of any one factor, but because of many." I couldn't agree more! It may be easier to focus only on calories, but at the end of the day, you're a human being, not a calculator.

The studies quoted in the article point to the necessity of focusing specifically on stress management and quality sleep -- two areas of weight management that tend to be overlooked. That always strikes me as strange. Think about it: Do you make better decisions about what to eat when you're relaxed and well-rested, or when you're frazzled and exhausted? Are you more likely to exercise when you're tired? When are you most likely to wrangle with food cravings -- and when is it easier to stick with your goals?

That said, managing stress and getting to bed earlier can be challenging. If you need a little boost to encourage you to set a goal this week to better manage stress or get more rest, here's the article on HealthDay:

Less Stress, Better Sleep May Help You Lose Weight

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Makes for a Happy, Stable Weight...

I recently ran across an article titled "Surprising Findings on What Makes a Happy, Stable Marriage," an overview of a new book by Dr. Terri Orbuch. It caught my eye because my wedding anniversary was a few days away, but as I read the article, I couldn't help but see parallels between what makes a happy, stable marriage, and what makes for a happy, stable weight.

According to the article, Dr. Orbuch suggests couples "focus on what is working, not on what isn't." Focusing on what isn't working is the backbone of the diet mentality. Are you guilty of looking in the mirror and zeroing in on whatever body part you like the least, whether it's your arms, breasts, waistline, stomach, hips, or thighs? Does trying to motivate yourself by feeling bad about yourself really help? I'm willing to bet you'll be far more successful if you look in the mirror and focus on what looks good, and what you're doing right.

I laughed out loud when I read Dr. Orbuch's recommendation, "Do sweat the small stuff." It's all-too-easy to say, "I'll work out twice as long tomorrow..." or "Just one more bite..." Unfortunately, it's all too easy for a little slip to become a big slide.

So...let's sweat the small stuff that makes up successful weight management, like getting enough rest, managing stress, paying attention to hunger and fullness, exercising regularly, and drinking enough water. And don't forget to pay attention to what's beautiful and good about you, notice what you're doing right, and show yourself a little appreciation for all you do!

If you'd like to read more, here's a link to the article on

Surprising Findings on What Makes a Happy, Stable Marriage

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quick Chicken Enchiladas

My husband and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary yesterday. It’s a long story, but to cut to the chase, he decided I was the one for him after tasting this recipe. He was stunned to discover it was a lowered-fat recipe! If you've taken "Luscious," you know I love making my own sauces and seasonings. Here, I make my own enchilada sauce. But if you prefer, you can use canned enchilada sauce.

Quick Chicken Enchiladas


Cooking spray
2 (14-ounce) cans tomato sauce, divided
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (juice reserved)
2 (12.5-ounce) cans cooked chicken, drained (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 (7-ounce) can sliced olives
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles
2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
½ teaspoon ground clove, divided
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
10 flour tortillas


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 13” x 9” pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can drained diced tomatoes, chicken, olives, chiles, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon clove, and 1/2 cup cheese in large bowl, stirring well to break up chicken into small pieces and combine well. Place about ½ cup chicken mixture in center of each tortilla and roll up. Place tortillas seam-side-down in greased pan.

Combine 1 can tomato sauce, reserved diced tomato juice, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, and ¼ teaspoon clove in small bowl. Spread sauce evenly on enchiladas, making sure tortillas are completely covered. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Allow casserole to rest for 5 – 10 minutes after removing from oven.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Laughing All the Way...

You may have typed "LOL" today, but have you actually laughed out loud? Have you even smiled today?

I've been thinking lately about the power of laughter, and how it impacts healthy living and weight management. I watch TV with my kids, and lately, they're obsessed with "Big Time Rush." Unlike many kids' shows, there's little sarcasm. Instead, it's campy, unpredictable, and sometimes just plain silly. Even though it's geared for pre-teens, the show makes me laugh, and I genuinely enjoy watching it with my kids.

That's a good thing, as laughter really is good medicine. Among other things, laughing increases your levels of serotonin and endorphins. In other words, finding fun in your day changes your brain chemistry for the positive. Higher levels of serotonin and endorphins make it easier to prevent or recover from food cravings. And when your brain's happy, it's easier to follow through on your weight management goals.

So, I think it's smart to be proactive with laughter. If you're still not convinced, or if you need some ideas to get you started, this article is a must-read. Try smiling while you read it, and see for yourself how the simple act of smiling affects you:

Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor

Experiment for a week or two. Naturally, I encourage you to focus on food- and weight-management related topics. For instance, try smiling while you prepare meals, or as you're choosing your clothes for the day. Enjoy a comedy while you exercise. Have fun!

Monday, March 7, 2011

This Is Your Brain...On Food

I read this article last week, and couldn't wait to share it with you. We talk in "Lose Weight" about how brain chemicals affect eating habits. Here's yet another study on the subject:

Binge eaters' dopamine levels spike at sight, smell of food

In short, researchers observed that there were changes in the brain levels of dopamine -- that "gotta have it!" hormone -- when binge eaters saw or smelled food. In non-binge eaters, there were no such changes.

If binge eating is a challenge for you, creating an environment in which you never see or smell food would be extremely limiting. Instead, you need a plan. If you haven't already begun working on a list of activities that you enjoy -- activities that lead to a release of the "whew, I got it!" hormone serotonin -- now's the time! What can you do instead of eating that really, truly, deeply nurtures you? Remember, it has to be something signficant. You're working against dopamine and your own brain chemistry.

If you're not a binge eater, take note: The researchers also observed a similar response in non-binge eaters after depriving them of food for 16 hours. In other words, if you eat supper at 7 PM, then skip breakfast and eat lunch at noon, you've gone a full 17 hours without eating...and set up your brain chemistry to encourage binge eating. Just another reason to make sure you eat a healthy breakfast!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sugar Free Sweet & Sour Meatballs

It's the last day of February, which means we're almost upon National Nutrition Month, coming up on Lent, and on a side note, I'm celebrating the fact that my local Costco now carries low-fat Mori-Nu tofu. So much to blog little time!

Today I'm thinking about a healthy recipe for Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. If you've taken "Luscious," you may have already prepared meatballs in a sweet-and-sour sauce in the slow cooker with me before. Here's a different, but equally delicious and sugar-free version, with just 21 grams of carb per serving.

Fifteen grams of fat per serving is considered "lower-fat," but if the 17 grams of fat in this recipe is too much for you, put the meatballs in a colander and run hot water over them until they thaw. Or, you can use soy-based meatballs instead...although that takes all the Fat Tuesday fun out of it!

Sugar-Free Sweet & Sour Meatballs


2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic (or 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced)

1 tablespoon sugar substitute (such as Splenda)

¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

¾ cup sugar-free orange marmalade

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 pound pre-cooked meatballs


Combine garlic, sugar substitute, soy sauce, marmalade, and tomato sauce in slow cooker. Add meatballs. Cook on LOW for 3 – 5 hours, or on HIGH for 2 – 4 hours, until sauce thickens.

Nutrition Information

Makes about 6 servings. Per serving, 262 calories, 21 grams total carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 7 grams sugars, 17 grams total fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 1 gram trans-fatty acids, 8 grams polyunsaturated fat, 8 grams monounsaturated fat, 318 milligrams cholesterol, 12 grams protein, and 1183 milligrams sodium.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taming Nighttime Noshing

Picture it: You get up early to hit the gym, eat a healthy breakfast, drink several liters of water, take several breaks to do some stretching and deep breathing, say no to the gang as they head out for a high-fat lunch, make a healthy dinner when you get home, and spend time preparing for the following day. Whew!

After spending all day working so hard to meet your weight management goals, you'd think the evening at home would be easy, right? Unfortunately, many people find that evenings are the most challenging time of day, and after all that effort, succumb to nighttime noshing.

What can you do? Here's a laundry list of ideas:

1) Start by making a list of nurturing activities that will keep your hands busy. Crafts of all sorts, from crocheting to scrapbooking, are an excellent way to enjoy some creative down time and keep your hands occupied. Light exercise while watching TV -- lifting light weights, doing gentle cardio, enjoying simple stretches, getting on a bike or similar apparatus -- is a great way to make TV time healthier, and separate it from the noshing habit.

2) If you're actually hungry later in the evening, consider planning ahead for a healthy snack. For many people, a snack with lots of protein, non-starchy veggies, and a little carbohydrate and fat is ideal.

3) Make sure you're hydrated. If you're not drinking at least 2 liters of plain water daily, you might need to up your water intake.

4) Check in with yourself to see if your needs are getting met. Many people neglect their feelings and needs all day long, then fall into indulgence in the evenings. If this sounds familiar, make a list of ways you can connect with your feelings and meet your real needs, rather than indulging yourself with food.
5) Take a look at how you view TV time. For many of us, TV is an indulgence -- that is, we're thinking, "At last! I get to sit around and do nothing but vegetate for a while!" If that resonates for you, consider finding another way to relax your body and mind.

TV is not designed to be relaxing -- it's meant to be stimulating. If what you need is relaxation, TV is going about it the wrong way, and your needs never get met. That can make it much easier to turn to eating to meet the need. When eating doesn't meet the need, either, people tend to watch more TV...then eat more...and so on. So, instead of viewing TV as your time to veg out, consider connecting TV time with exercise time. That way, you'll break the nighttime noshing habit and meet your exercise goals, too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Are You Hungry...Or Thirsty?

My schedule has been more hectic than usual this past week, and I've been struggling to get in my 4 liters of water every day. My first and second liters are still on schedule, but that third liter has been tricky, and the fourth liter just hasn't been happening.

Happily, things mellow out this week, and next week should be even calmer, so the worst of the tempest is behind me. And there's been an interesting up side to all this focus on hydration. I've been thinking about the connection between hunger and thirst.

You've probably heard that sometimes, when you're hungry, you may be thirsty. I've never heard anyone speculate as to why this might be true. It doesn't make much sense on the surface, does it?

My theory is that because fresh, clean water has historically been challenging to find, a food source of water would be a safer option. And because it's only been recently, historically speaking, that starvation wasn't around the next corner, following up on thirst by eating instead of drinking just might help keep humanity alive.

So, the next time you satisfy your hunger with a big glass of water, you can think to yourself, "Ha! I just overrode thousands of years of genetic programming!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fun With Food Recording

It's February already! How are you doing with weight management? If you're struggling, maybe it's time to think about going back to the basics -- beginning with food recording.

Few people find food recording fun. For some, it's not so much taking the time and effort as it is feeling as though the food record is a harsh, judgmental presence. If that's the case for you, I urge you to consider your food record as your friend and ally instead. We're each doing the best we can for ourselves with the tools we have in each moment. Discovering what we're doing with those tools is the first step in realizing that we need to make a change.

Of course, for many people, food recording is unpleasant because it requires time and effort. While that's true, I've had hundreds (maybe thousands!) of people tell me, "I'd do anything to get this weight off!" Food recording is one of those "anythings" that practically everyone can do -- and it's been proven in study after study to be one of the most important things you can do to lose weight.

Food recording is a daily hassle, but it's really not much more difficult or time-consuming than flossing and brushing your teeth, once you get the hang of it. If you've ever taught a young child to floss and brush, you know it takes time and practice to get good at flossing and brushing. It takes even longer to instill in a young child the value of daily dental hygiene. But with consistent encouragement and reminders, you and I have learned to floss and brush daily -- without even thinking about it, really. For most people, food recording becomes easy enough that they can do it in their head. (That's what I do, actually.) Of course, the trick is...practice, practice, practice!

So, whether you prefer an iPod app, a computer program, track in your daily planner, or use a pocket-sized notebook, keep in mind that your food record is a simple-but-powerful tool in your weight management arsenal. Happy recording!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mindset and the Power of Foods

One of the students in my January "Lose Weight" class posted a comment about doughnuts recently, wondering why something so good had to be so bad. I love doughnuts, especially the ones with powdered sugar, but they make my stomach hurt every time I eat them. What do you do if a food doesn't make you sick -- and it calls to you with a siren's song?

Consider this: You can change how you think about a particular food. In other words, you can change your mindset about that food. What I'm talking about is simply about taking away inappropriate power and influence we give to certain foods, and viewing foods as they really are -- that is, seeing both their positive and their negative aspects, with honesty and without judgment.

Most of us are unaware of the power we give to specific foods. I have an advertisement for a steakhouse that shows a huge slab of baby back ribs, with the caption, "Endless Slab!" Every time I see it, I mentally convert it to "Endless Flab!" Instead of "All-you-can-eat," I think "All-you-can-weigh." And so on. Between social and cultural influences, advertising, and our own personal experiences, it's easy to fall into the trap of losing sight of what a food really does -- and doesn't do -- for you.

How can you change your mindset? Ask yourself, "Aside from this one thing -- flavor, mouthfeel, comfort, etc. -- what does this food bring to me?" Consider nutrition, calories, and how you feel about yourself after you eat it. It's not about banishing the food forever. It's about seeing the food honestly, and considering whether you really want and need to eat it. Once you see a food as it really is, the siren's song will sound off-key...and it loses its power to tempt you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pasta Fagioli

I ran across the inspiration for this recipe online several years ago. I've tinkered with it quite a bit to make it quick and easy to prepare, lower in fat, and flavorful. The ingredients keep for weeks in the fridge, so it makes an excellent emergency cupboard meal. It's definitely become a family fave!

Pasta Fagioli


1 pound pasta (my favorite is rigatoni, but any similar pasta works)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
6 ounces 70% less fat pepperoni, quartered
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1(15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained (and rinsed, if desired)
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground four-peppercorn seasoning
1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese


Prepare pasta according to manufacturer's directions. Meanwhile, saute onion, garlic, and pepperoni in olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until onion is just tender, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato sauce, beans, wine, Italian seasoning, peppercorn, and cheese and simmer until pasta is cooked. Drain pasta and add to sauce. Stir well to combine.

Buon appetit! :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Plateaus, Those Last 10 Pounds, Habits, and You

Losing that last ten or fifteen pounds is hard, isn't it? It's like a weight loss plateau -- you've tried everything to lose weight, but no matter what you do, the scale doesn't budge. It's tempting to go on whatever fad diet is popular, or give up and return to old habits. There's another option, though, and I want to share my recent experience with it today.

I recently started working as a belly dancer in a restaurant. At a restaurant, the expectation is a bra and belt, with the midsection showing. And because I do sword work, including balancing the sword on my hip, wearing a belly cover isn't an option for me. My weight is normal, and it isn't affecting my health, but suddenly, I'm self-conscious about my "baby belly."

I started where everyone should -- by keeping a food record for a few days. I quickly made some interesting observations. First, getting enough water is definitely a challenge for me. And second, I found room for improvement in how much I was eating after coming home from work at night. Lastly, I noticed that I'd fallen into the habit of eating a few chips here, or a nosh there, as I was serving my kids' plates or preparing meals.

I decided to start by upping my water intake to 4 liters a day. (Please, check with your health care professional before you up your fluid intake!) Because of my work schedule, the only way to do this was to drink a liter of water after I get home from work at night.

I quickly observed something: Much of what I do, in terms of eating, is surprisingly habitual. My so-called hunger when I get home from work -- which I'd been tackling with a big bowl of veggies or a salad, followed by a couple of sugar-free popsicles -- was completely alleviated by a liter of water instead.

More intriguing still, I noticed that giving up habits is hard. Not because I was hungry, or because they met my wants or needs in any way. Giving up my previous behaviors was hard simply because they were familiar. I didn't develop them with the intention of comforting myself, and I'm not a fanatic about routines. Yet, I had inadvertently developed routines that support my weight as it is now, and prevent me from taking weight loss to the next level.

Moral of the story? Your food record is your best friend and ally! -- and you can use it to pinpoint areas where you can make small changes. If you're already keeping a food record, I'm challenging you to find one or two areas where you could make minor changes. Are you holding on to drinking one soda a day, or enjoying a glass of wine every evening with dinner? Is there room for improvement with balancing proteins and carbs at meals and snacks? Are you really getting enough non-starchy veggies every day? You get the idea!

When you set goals to make these seemingly small changes, be especially aware of how you feel as you change your behavior. Is it a hard habit to break? If so, what do you need to motivate you to follow through? Do you need a (non-food) reward to inspire you? Develop an affirmation? Ask for help? Whatever you might need, don't be shy about putting in that extra effort. You deserve it! Breaking habits is hard work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Back on Track

I have to admit, I feel like a stereotype, returning to my blog in this particular month. And I'll also admit, I've got some worries, as January is typically a very busy month for me work-wise (and this month is shaping up to be no different than in years past). Nevertheless, I'm ready to get back on track with blogging.

One thing I'm doing differently is this: I'm going to blog once a week, every Monday morning. I'm planning to post one new recipe every month, but the three other blog posts could be just about anything--an article, tips and tricks, or something new about weight management or healthy cooking that I'd like to share with you.

It's good to be back. I'm looking forward to sharing something new with you Monday!