Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thinking About Thanksgiving...

Are you feeling thankful? Or are you worrying about how you'll stay on track with your weight management goals this weekend? If you're leaning toward the latter, you're in good company. Thanksgiving is a challenging holiday, whether you're looking to lose weight or just maintain. After all, the day itself is focused on food! Happily, the day doesn't need to do damage to your weight management goals. Take a look!

Donna's Top Five Thanksgiving Tips
  1. Write it down. Writing down what you're eating is the best way to stay on track with your weight management goals. That said, if you're reluctant to write down everything you eat, it's okay to focus on a specific challenge area. For example, you might keep track of just alcoholic beverages, appetizers, or dessert. Amping up your eating awareness, even if you're only paying attention for some of the day, is better than blindly noshing and munching your way through the day.
  2. Have a plan for stress management. For some, Thanksgiving is a relaxing, enjoyable day with no work and no worries. But for many of us, it's a day fraught with both work and worry. If you use food to help you cope with feelings, give some thought to how you'll manage your feelings more appropriately. Thanksgiving is a perfect day to practice reasonable expectations for yourself and others, work on controlled breathing, explore aromatherapy, and put your assertive communication skills to work. 
  3. Think about physical activity. The idea here isn't to burn off the calories you're eating, but rather, to find a balance between focusing on food and focusing on other aspects of the day. For example, challenge family and friends to a game of tennis or bowling on your gaming system, go outside and toss around a football, or put on some favorite music and dance. Or, maybe you'd benefit from a quiet walk around the neighborhood. Either way, using your body helps you stay in touch with how your body feels and what your body needs. That makes it easier to eat what you need, rather than what you want, when the big meal arrives.
  4. Be thankful. As simple and obvious as it sounds, taking the time to really feel thankful is something that's often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the day. Write down one thing you're thankful for, and post your note where you will see it often as the day progresses. Make a list of your blessings, and share it with others. Give of your time, talent, or treasure to others, or make plan to do so during the holiday season or next year. Enjoy the gifts and blessings you've received this year! 
  5. Keep your goals reasonable. If you usually eat 2 pieces of pie loaded with ice cream and whipped topping, you may find that cutting back to no dessert at all starts of well enough...then morphs into an evening of, "Well, I'll just have a bite of yours...Well, I didn't have dessert, so eating my kid's leftover pie crust should be okay...Well, I haven't really had a plate of my own, so a little sliver won't do me any harm..." It's more reasonable to plan ahead for one piece of pie, with a smaller serving of ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream. That way, you'll have the skills you need to meet your goals, rather than white-knuckling your way through the day.
Now it's your turn...How do you successfully navigate the Thanksgiving holiday? Share your tips with us, and have a healthy, happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Here Comes Halloween!

Yes, it's that time of year again, when goblins and ghosts creep from their lairs! For grown-ups, the scariest part of Halloween has to be the calorie onslaught. Whether you love chocolate candies, sour candies, jelly beans, or the seasonal candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins, there's a candy for practically everyone.  Or, perhaps you're fearing the temptations that leap out from around every corner as we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, and Easter. Whew!

So, what can you do to stave off those extra pounds? Here's a short-but-sweet list of tips to keep the calories at bay during the Halloween season:

Top Five Tips for Handling Halloween
  1. Do you buy candy for trick-or-treaters, and then break into the bag before Halloween? Do it differently this year. Don't buy it early "because it's on sale." You might save a dollar or two buying early, but consider: How much time will you need to burn off all those candy calories? How much is your time worth to you? Is it really a value?
  2. If you must buy candy early, choose candy you don't like. That'll reduce the likelihood of hearing the candy call to you in the middle of the night.
  3. If you're not keeping a food record, start one right now! Even if you're pretty good at eating awareness, the frantic pace of the holiday season makes a food record invaluable. Remember to keep track of what you drink, too.
  4. Make a plan now for physical activity for the rest of October. It's okay to shorten the length or intensity of your workouts, but do your best not to skip workouts. 
  5. If you're working on weight loss, consider changing your focus to weight maintenance through the holiday season.  Weight loss is challenging under the best of circumstances; it's very difficult during the holidays. Maintaining weight, however, is realistic for most people.
Now it's your turn! What do you do to keep the number on the scale from scaring you? Let us know! :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Recipe: Slow Cooker Carnitas

Several years ago, a student in "Luscious" prepared Mexican Pork, and suggested that the same idea could be used for preparing carnitas. I was intrigued, but the project ended up on a back burner, so to speak.

Recently, though, I've been experimenting with preparing carnitas in the slow cooker. I had to experiment a bit to find a balance between a tender final product, with just a hint of citrus, but I'm happy to say I was successful.

Unfortunately, I wasn't as successful with my photography, so you'll have to look at the picture sideways. Ah well...!Buen provecho!

Slow Cooker Carnitas


1 cup bottled minced garlic
6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup water
4 pound pork, well-trimmed of excess fat
7 bay leaves


Combine garlic, orange juice concentrate, and water in slow cooker. Add pork and bay leaves. Cook pork on HIGH for 4 - 6 hours, or on LOW for 6 - 8 hours, or until pork is very tender. Remove bay leaves and discard. Shred pork with two forks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe: Penne Cardinale

A few weeks ago I received a flyer from Buca de Beppo, a nationwide chain that, per its Website, offers "fresh, authentic Italian food served family style." One of the menu items pictured was Penne Cardinale, which appeared to be chicken and artichoke hearts in a white sauce, garnished with green onions.

Everything about that appealed to me, so I looked online for a recipe. I found Buca de Beppo's recipe, and decided to try a healthied-up, lowered-fat version, using tofu in lieu of the cream and butter called for in the original recipe. If you're fond of changing up recipes, or if you live with someone who is, then you know first-hand that sometimes, it works out on the first try. Other times, not so much. Happily, this was one of those perfect-on-the-first-try recipes. My family gave it a 5-star rating, and I agree. I hope you'll enjoy it, too!

Penne Cardinale


1 pound penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1" pieces

5 green onions, sliced (reserve a few tablespoons of the green part of the stalk for garnish, if desired)
2 tablespoons bottled minced garlic (or 6 garlic cloves, minced)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (12-ounce) package silken tofu, drained (I prefer Mori-Nu tofu)
1/2 cup milk (I used plain soy milk)
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1/2 cup white wine (I used a mild Chardonnay)

1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese


Prepare penne according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, green onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often, until chicken is browned and just cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine tofu, milk, and margarine in blender, and puree until very smooth.

Remove skillet from stove. Add tofu mixture, wine, artichoke hearts, and Romano cheese, and stir to combine. Turn stove heat to low. Return skillet to stove, and cook on low, stirring often, until heated through.

In a large bowl, combine chicken mixture and penne, and stir to combine. Garnish with reserved green onions, if desired. Serve immediately.

Chef's Notes: Tofu "cream" sauce doesn't like to be overcooked, so don't hold it on the stove: Serve it as soon as it's ready, and put away the leftovers promptly. When your reheat leftovers, do it gently. The stove top is the safest, but if you have to microwave it, add a little bit of water, use a lower power setting, and stir often.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Recipe: Moroccan Lentil Stew

A student in one of my current sessions remarked that she loves chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), and asked if I had any chickpea recipes to share. I was surprised to discover that I haven't shared this recipe on my blog--it's definitely one of my favorites. Like many Middle Eastern dishes, it's a delightful meld of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors.

Red lentils can be challenging to find, but their color and texture makes them well worth the effort. I purchase them at Rani's, my favorite Indian market. If you don't have a Rani's in your area, you can order from them online at, or look for red lentils at Mediterranean stores, health food stores, or well-stocked larger supermarkets.

Moroccan Lentil Soup


1 (15-ounce) can vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons bottled minced ginger
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (optional)


Combine broth, water, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, paprika, turmeric, and cinnamon in slow cooker. If using, place chicken breasts on top of lentil mixture. Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 - 8 hours, until ingredients are tender. (Soup may take 4 - 6 hours to cook on HIGH if chicken breasts are not added.) If using chicken, shred chicken with two forks, and stir well to combine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making Physical Activity Fun

Did you enjoy physical education when you were in school? I hated PE. Yes, that's right: I was the kid who forgot their tennis shoes, had a stomachache or a headache, etc., etc. Happily, outside of school I had opportunities for activity, and the physical activities I enjoy -- running, walking, skating, tennis, and dancing -- were easy to work into my life, both then and now.

I've been reminiscing about PE, though, because I'm rereading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's excellent book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience," in which he devotes an entire chapter to flow and the body. In short, his perspective is that flow is easily achievable through  physical activity.

That got me thinking: One of the common concerns students and clients present is "How can I get more motivated to exercise?" I still remember being tossed out on the basketball court in middle school, with absolutely no orientation to even the basic skills and rules of the sport. It was miserable! Csikszentmihalyi wouldn't be surprised, as he describes "variety, appropriate and flexible challenges, clear goals, and  immediate feedback" as essentials of the flow experience (page 152).

But typically, when I work with clients and students who don't enjoy physical activity, it's because they're missing a critical element of flow: a sense that the activity they're doing is intrinsically rewarding. Many people equate physical activity with only one positive thing: weight loss. Unfortunately, physical activity does not equal immediate weight loss. If you're exercising only to lose weight, it's easy to get discouraged.

So, if you're using every evasive maneuver in the books to get out of exercise, like I did back in middle school in order to get out of PE, I'm challenging you to answer this question: What did you enjoy doing as a kid? Did you love to climb trees? Roller skate? Play games like hide-and-seek or tag? Dance? Play competitive sports? Write them all down!

Once you've made a list of ways you used to enjoy moving, look at each item. How can you bring some of that into your life now? Be creative, and don't worry about whether you'll burn enough calories, get enough strength training, or work every body part. Just look for ways to have fun while you're moving your body through space. If you're competitive, taking a class, setting a goal for 10,000 steps a day, or running a 5K or 10K might inspire you. If you just wanna have fun, turn on music and dance, take the kids to the pool and play "Marco Polo," shoot hoops, throw around the football, or take the dog for an extra walk. Treat yourself to an indoor climbing session, hit the pool, or play tennis in the Wii. All that's necessary is that you're moving your body through space...and enjoying it, in whatever way works for you.

I'm spending more time in the pool with the kids this summer, and we're racing each other as we walk laps in the water. I have no idea how many calories I'm burning, but we're having fun -- and it's definitely physically demanding! What physical activity can you add into your week, so you'll be having fun while moving your body through space? Share your ideas with us!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Recipe: Pesto Pizza

Let the culinary adventures continue! A student in my July session mentioned that she prepared Greek Pizza using pesto as her pizza base, rather than using a tomato-based sauce. I love pesto, but to bring down the calories and fat while still enjoying plenty of sauce, I experimented with adding pesto to white sauce. It was a huge hit with my family: Even my meat-loving son preferred it to the other pizzas we made that night.

Cook's Note: I used lowered-fat, reduced sodium canned condensed cream of chicken soup as my "white sauce" base, but if you prefer to make your own white sauce, it's easy to do: Combine 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of flour in a container with a lid, and shake well. Add the mixture to a saucepan with a teaspoon or two of butter or margarine. Cook on medium-high, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens (do not allow mixture to boil).

Pesto Pizza


1 (10.5-ounce) can lowered-fat, reduced sodium canned condensed cream of chicken soup (see Cook's Note)
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
2 pizza crusts
Pizza toppings, as desired (I used chopped poached chicken, diced eggplant, and diced tomato)
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese


Combine soup and pesto in small bowl. Spread half of mixture on each pizza. Layer with toppings and cheese. Cook, following pizza crust manufacturer's directions or pizza crust recipe. Buon appetito!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recipe: Tiramisu

At the end of last school year, my daughter wrote a report titled "The Way Italians Eat," and we prepared tiramisu for her to share with her class. If you've taken my online class "Luscious," you know that desserts aren't my forte, and it won't come as a surprise to learn we used a recipe, which I'd never tried before.

I've only had tiramisu once before, but I still remembered it, and the recipe we prepared was a huge disappointment. So, I set to work developing a lighter tiramisu that stills offers the intense flavors of coffee and rum, blended with a sweet-tangy cream cheese filling.

This version satisfies, but it's much lower in fat and calories, thanks to Neufchatel cream cheese, fat-free Greek yogurt, fat-free angel food cake, and rum extract. Sugar substitute lowers calories and carbs. As an added bonus, Greek yogurt is low in carbs and high in protein, which helps maintain blood sugar levels.



1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon sugar substitute
2 teaspoons imitation rum extract
12 ounces Neufchatel (reduced-fat) cream cheese
2 cups fat-free Greek yogurt
3/4 cup sugar substitute
8 ounces angel food cake
Cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles, or shaved chocolate (optional)


Combine hot water, coffee, 1 tablespoon sugar substitute, and rum extract in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer, combine cream cheese, yogurt, and 3/4 cup sugar substitute in large bowl on medium speed until smooth (about 1 minute). Increase mixer speed to high and continue mixing for 5 minutes, scraping down sides once. Set aside.

Cut cake into 1/2" slices. Quickly dip both cut sides of cake into coffee mixture (don't soak!), then layer half of the slices in an 8" x 8" baking pan to cover the bottom of the pan.

Cover cake with 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers, ending with cream cheese mixture. Chill for 4 - 6 hours.

Just before serving, sprinkle with cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles, or chocolate shavings as a garnish, if desired.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Need a Little Motivation? Try a Power Hour!

Do you sometimes feel like you're swimming upstream when it comes to living healthfully? As we move through the middle of the year, it can be easy to start drifting from those January 1st resolutions to eat healthy, move more, get enough rest, manage stress, drink more water, and self-nurture.

One of the things I do to help me stay on track with weight management is to schedule what I call a "Power Hour" into my weekend. (If things are especially crazy, I'll schedule a "Power Half Hour" instead.) I light incense I find inspiring, then break out my planner. I then spend my hour reviewing my SMART goals for the year, the month, and the week.

How does this help me maintain my weight? First and foremost, my Power Hours are a time to reconnect with my values. One of the things I value is my health, so many of my goals express my intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for managing my weight.

A Power Hour is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what goals are working for me, and bask in my successes. It's also a time to reflect on what isn't working, and consider how I can do things differently and better.

Because our culture offers up so many distractions to good health, I find my Power Hours an essential tool for weight management. (Power Hours help me stay on track with other goals, too!) If you're not already enjoying a similar ritual, I encourage you to experiment with creating a Power Hour that works for you. Come back and let us know what you do, and how it goes!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recipe: Lowered-Sodium Onion Dip

One of my facebook Friends recently requested a vegetable dip recipe. Personally, my favorite veggie dip is hummus, but my husband is fond of onion dip, made with dehydrated soup mix. I like the flavor of onion dip, but it's a high-sodium snack option: One cup of onion dip contains about 2,400 milligrams of sodium from the soup mix alone. Before the Super Bowl earlier this year, I experimented with a lowered-sodium version of onion dip. I use fat-free Greek yogurt because it's a good source of protein, which benefits my husband's blood sugar levels, but you can use fat-free or low-fat sour cream instead.

Lowered-Sodium Onion Dip


16 ounces fat-free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup dehydrated diced onion
3 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium Worchestershire sauce


Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recipe: Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce

Sometimes students in my online classes post the question, "How do I get from understanding how to change up a recipe to actually doing it?" In part, the answer to that question is that experience is the best teacher!

That said, there are times when I consciously make decisions about recipes. Recently I ran across a recipe for Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce in a facebook post. I was immediately intrigued: How often, aside from making Thanksgiving stuffing, do you get to use sage? I love pumpkin, and I'm always on the lookout for new pumpkin recipes. And, as many of you know, I adore smooth-and-creamy sauces, especially when they're lowered-fat and loaded with phytochemicals.

So, I prepared the recipe, with a few alterations: I switched from one finely-chopped shallot to 1/2 white onion, halved and thinly sliced. Also, I eliminated the purchased Alfredo sauce, and replaced it with my own recipe for Tofredo sauce (Alfredo sauce made from tofu, rather than cream).

Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the final product. Although I enjoy recipes that balance sweet and savory flavors, this recipe leaned too far in the direction of sweet, even for me. The chopped walnuts suggested as a garnish were essential for helping balance the flavors. My family ate it, but didn't like it, and were reassured when I promised to change it up next time.

What to do? I made two changes that completely changed the balance of flavors. Because the recipe was too sweet, I first increased the onion to one whole onion, rather than one-half. Second, I added in even more savory flavor by including a tablespoon of garlic. (I also added in the ground sage with the onion and garlic, rather than adding it at the end, so it had both oil and time in which to release its essential oils more effectively.)

I'm happy to report that my family loved the updated version of this recipe. I'm a huge fan of it, too: It's smooth and creamy, reasonably healthy, and definitely lightning-quick and easy to prepare. As a side note, it's amazingly good with broccoli, and because the recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, we found that we really didn't need butter or oil on the broccoli. So, without further ado:

Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce


1 (24-ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ground sage
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic (or 3 large garlic cloves, minced)
12 ounces silken tofu (I prefer Mori-Nu, but House is an acceptable brand as well)
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup strongly-flavored fresh shredded Italian cheese, such as Asiago
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn mix
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 (14-ounce) can pumpkin puree
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


Prepare ravioli according to manufacturer's directions. Drain, set aside, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook onions, garlic, and sage in olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until onions are tender. Reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, combine tofu, milk, cheeses, peppercorn mix, nutmeg, and cayenne in blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. Add tofu puree and pumpkin mixture to onion mixture and combine. Do not bring sauce to a boil. Add ravioli to pan and combine. Serve immediately.

Garnish with chopped walnuts and chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Here Comes Summer...Traveling!

Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching! Are you planning a summer vacation? My idea of a perfect vacation involves spending a few months in another state or country, really absorbing the culture (and, of course, sampling all the food!).

We're staying put this year, but if you're planning to get out of town, now's the time to plan ahead for successful weight management while you're vacationing. Here are a few tips:
  1. Keep your goals SMART--and in particular, keep your goals Realistic. In working with clients and students, my observation has been that weight management is usually a more realistic goal than weight loss, even if you're successfully losing weight right now. It's much better to come back from vacation weighing the same than it is to start over again losing those 3 pounds you lost last month.
  2. Plan ahead for physical activity. Many clients and students find that their vacation plans naturally lend themselves to exercise. For example, cruises--despite the food temptations--are where many of my clients have lost weight on vacation. One client deliberately booked her cabin on the lowest floor, and took the stairs at every opportunity. Another explored a variety of different exercise classes (and fell in love with yoga in the process). I've had many clients book walking tours, and squeeze in their physical exercise while taking in the local scene.
  3. Plan ahead for healthy eating. When we head out for a road trip, I pack lots of raw fruits and veggies for noshing on while we're driving. I also pack some healthy meal options for when we arrive. Whether you're headed for the airport, cruise liner, or a road trip, you can likewise enjoy weight management success by looking ahead for challenges, planning ahead for how to handle them, and following through on your plans.
  4. Plan ahead for assertive communication. When meals involve family, it can be challenging to say no to Grandma's meatloaf, lasagna, or tacos. Now's the time to decide how you'll handle relatives who believe food is love: Do you need to ask Auntie to pack up an extra helping of her potato salad to go? Or tell Grandma that "It looks so good, and I can't wait to try some later, but right now I'm not hungry"?
  5. Plan ahead for adequate hydration. Between my walnut-sized bladder and my reluctance to pay for bottled water, getting in enough water can be challenging. Think ahead to when you can squeeze in a little extra water before you get started on your day's activities.
With a little planning ahead, and just a bit of effort, you can maintain--or even lose--weight while you're on vacation. It's worth it! What's your biggest vacation weight management challenge? What successes have you had? Sound off below, and let us know!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Recipe: Tofu Shakes

Mocha Tofu Shake
It's warming up here in the desert--in fact, we're looking forward to triple-digit temperatures this weekend. In preparation for the hot summer weather, my kids and I have been experimenting with tofu-based "milk"shakes. They're refreshing, low-carb, and high-protein, so we usually enjoy them for a snack. However, they're so delish you could easily serve them as a dessert: Just serve your shakes in pretty glasses with fancy straws. 

I definitely recommend Mori-Nu tofu for these recipes--other tofus have a stronger flavor. If you experiment with another brand, make sure you use a silken tofu.

Key Lime Pie Tofu Shakes

If you enjoyed the Tofu Key Lime Pie in my online cooking class "Luscious," you'll love this shake! It's the same sweet-tart flavor, but in a smooth-and-creamy shake.


2 (12-ounce) packages Mori-Nu tofu
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh lime zest
4 - 6 cups crushed ice
4 graham crackers, finely crushed


Combine tofu, lime juice, nectar, and zest in blender until very smooth. Add ice, 2 cups at a time, and blend until mixture reaches the consistency of a milkshake. Add graham crackers and mix briefly. Serve immediately.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you're in the mood for something more grown-up, here's a more mature take on tofu shakes:

Mocha Tofu Shake


2 (12-ounce) packages Mori-Nu tofu
4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2/3 cup agave nectar
4 - 6 cups crushed ice


Combine tofu, cocoa powder, coffee granules, and agave in blender until very smooth. Add ice and combine until mixture is the consistency of a milkshake. Serve immediately.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here's one last tofu shake idea. Although sugar-free drink mixes contain sweeteners, don't omit the agave nectar: It lowers the freezing point of the shake, so the final product is smooth and creamy, instead of icy. You can use any flavor that appeals to you; we like cherry with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder for a cherry-chocolate shake, or limeade with crushed graham crackers.

Favorite Flavor Tofu Shake


2 (12-ounce) packages Mori-Nu tofu
1 packet (makes 2 quarts beverage) sugar-free drink mix
1/4 cup agave nectar
4-6 cups crushed ice


Combine tofu, drink mix, and agave in blender until very smooth. Add ice and blend until mixture is the consistency of a milkshake. Serve immediately.

If you give any these recipes a try, please come back and let us know what you tried, and how it was. I love hearing from you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Think Outside the Mother's Day Gift Box...

Mother's Day is right around the corner! Whether you're a mom, or thinking about a gift for your mom, now's the time to get a jump on the perfect gift -- or start hinting for the perfect gift!.

I have nothing against flowers or brunch, but how about something different...something that will give Mom a weight loss or weight maintenance boost? Here are a few outside-the-box ideas to get you started!
  • Consider color therapy (also known as chromotherapy): At the top of my Mother's Day gift list is this LED color-changing light. I'm already thinking about how I'll enjoy a lavender-scented bath with a violet light. Want to learn more about chromotherapy? Check out Color Therapy Association's Web site at this link.
  • Experiment with aromatherapy: Did you know peppermint is associated with weight loss? Treat Mom to peppermint tea, peppermint incense ( offers a peppermint-pine incense intended for the holidays, but it's delish all year long), or a peppermint-scented aromatherapy candle.
  • Give Mom a back rub. One of my favorite Mother's Day gifts was a massage mat for the car. I'm grateful for it every time I get in the van!
  • Pay for a class. Pick up the tab for a fun new exercise class, like kickboxing or bikram yoga. Or, maybe Mom's into a self-nurturing activity like painting, perfumery, or gardening.
  • Pick up the tab for a special treat. Treat Mom to a massage, a hair appointment, a spa day, or a mani-pedi.
  • Pick up the tab for new equipment. I'm almost reluctant to include this, because giving one of these gifts can easily be misconstrued. That said, new running shoes, a gorgeous new yoga outfit, a pedometer, or a fancy new scale can give the mom who's serious about weight management a terrific boost. (But don't even think about giving Mom one of these gifts unless your mom has specifically asked!)
Now, a question for moms: What's the best Mother's Day gift you've received? Let us know below!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Recipe: Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes and Onions

Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes and Onions
Indian cuisine is, hands down, my favorite food. I'm lucky, because most Indian recipes are wonderfully healthy: They're usually low in fat, loaded with non-starchy veggies, often vegan, and always flavorful.

My first Indian cookbook was Shehzad Husain’s “Healthy Indian Cooking,” and her take on this recipe was the first recipe I made from it. I’ve made several adjustments to the original recipe to make it more flavorful and easier to prepare, although you'll probably need to visit an Indian market (or shop online) to find black mustard seeds and neem leaves. It'll be worth the trip! If you prepare it, please come back and tell us how it goes, and what you think of it. I love hearing from you!

Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes and Onions


2 tablespoons canola oil
2 yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
6 curry leaves (neem leaves)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon bottled minced ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large eggplant, chopped in 1" cubes
1 cup water
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes


Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, mustard seeds, and curry leaves, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste, coriander, garlic, ginger, and lemon juice, and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes, or until onions are soft.

Add eggplant, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes. Add water and cook for 3 - 5 minutes, until eggplant is just tender. Add cilantro, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes, and mix well. Cook until just heated through before serving.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Self-Esteem: A Weighty Matter?

One of the questions I'm asked most often is, "How can I lose weight fast?" I'm sometimes tempted to answer this question at face value by saying, "Give your body exactly the amount of activity, nutrition, hydration, and rest it needs, manage stress, and overcome the effects of aging, medications, and other factors that affect your weight, and do this perfectly every day until you reach your desired weight." (Whew!)

Of course, I don't say that. It's not that I'm not in favor of people maintaining a weight that compromises their health. Rather, my observation, both personal and professional, has been that most of the time, the desire to lose weight overnight has its roots in something deeper than body size.
For many of us, weight loss has everything to do with self-esteem; that is, the belief that we are lovable. Many of us believe that our self-esteem is directly related to how we look. If we look good, we deserve to be loved; if we're not looking our best, it's our own fault we're not lovable, or loved.

It's true that these kinds of beliefs lend a false sense of control: "When I lose weight, then everything will be perfect!" However, they're not grounded in reality. In fact, self-esteem is entirely an inside job. As children, we turn to our parents and ask the question, "Am I lovable?" The way our parents respond guides our beliefs about our self-esteem. But once we become adults, we are free to decide. It's entirely up to you to determine if you're lovable, or not so much. Whatever you choose will become your reality.

A better, more inspiring, perspective is to look at the skills we need for successful weight management as tools to keep ourselves healthy and happy, instead of focusing on thinner and happy. So, here's your challenge for the week: Make a list of the things your body does right and well. Does your body get you from place to place? Make it possible for you to connect with others? Give birth? Digest your food? Write them down!

Then, the next time you feel frustrated with your weight, take a deep breath and remind yourself of what your body does well. Instead of pushing yourself to lose weight fast, what can you do to show some appreciation to your body for all it does for you?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Affirmations: How Talking to Yourself Could Be Helpful to Your Health

Do you appreciate the power of your mind? Maybe you can't bend spoons or predict the future, but your thoughts are one of the most powerful weight management tools available.

Why? Because what we think matters. What we think influences how we feel and what we do. As the saying goes, Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right. This is just as true for weight loss and weight maintenance as it is any other area of life.

So, how can you harness the power of your mind to help you reach and maintain your weight management goals? Try experimenting with affirmations. Affirmations are short, positive statements that give you the encouragement you need to stay on track with a particular goal. Some examples of affirmations include:
  • "A little exercise is better than none at all."
  • "The world is my gym!"
  • "I eat healthy to nourish my body."
  • "I love to drink water!"
  • "I am learning to manage my stress without using food."
To make your affirmations really work for you, here a few tips:

  • Affirmations are best when they're short, and they focus only on one goal at a time. That way, they're easier to remember!
  • Focus on the positive as you develop your affirmations. Good phrases to use are "I will," "I can," "I like," and "I want." Avoid using won't, can't, don't, or shouldn't.
  • Be aware of the power of words. If the mere word exercise makes you cringe, don't use it; call it activity, movement, "me time," or simply call your chosen activity by its name--yoga, power walking, kickboxing.
  • Learn from others. One of the most powerful affirmations I've used was originally a comment posted by a student in my online weight loss class. "I love to drink water!"  
When you put SMART goals, reward plans, and affirmations together, the results can be remarkable. People do lose and maintain weight, but that becomes secondary to other, unexpected benefits: They see themselves as capable, find themselves enjoying the journey, and inspire others to join in with them in their healthy lifestyle changes. It may seem random at first glance, but it all makes sense: SMART goals provide a solid guideline for success. Reward plans make the journey pleasant. Thinking positively attracts others.

What do you think? Have you experimented with SMART goals, reward plans, or affirmations? Do you have questions about how to make these tools work for you? Let us know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SMART Goals, Reward Plans, and More Motivation, Oh My!

One of the questions I hear most often goes something along the lines of, "Can you give me some motivation? I have a bad habit of really going all-out with weight loss, and then I just give up." While there's no magic wand, there are several proven techniques to bolster motivation:

First, set SMART goals that result in weight loss or maintenance. A SMART goal is one that is:
  • Specific -- you know exactly what, when, where, and how you'll to reach your goal
  • Measurable -- you can count, measure, or in some tangible way, know when you've reached your goal
  • Achievable -- your goal is one that you can accomplish
  • Realistic -- given how your life is and who you are right now, your goal is doable
  • Time-limited -- your goal has a stated beginning and ending (and remember, "for the rest of my life" doesn't count!)
So, a SMART goal might be, "I am going to drink 3 liters of water every day for the next two weeks, by drinking one liter before and on my way to work, one liter during the work day, and one liter after I get home at night." Or, you might set a goal like, "I'm going to write down everything I eat and drink for a month by writing it down in a pocket notebook at home, and using a smartphone app when I'm out of the house."

SMART goals are a great way to help you stay motivated. That's because they shift focus from weight loss, which isn't entirely within your control, to specific things you can realistically do--which is entirely within your control.

Second, use the time-limited aspect of SMART goals to develop a reward plan. I suggest changing up the wording of your SMART goal slightly, by stating the number of days you will accomplish your goal before you enjoy your reward. So, instead of using time frames like "two weeks" or "one month," state the number of days in your reward plan. For example, your reward plan might sound like, "After I drink 3 liters of water for 14 days, I'll reward myself with a new album for my MP3 player," or "After I write down everything I eat and drink for 30 days, I'll reward myself with a facial."

A reward plan acknowledges a basic truth about weight management: Consistency matters more than perfection. (That's a weight management truth the diet mentality would prefer you didn't know!) A reward plan acknowledge slips and slides. That's good--it allows you to see where you need to make changes and improvements. But your reward plan also keeps you focused on your SMART goal, and gives you credit, so to speak, for the things you're doing right and well.

That focus on the positive really matters when it comes to motivation. There's a saying about raising children that goes, "I won't remember what you said or what you did...but I'll remember how you made me feel." The same is true of losing weight and keeping it off. If your SMART goals leave you feeling anxious or depressed, working up the motivation to follow through on them is tough! After you enjoy a reward or two, it becomes easier to follow through on your SMART goals until they become habits that feel natural and easy (most of the time, anyway).

There's another tip you can use to boost motivation, and we'll talk about it next week. Until then, make sure your goals are SMART, and start working toward those reward plans! Want a little extra accountability, or a little more support as you work toward your goals? Post 'em below...we're here for you!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's Alert Day! Are You At Risk? Find Out!

I'm pre-empting my usual weekly blog post in order to share the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Risk Test. Type 2 diabetes isn't just a professional interest; my husband was diagnosed with type 2 in our first year of marriage. I can assure you, reducing your risk of developing type 2 is considerably less challenging than managing diabetes!

So, I strongly encourage you to take the Diabetes Risk Test to see how you fare. Then share the link with others so they can take the Test, too. Just click here!

There's never a bad day to find out if you're at risk for type 2, but today's an especially good day: It's the 24th Annual American Diabetes Association Alert Day. For every person that takes the Risk Test, Boar's Head (R) will donate $5 to the American Diabetes Association, up to $50,000. So please, take the Risk Test today, and share it with everyone you know.

I'll be back next week, and we'll talk about how to use tangible, non-food rewards to help you reach your SMART weight management goals...and happily, those goals will also help you reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, please take the Diabetes Risk Test and let us know what you think of it. I tested as "lower risk," but the test didn't consider several factors that place me at higher risk. What say you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Recipe: Cinnamon-Chipotle Rub

Two summers ago, my husband found a new rub for chicken at the grocery store, and tried it out on boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I was immediately smitten with the rub's intriguing combination of sweet cinnamon and spicy chipotle, which married perfectly with the savory richness of chicken thighs.

Unfortunately, the first ingredient was salt. Just two teaspoons of the rub contained 500 milligrams (21% DV) of sodium! If you've taken "Luscious," you know I don't use salt in cooking, and I choose lower-sodium options whenever I can.

So, after a bit of experimenting, I developed my own salt-free cinnamon-chipotle rub. It offers all the flavor intrigue of the original--without providing all the sodium. (I didn't include maltodextrin, vinegar solids, or modified corn starch, either.) My taste testers unanimously preferred my version to the original, noting "I can taste the flavors instead of mostly just salt."

Spicy Cinnamon-Chipotle Rub

This recipe is on the spicy side. If you prefer your meals mild-not-wild, reduce the amount of chipotle chili pepper powder. 


6 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute, such as Splenda
6 tablespoons ground paprika
2 tablespoons chipotle chili pepper powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
5 dashes fresh-ground peppercorn mix


Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and mix well. Makes enough rub for 6 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Feeling Angry? Check This Out!

“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” – Lyman Abbott

Did the people who raised you teach you how to be angry? Are you comfortable expressing anger, and can you manage your anger appropriately? For many of us, the answers to these questions make us uncomfortable: We haven’t learned how to express anger at all, or we allow our anger to turn into rage.

Either way, that’s unfortunate, because our feelings so often dictate our behavior. When our feelings are out of control, it usually leads to out-of-control behavior—including eating behavior. For example, you might eat to smother anger “because it’s not nice to get mad.” Or, you may let anger turn to rage, then eat “because I need to calm myself down.”

Because the function of food is to nurture our bodies, not manage our feelings, eating to control emotions generally doesn’t end well. When we manage our feelings appropriately, managing our eating is considerably easier. So, it’s worthwhile to make sure we’re managing our feelings, including anger, as effectively as we can.

Many people learn, either directly or indirectly, that anger is “bad” or “wrong.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with anger, per se. That said, anger becomes unhealthy when it’s a cover for another uncomfortable feeling. When someone cuts you off in traffic, you might respond with an angry comment or gesture. Does anger really make sense in that moment, though? When someone puts you in physical danger, a more reasonable response is fear.

So, why do we see road rage, instead of road fear? The answer is simple: Anger creates distance. When we need to create distance in relationships, anger is the right response. But when the needed emotional response is sadness, fear, or guilt, responding with anger creates distance between us and the situation. But it also creates distance between us and our feelings underneath the anger.

That’s unfortunate, because the feelings from which we distance ourselves don’t go away. You can run, but you can’t hide from your feelings! Instead, it makes more sense to feel our feelings as we experience them, even when they’re not fun. Once we experience our feelings fully, they fade away.

An equally common challenge in managing anger is keeping it from turning into rage. Many of us were raised by parents who allowed themselves to get out of control when they got angry. Sometimes that creates an unconscious expectation that sounds like, “Now that I’m an adult, I can do what I want!” Unfortunately, that’s not a very healthy perspective. Most of us really want to act on the expectation, “I do the right thing, no matter what.” Getting so angry that you hurt yourself, others, or things is rarely the right thing to do, and it often leaves us feeling worse instead of better.

Are you ready to work on managing your anger more effectively? Here are a few starting points:

Be aware of your feelings. Practice identifying anger as soon as it starts, so you can connect with just how angry you are. When anger comes up, approach it with curiosity: Is there another feeling underneath? If so, what is it? How can you deal with that emotion, instead of getting angry?

Have a plan. If you’re the type to slide right from anger into rage, plan ahead. Count backward from ten in a foreign language, practice controlled breathing, or have a calming mantra handy. If you tend to let your anger simmer, make a plan to talk with others about resentments when they’re minor, rather than waiting until things are unbearable.

I’m not one to let my feelings simmer quietly, so I practice approaching my anger with curiosity, and asking myself, “Under my anger, what am I really feeling?”Sometimes I’m genuinely mad, but because feeling fear is hard for me, under my anger I often find fear. When I address my feelings of fear, it’s sometimes overwhelming how well things go for me! What about you? Where are you with managing your anger? Sound off below!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

That's Me...Who Are You?, Part II

Last week we touched on how personality can affect one's weight management journey, with a focus on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. julie h. asked how the Enneagram might play into weight management, and I must admit, I was delighted by her question. I'm partial to the Enneagram for a number of reasons, but my favorite thing about the Enneagram relates directly to weight management: The focus of the Enneagram isn’t just personality typing. It reveals one’s type and where that individual falls on a continuum of psychic health. Once you identify your type, you discover how a healthy, an average, or an unhealthy person within that type expresses themselves.

(On a side note, one of the beauties of the Enneagram is that it not only points to a level of psychic health, but predicts how a specific type will respond when under stress. For example, a Two will act, entirely out of character, like an Eight, while a Seven will seemingly morph into a One.)

Psychic health--how psychologically healthy we are--is of critical import when it comes to weight management. Many of us manage our feelings through things we do (or don’t do) to our bodies. Being able to successfully manage feelings--that is, having a high level of psychic health--makes it possible to follow through on weight management goals with ease, rather than white-knuckling our way through them. Whether your indulgence is soda, alcohol, junk TV, binge eating, mindless eating, neglecting exercise, or negative self-talk, the better your psychic health, the easier it will be to transcend your indulgent behavior. That is, as you progress through the levels of health within your own Enneagram type, you'll find it naturally easier and easier to follow through on your goals, and managing your weight will be a natural side effect.

In addition, I’ve noticed there are tendencies in each type that affect weight management. For example, Twos, Sixes, and Nines share “nice guy” tendencies that make them susceptible to the tendency to take better care of others than they do of themselves. Ones, Threes, and Sevens can be especially impulsive or flighty, which can lead them to vicious cycles of overindulgence followed by strict diets or workouts.

Riso observes in “Wisdom of the Enneagram” (p 68) that there are three “harmonic groups.” In working with clients, I’ve observed that the Positive Outlook Group (Twos, Sevens, and Nines) does indeed “tend to deny they have a problem”—which can be a serious problem when it comes to making weight management changes! The Competency Group (Ones, Threes, and Fives) prefers to deal with problems logically, rather than emotionally. They’re often excellent record-keepers, but can struggle with making connections between what they record and how it’s affecting their health. The Reactive Group (Fours, Sixes, and Eights) “need response from others,” which can mean they can be unusually susceptible to extrinsic motivators that give them a boost to begin with, but fail them in the long run—and they can really struggle to dig deep within to find those intrinsic motivators that will help them be successful for a lifetime.

I remember knowing as a teenager that I wasn’t the same person I had been when I was five years old, and feeling frustrated that I couldn't figure out how to recapture the essence of the child I remembered. While discovering through the Enneagram that I wasn’t as emotionally healthy as I thought I was didn’t sit well with me, it did give me a glimpse as to what being a healthy version of me as an adult would look like. Using the Enneagram as a pathway for psychic change has helped me reconnect with that five-year-old self I remember. In the process, I’ve been able to let go of using food, exercise, negative self-talk, and other strategies to feel safe. Instead, I’ve learned to choose healthy ways to manage my feelings and order my life.

What about you? Have you used the Enneagram, or another personality test, and found what you learned about yourself helpful in your weight management journey? Post below and tell us about it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

That's Me...Who Are You?

A student in "Lose Weight" recently asked a question about the role of personality in weight management. That's not something we delve into in the course, and knowing a little something about your personality can indeed make your weight management journey easier. So, let's take a quick look at two popular personality tests, and see how you can use them to your advantage!

One of the most popular personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I've had many people tell me, "Oh, that's that letter test--I'm two letters--I forget which, though." The test divides personalities into four major groups--Artisan (SP), Guardian (SJ), Idealist (NF), and Rationals (NT). From there, each major group is divided into four sub-groups.

If you haven't taken the Myers-Briggs, and you'd like to know your temperament, you can take it here (you'll have to share your e-mail address, though). If you know your temperament, this link will take you to an overview of the four basic temperaments, and from there, you can learn more about the 16 sub-temperaments.

From a weight management perspective, it's worthwhile to note the differences--and possible challenges--posed by the way people approach their goals. Utilitarians--SPs and NTs--focus on getting the job done. This can make the diet mentality extremely tempting--they want to lose the weight yesterday, and they can fall prey to whatever works, even if it's harmful in the long run. That said, once a Utilitarian is convinced of the usefulness of a particular behavior--keeping a food record, for example--they can embrace it wholeheartedly. Once they take on the challenges of lifestyle change, they can be exceedingly effective at acheiving it.

Cooperators--SJs and NFs--are more concerned with doing what's right. They're often more quick to embrace the idea of lifestyle change. However, their challenge tends to be staying focused on the specific tasks that make lifestyle change work in the long run. In particular, they often find it hard to balance their needs against others' needs--and very often, they sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.

For many years, I was a fan of the Myers-Briggs. About five years ago, I discovered the Enneagram, and this version of personality typing has become my preference. The Enneagram offers nine basic types: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker. I'm partial to the way Enneagram Institute explains the Enneagram. You can take a free (no e-mail address required) sample Enneagram sorter here.

There's much to appreciate about the Enneagram, but my favorite aspect of it is that it focuses on individual levels of emotional health within each personality type. If you do one thing with regard to weight management, becoming more emotionally healthy just might be your best bet!

If you're interested in some self-exploration, the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram has been especially useful to me. I won't say that the journey has been an easy one. Seeing myself with clarity, including my less-than-perfect elements, wasn't always pleasant. If you're willing to do the work, though, becoming a better version of oneself is some of the most important work we do in life...and that spills over into weight management.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's Fat Tuesday!

Today's Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras. (It sounds better in French, doesn't it?) In Christian tradition, Fat Tuesday is a day of feasting, with a special focus on meat and poultry. Its purpose is to prepare Christians for Ash Wednesday, a 40-day season of fasting and abstaining that immediately precedes Easter.

Fasting has been on my radar since school started in September, and I've been doing some reading on its effects on health and weight. This came about after a few particularly hectic mornings juggling work, homeschooling my three kids, and housework. It wasn't a stressful morning--in fact, I accomplished quite a bit, and felt good about the morning's work. When lunchtime arrived, I realized I'd had my morning coffee (which incorporates an entire cup of low-fat soymilk), but completely forgotten to have breakfast. Because I'd been so happily busy, I hadn't noticed I was hungry.

After three or four of these mornings in a month's time, I noticed I lost a little size, specifically--and intriguingly--in my midsection. I've always been an apple, and since perimenopause kicked into high gear about 10 years ago, I've found it wildly difficult to lose weight in my abdomen. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this change.

So, I began doing a little research into fasting. Most organized religions incorporate some kind of fasting into their spiritual practices. And as it turns out, fasting has some surprising health benefits. (Of course, there are risks, especially if you are taking medications or have an existing health condition, so use common sense, and talk to your health care professional before you begin a fasting program.) Fasting is associated with longevity, weight loss, and a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes.

There are different kinds of fasts, but the most approachable is a partial fast. In this type of fast, calories are reduced by about one-half, for one day. If weight loss is desired, the faster resumes their normal eating pattern the following day.

If you've ever dieted, that probably sounds really familiar. As you know, I'm not a fan of the diet mentality, so you may be wondering if my philosophy has changed. Rest assured, it hasn't. There's a body of research that suggests harsh dieting results in the release of stress hormones. In contrast, the research I've been reading suggests that when people fast for spiritual reasons, they feel calm and at peace. Researchers assume that's because religious fasters feel a sense of connection to like-minded fasters, as well as a sense of moral improvement.

But what if you're not a religious, or even a spiritual, person? There's some research that suggests fasting like the kind I accidentally created--in which the faster keeps occupied, preferably with enjoyable tasks--is comparable to spiritual fasting.

So, if fasting is a part of your spiritual tradition at this time of year, consider exploring it as a way to improve not only your spiritual health, but your physical health as well. If you've never tried fasting, or if your experiences with fasting were along the lines of the diet mentality, you might consider experimenting with fasting by reducing one or two meals a day in half, and "filling up" on activities that satisfy you instead. If you do, don't forget to share with us what you try, and how it goes! What do you think right now? Would you be willing to consider it? Sound off below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Recipe: Updated Macaroni and Cheese

I'm not sure how this tradition evolved, but for the past few years, we've celebrated birthdays by allowing the birthday girl or boy to choose the entire day's menu. My daughter celebrated her eleventh birthday this weekend, and she chose some typical kid favorites, like blueberry pancakes with whipped cream for breakfast, and corn dogs for lunch. I was secretly delighted, though, when she specifically requested Spicy Chipotle Hummus with cucumber slices as a side for lunch, and she wanted Macaroni & Cheese with broccoli for dinner.

When I prepared dinner, I got to thinking about some experimenting I've been doing lately with a lowered-sodium onion dip recipe. Onion powder is a great flavor booster, and because it's commonly used in processed foods, its flavor is reminiscent of many kid-friendly box meals -- including mac & cheese. As it turned out, sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. I was so impressed by how much betteer this recipe tastes with onion powder, I'm updating the recipe here. Enjoy!

Macaroni & Cheese


1 pound macaroni (or other small pasta, like shells or bowties)
1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu (or other silken 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 onion 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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeling Anxious? Check This Out!

Over the years, I've begun to suspect that while we all feel the basic human emotions, each of us has one uncomfortable feeling we really struggle to manage. My daughters both wrangle with guilt, in opposite ways: One apologizes to the wall when she bumps into it, while the other struggles to apologize at all. My husband tends to slide from feeling sad right into self-pity. We all know someone who goes from angry to out-of-control enraged.

My son and I both struggle with anxiety. It's all-too-easy for us to go from fear right to panic. Both of us sometimes struggle with getting stuck in our anxiety, a response that's sometimes termed a freeze response. So, I was delighted when I received an e-mail from Stin Hansen that contained five tips for overcoming anxiety and the freeze response. You can read her excellent blog post on this subject here.

I've found each of these tools useful in different situations. (That said, the fourth tip, Distraction, should be interpreted with caution. One thing you don't want to distract yourself with is food or alcohol!) If anxiety is a challenge for you, I hope you'll find these ideas help you identify and manage your feelings successfully.

If anxiety isn't your issue, no worries! You'll find affirmations, guided visualizations, writing exercisings, and a host of other free tools on Stin's Website to help you become your best self. Just click the "free meditations & workouts" link on the left-hand side of the page, then choose an area and enjoy your free sample! If you like what you see, you can become a member and take advantage of a wealth of self-help products Stin offers (and no, I won't receive a commission of any kind).

If you check out Stin's site, please come back and tell us what you think of it! Also, we'll talk about rage, self-pity, or guilt this year, but if one of these is making it harder for you to stay on track with your weight management goals, and you'd like to tackle one of these next, post below and let me know!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Smaller Fork, Smaller Bites...Smaller You?

I am so glad it's the last day of January 2012 -- this month has been unusually challenging. In particular, I've been plagued by a slew of dental difficulties, from a toothache to a broken tooth to a cavity underneath an existing crown. There was one up side, though: After two weeks of eating mashed potatoes and ice cream, I lost five pounds.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting these foods as the latest diet fad. I'm confident it wasn't my dietary choices that resulted in weight loss! Instead, what made the difference was eating slowly. In order to eat pain-free, I had to use a small spoon or fork. Each bite was small, and it took me much longer to eat than usual. As a result, I felt full long before I ate the amount I normally would.

Intrigued, I did some digging. As it turns out, the research is mixed. Many sources, dating as far back as this article from the mid-1980s, report that using small plates and utensils is an effective way to slow down and enjoy smaller portion sizes. However, two Salt Lake City researchers reported in July 2011 that bigger forks meant restaurant diners ate less.

I suspect the old-school approach has its merits -- and not just because of my own recent experience. It makes sense that using a smaller fork would encourage slower eating, and slower eating would lead to feeling full sooner. Assuming that you're responsive to your body's hunger and fullness cues, a change as simple as using smaller forks and spoons could help you lose and maintain weight.

So, why did the researchers find that restaurant diners ate less when they used bigger forks? It's hard to draw conclusions from a single study, but I'll hazard that it was in part because they didn't compare what one particular person might eat with a big fork versus a small fork. Instead, they compared people who ate with big forks to people who ate with small forks. Also, the study looked only at restaurant eating habits; it didn't take into consideration how people eat at home.

My dental woes are temporarily behind me, but I've switched permanently to the smallest forks and spoons I can find. It's a simple, easy way to slow down eating, and cut back on calories almost effortlessly. What do you think? Do you think it would work? Would you be willing to try it? Post below and let us know!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Need a Little Motivation?

Happy Thursday! So, how are you doing with your weight management goals? We're nearly to the end of January, and you know what that means: The weather's still cold and wet. It's dark and dreary outside. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, bringing chocolates and candies with it. It's definitely that time of year when motivation to stick with your weight management goals can begin to flag!

If you're starting to drift from your goals, here's some motivation to get you back on track (or encourage you to keep up the excellent work!). This research study published in the online version of The Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration affected mood, and not for the better: The women in the study noted that they were less energetic, had poorer concentration, felt that tasks were harder, and were more likely to have headaches. Who wants that? So, make sure you're getting enough plain water every day to keep yourself thoroughly hydrated. Your body and your mood will thank you!

Are you struggling for a reason to get outside and get in a workout? Look no further than this article on two recent research studies on brown fat. It turns out that brown fat -- a type of body fat that's actually brown in color, and burns a substantial amount of fat to sustain itself -- is activated by being cold. Researchers also observed that exercise literally converts regular fat to brown fat. In other words, cold weather and exercise might increase your metabolic rate. (That explains why I effortlessly lose about five pounds every winter, and regain it when the weather warms up!)

At this time of year, focusing on lifestyle change can be a lonely journey. For many people, the excitement of New Year's resolutions has begun to fade. For the first two weeks after New Year's, the sidewalks were crowded with fellow joggers and bicyclists. Lately, though, I'm seeing just a few fellow exercisers. If it seems as though you're the last person you know who's still focused on weight management, you're not alone. If you want to post your goals, ask for support, or share a success, don't be shy -- I'd love to hear from you. Post a little something below!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recipe: Spicy Chipotle Hummus

Hello everyone! It's been a while since I posted a recipe, because I've been busy experimenting with hummus. Hummus is incredibly versatile. It makes a delicious dip for raw veggies, and because fresh fruits and veggies are scarce this time of year, hummus is a wonderfully high-fiber way to encourage my family to enjoy more carrots and cucumbers. Hummus is also a fun spread for leftover turkey sandwiches, or a yummy topping for Mediterranean recipes. And, of course, it's a perfect pairing with pita chips for a healthy, hearty chips-and-dip snack while you enjoy the end of the football season!

Hummus is also versatile from a flavor standpoint. I've added all sorts of different add-ins to create all sorts of different flavor profiles. I tried roasted red peppers with basil and rosemary; extra garlic with basil and oregano; artichoke hearts and tarragon; and jalapenos and avocado, and they're all delish. However, this particular variation disappears almost as soon as I make it!

Two quick notes: First, we love garlic. If you're not quite as passionate about garlic as we are, I suggest reducing the garlic to 1/4 cup. I amp up the garlic, in part, because I don't use salt, which is a classic ingredient in hummus. If you back down on the garlic, you may want to add in a teaspoon of salt. Second, you can easily omit the chipotle powder, and either enjoy your hummus plain, or experiment with other add-in ingredients.

Either way, don't forget to come back and tell us what you try and how it turns out! As they say in the Middle East, Bil-hana wa ash-shifa! (May you have your meal with gladness and health!

Spicy Chipotle Hummus


2 (15.5) ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed, if desired
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup bottled minced garlic
1/4 cup tahini, olive oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili pepper (or 1 1/2 teaspoons for a less-spicy hummus)


Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Process until hummus reaches desired smoothness. (I've had hummus that still had noticeable chunks of chickpeas; or, the consistency may be absolutely smooth, like whipped mashed potatoes.) Hummus may be served immediately, but the flavor is better if refrigerated overnight.

Cook's Note: When I started making hummus, I used tahini, which you can find in your grocer's Middle Eastern food section or at most health food or specialty food stores. Tahini is the oil of choice in hummus in Lebanon (which is considered to be the birthplace of hummus, by most accounts). However, after going through a few cans of tahini, I began experimenting with olive oil, which is the oil used in Greece and other areas. I've also used canola oil, and it does the trick, too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Behavior Change Stick

Hello everyone! Last week we talked about how easy it is to regain weight after you lose it, and how lifestyle change can help you lose weight and keep it off. I mentioned that there are many things you can do to change your lifestyle to support weight management, and remarked that it's a good thing there are so many things you can do. Without a doubt, there's something you can do -- today! -- that will move you toward a healthier, happier lifestyle.

There's a dark side to that, though. We're about halfway through the December session of Lose Weight and Keep It Off, and several students have remarked that they're feeling overwhelmed by how many goals they're trying to juggle. They feel guilty if they don't do everything they can to lose weight...and then feel worried because they can't keep up.

If you can relate, know that these feelings are perfectly normal. (This is especially true if you've been immersed in the diet mentality, and have been taught that it's all about calories in versus calories out.) That said, it's crucial to avoid getting bogged down by all the different factors that affect your weight. Remember, you don't have to do weight management perfectly to do it well...but you have to do something differently!

So, don't let all the possibilities overwhelm you. Instead, choose only as many goals as you can realistically manage right now. Remember, your goal isn't immediate weight loss. Your goal is to make lifestyle change you can live with, so you lose that weight...and keep it off.

Also, keep in mind that the things you're working on right now will get easier with time and practice. If you told me five years ago that I'd feel thirsty if I didn't drink at least 2 liters of water a day, I'd have laughed out loud. That third liter of water can be a challenge, but if I don't get 2 liters by suppertime, I want to drink some water. Hydration is still my biggest challenge when it comes to weight management, but it's much easier than it was a few years ago. The same kinds of changes can -- and will -- happen for you, too.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lose Weight -- and Keep It Off!

Are you among the many people resolving to lose weight this year? If so, here's an article from I encourage you to review first. Yes, it's true the study quoted in the article looked specifically at a small group of postmenopausal women. However, the researchers observed something many of us already knew: When you lose weight, you lose some muscle mass along with the fat. When you regain weight, all of that weight is fat. This tendency to lose muscle makes it easier to gain weight, and harder to lose it. The moral of the story is simple: Focusing on weight loss doesn't work in the long run.

What to do? Instead of focusing on weight loss, aim for lifestyle changes that will result in weight loss. So, instead of "I'm going to lose 20 pounds this year," how about goals like:
  • "I will write down everything I eat and drink for 30 days"
  • "I will track my emotions before I eat for the next two weeks"
  • "I will walk every day for 30 minutes, either at lunchtime or after work"
  • "I will not watch TV unless I'm stretching or working out while I do it"
  • "I will drink 8 ounces of water before every cup of soda or coffee for the next 3 months"
  • "I will experiment with a nurturing bedtime routine for the next month"
These are only a few examples, of course. There are many, many things you can do to create weight loss. That's good news, because it means there's something you can do differently -- today! -- to create weight loss. And when you make lifestyle changes, that means the weight you lose stays off, instead of coming back to haunt you (and bringing a few extra pounds with it).

Here's a bonus tip: Instead of waiting for the reward of weight loss, experiment with planning ahead to reward yourself with some tangible, non-food reward as you accomplish your lifestyle change goals. For instance, after you exercise 30 days, treat yourself to a wonderful new perfume or cologne. After 60 days of exercise, schedule a massage or facial. After 90 days of exercise, buy yourself a new item of clothing, or a new piece of jewelry or necktie to accessorize an outfit you love.

Got questions or concerns? Want to share your goals, challenges, or successes? You're in the right place! Please don't be away! :)

New Year, New Blogpage!

Happy new year! Did you notice some changes since you were here last? Don't worry! I'm back to blogging weekly, and my focus here on the home page will be as it's always been -- providing you with relevant, useful information on weight management and healthy eating. That's right! I've got new recipes and new tips and tricks to share with you to help you lose weight and keep it off, and help you eat healthfully and enjoy every bite.

Of course, you're welcome to browse elsewhere, and see what's new. In a nutshell, there's a page with information on my online cooking class Luscious, Low-fat, Lightning-quick Meals; a page for my online weight loss class Lose Weight and Keep It Off; and one for my dance troupe, Kanela and the Desert Gypsies. (I've also added a gallery for your viewing pleasure.)

Keep in mind that the home page is still the place for you to share your culinary and weight loss adventures. I welcome your posts, so please don't be a stranger, regardless of what pages you visit. Post your questions, your commentary, or your suggestions. I wish you the best as you pursue a new year of health, happiness, and healthful cooking (and eating!). Let's get to it!