Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Day Is Around the Corner!

So, are you feeling thankful? Or are you worrying about how you'll stay on track with your weight management goals next week? 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 at my top five tips for successfully managing Thanksgiving:
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. If you're not in the habit of writing down what you're eating, consider focusing on a specific challenge area. For example, if you tend to overdo appetizers, write them down. If dessert or drinks are your downfall, write them down. 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. If leftovers are a challenge, keep tracking until the leftovers are gone.
  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. Thanksgiving is a perfect day to practice reasonable expectations for yourself and others, work on controlled breathing, explore aromatherapy, or put your assertive communication skills to work!
  3. Think about physical activity. The idea isn't to burn off the calories you're eating. Instead, focus on finding a balance between on food and Thanksgiving 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 your favorite music and get up to dance! Maybe you'd benefit from a quiet walk around the neighborhood. Either way, physical activity takes the focus off all the food.
  4. Be thankful. As simple and obvious as it sounds, taking the time to really experience gratitude 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 upcoming holiday season or next year. Enjoy and share the gifts and blessings you've received this year! 
  5. Keep your goals reasonable. If you usually eat 3 pieces of pie loaded with ice cream and whipped topping, cutting back to no dessert may start off well enough. Often, though, it 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..." We all know how this game ends! It's more reasonable to plan ahead for one piece of pie, with a small scoop of ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream. 
Now it's your turn...How do you successfully navigate the Thanksgiving holiday? Share your tips and tricks with us...and have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Recipe: Tofu Sweet Potato Pie

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and one of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts is sweet potato pie! I wanted to develop a tofu-based version, to up the protein content and reduce fat. I replaced eggs with egg substitute and pastry crust with crumb crust to reduce the fat content still further. To reduce carbohydrates, I replaced brown sugar with agave and molasses. Despite all these healthful changes, this recipe is still delicious!

Tofu Sweet Potato Pie

1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, well-drained
1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu
1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey)
¾ cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons molasses
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 (9”) crumb pie crusts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine sweet potatoes, tofu, agave, egg substitute, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in blender and puree until combined, stopping blender and scraping down sides of blender once. Pour into crusts and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is a Pound of Muscle the Same as a Pound of Fat?

A student in my online class "Lose Weight" recently shared that a leader in a weight loss group told her that a pound of fat was essentially the same as a pound of muscle. Because we talk about the importance of strength training in "Lose Weight," and discuss the importance of muscle mass, she was perplexed, and wanted to know if there's really any difference between a pound of muscle and a pound of fat.

It's true, of course, that a pound of fat weighs as much as a pound of muscle. That reminds me of the old joke, "Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? Of course, the answer is, "Neither -- they both weigh the same! I loved that joke as a kid!

That said...Imagine how big a pile a pound of feathers would be. Now, compare that pile to 1/5 of a brick (a small brick weighs about 5 pounds). Naturally, the pound of feathers would be much larger than a pound of brick.

What we're looking at here is the difference between volume, which is the amount of space something takes up, as compared to density, which is how much something weighs. A pound of fat has the same density as a pound of muscle. However, a pound of fat and a pound of muscle don't have the same volume. A pound of fat takes up about twice as much space as a pound of muscle.

So far, we've been talking only about anatomy (how the body looks). When we turn our attention to physiology (how the body works), there's simply no comparison between muscle and fat. Muscle burns calories, even when inactive. Muscle provides structure, stability, and contributes to balance.
Fat does provide protection and cushion, and it's essential for many body processes.

But one thing many people aren't aware of is that fat doesn't just sit around. Fat is metabolically active; that is, it interacts with the body on a hormonal level. In particular, fat cells release chemicals that can result in chronic inflammation (an increase in the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood). Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, metabolic syndrome, and physical disability. That's why, although some fat is required for good health, too much fat can pose health risks.

So, it's simply not true that a pound of fat and a pound of muscle are essentially the same -- even if they do weigh the same amount. It's easy to get confused by the difference between volume and density, but it's important to keep those differences separate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Recipe: Indian Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

It's that time of year when recipes for sweet potatoes abound! I love sweet potatoes, and I'll be sharing more of my faves as the month progresses. I've made this recipe on the stove top and in the pressure cooker, but I usually make it in the slow cooker: It's fast and easy, and fills the house with the exotic spices of India. Garam masala is an Indian spice blend; I strongly suggest using Rani's, which you can find online at www.ranifoods.com.

Indian Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach


1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained
1 (14-ounce) can reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly slice
2 tablespoons bottled minced ginger
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground four-peppercorn seasoning
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 (10-ounce) package spinach
1 pound chicken tenderloins


Combine sweet potatoes, broth, onion, ginger, garlic, garam masala, peppercorn, and cayenne in slow cooker. Add tenderloins and cook on LOW for 2 - 4 hours, or until chicken is cooked through. Chunk tenderloins using two forks. Add spinach and cook briefly, until spinach wilts.