Deck the Halls with a Healthy Holiday Season

Dec Post 2

The holiday season is in full swing and finalizing your holiday party plans is likely underway. As you finalize menus and make the holiday party rounds, vow to make this year’s celebration a festive and healthier one. Here are some tips to do so.

Make Smart Substitutions

Some people may be hesitant to modify traditional or family recipes because they’ve come to know, love and trust these recipes through the years. The good news is minor tweaks to recipes can make them so much healthier without sacrificing taste.

For cooking, try swapping in an easy and healthier ingredient like yogurt. Yogurt works as a perfect and nutritious substitute for rich and high-calorie ingredients like butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise. Check out smart options like Siggi’s Icelandic-style yogurt. Siggi’s also has a host of festive and healthy recipes and a helpful guide on ingredient swaps listed here.

For baking, try substituting whole-wheat flour for all-purpose flour in baked goods. This will add a fiber boost and give baked goods a denser taste to fill you up faster and longer. Instead of covering baked goods with icing, consider just drizzling on top or using a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg instead for a sweet boost.

Keep Choices in Check

Before diving in, take a look at the party buffet and plan selections ahead of time. Assessing options and coming up with a strategy before will make you less likely to overeat. Go big on lean protein like meat and seafood skewers or prosciutto-wrapped dates. This protein will keep you fuller longer. Balance your meal with larger portions of veggies and fruits and save less room on your plate for high-carb options like mashed potatoes or stuffing and sugary desserts. Portions are key!

Plan Indulgences Consciously

You don’t need to deprive yourself over the holidays and forgo all holiday treats. A little planning goes a long way. Decide on what to indulge in and what to skip. A good rule of thumb is to sample treats that are homemade with real and natural ingredients instead of the processed packaged party sweets. Better-for-you options include dark chocolate covered berries and fruits, gingerbread cookies, hard candies like peppermints, puddings and candy cane and chocolate kisses.

Add to your Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s celebrations the gift of a few smart decisions and pre-planning. This will keep you healthy and happy this holiday season. Now that is something to celebrate!

Tricky Treats: Don’t Be Tricked by Your Halloween Sweets

Halloween Candy

Mounds of Halloween sweets and delighted trick-or-treaters will fill homes this weekend. Thankfully, there are ways to get festive and in the Halloween spirit and satisfy your sweet tooth without the excessive calories and sugar overload.

Below I’ve rounded up a list of my top picks for Halloween treats and highlighted those that should be consumed in moderation – or better yet, not at all.

Top Picks

  • Lollipops: These can be a really satisfying treat as they take a long time to eat and contain no fat. Blowpops have just 70 calories.
  • Mini Candy Bars and Fun-Size Portion Packs: Smaller candy bars are lower in calories and fat than their larger counterparts (at 60 to 110 calories each). Also, fun-size pouches help you watch portion size. For example, the Fun-Size Peanut M&M packs contain 90 calories, 5 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. Plus, you get a bit of protein from the peanuts, too, which keeps you feeling fuller longer and makes you less inclined to reach for more.
  • Jolly Ranchers: Enjoy three Jolly Ranchers for just under 100 calories with no fat.
  • Dark Chocolate: Look for 70% cocoa when choosing your chocolate to take advantage of chocolate’s disease-fighting antioxidant. Another great option to satisfy a chocolate craving is a York Peppermint Patty (with just 60 calories and 3 grams of fat), which is lower in calories and fat than most chocolate bars. Full-size chocolate candy bars average 200-300 calories and 10-15 grams of fat.
  • Fruity Candies: At just 20 calories per piece, Starbursts make a low calorie sweet option. Jelly beans, too, are low in calorise at just 3 calories each. Twizzlers have just 30 calories per twist. Be careful, though, as a big handful and larger portions make calories in these treats add up pretty quickly.

Top Skips

  • Butterfingers: In just one bar, you’ll eat 280 calories, 10 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • Mounds Chocolate Bars: Half of the fat in these chocolate bars come from fat (22 gm fat)  with 6 grams of saturated fat and 195 calories.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: Though often a Halloween favorite, these each have 105 calories each with 50 of those calories from fat. That’s 210 calories per package of 2 pieces (45 grams in weight size) and 14.5 grams of fat.
  • Kit Kats: High in calories and fat, each regular-size bar has 7 grams of saturated fat and 22 grams of sugar. One package contains 220 calories and nearly 13 grams of fat.

Bottom line:  balance out sugary candy with real foods and real meals consumed first– and you can “trick” and treat yourself to better health, even at Halloween.

Benchmarks? Aim for no more than 150-300 calories of Halloween sweets per day and keep saturated fat at 10-15 grams for a daily maximum. For sugar, look to consume no more than 25-50 grams daily and total fat at 50-70 gm daily.  Be mindful on how each of your Halloween treats stack up.

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.   

Healthy Lunches for School or Work

Lunch

Photo courtesy of AboutLunch.com

Back-to-school season provides a perfect opportunity to make wholesome meals part of your daily homework. It is easy to make healthy, enticing, portion-controlled brown-bagged lunches that your kids – and whole family – will love.

I recommend this 2-step action plan:

  • Select foods from each food category, including wholegrains, dairy, fruit, vegetables and lean protein
  • Prepare lunches from the night before to be ready-to grab-and-go in the morning

Sandwiches – Choose your “wrap” first. Great options include:

  • 100% wholewheat bread or sandwich thins, bagel thins, hamburger bun, pita pocket, 90-calorie flatbread, wholegrain sprouted bread (such as refrigerated Ezekiel bread) or wheat or corn tortillas
  • 100% wholewheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • 2 small thin-crust pizza slices (press top-sides together, crust facing outward)
  • Large lettuce leaves

Healthy, tasty fillings – Fill your wrap with:

Lean protein, such as:

  • Leftover chicken, turkey, ham, roast, steak, burger, meatloaf or meatballs from last night’s dinner or store-bought rotisserie chicken or turkey
  • Nitrite-free lean deli meats, including turkey, chicken, ham and roast beef
  • 2% milk cheese slice, using just one slice per sandwich
  • Peanut butter or almond butter (add apple or banana slices sprinkled with orange or lemon juice to prevent darkening)
  • Tuna-fish salad made with lower-fat mayonnaise, chopped onions, apple, celery and relish
  • Smoked salmon or boiled shrimp
  • Hummus (any flavor) ; enjoy with roasted or fresh red bell pepper slices, baby carrots, cucumber slices
  • Ground turkey patty or soy-burger, bean or veggie burger (buy frozen)
  • Soy pepperoni rounds or Canadian bacon

Then add vegetables you love:

  • Tomato slices and olive tapenade topped with a little Feta cheese
  • Grilled eggplant slices sprinkled with grated Parmesan; and/or grilled onions and roasted red bell pepper
  • Grilled Portobello mushroom slices with sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted vegetables (add a dollop of hummus for flavor and “holding” veggies together)
  • Tossed salad leftovers without dressing (add a cheese slice or hummus in a wrap or pocket)
  • Cucumber slices in turkey or chicken sandwiches
  • Cooked leftover spinach and/or mushrooms in beef sandwiches
  • Fresh onion slices
  • Coleslaw or broccoli slaw or grated carrots
  • lettuce or kale

Add these on the side (we cannot eat enough veggies!):

  • Sliced cucumbers, radishes, green onions, or colorful bell peppers
  • Pico de gallo or avocado slices
  • Bean salad (3-bean, lentil, or black-eyed pea)

Or skip the “wrap”, and simply pack cool foods to enjoy. Healthy ideas include:

  • Sliced apples and pears with almond butter or ricotta cheese – bring along a baggie filled with two tablespoons of almond butter or ¼ cup ricotta cheese; add a handful of almonds or walnuts
  • Individually-wrapped cheese portions such as Laughing Cow rounds or wedges, Cabot cheese slices or string cheese to enjoy with fruit, cherry tomatoes, and wholewheat crackers
  • Fresh veggies, like baby carrots, cucumber, broccoli, celery, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, sugar-snap beans, with hummus or bean dip or cottage cheese for dipping
  • Fresh sliced fruit served with yogurt or cottage cheese; and wholewheat crackers
  • Pineapple slices with ham or smoked turkey or cottage cheese
  • Cold pasta salad, coleslaw, cherry tomatoes and cold bean salad (black bean/corn combo, lentil salad, etc)
  • Tossed salad with hard-boiled egg, grated cheese, and turkey slices; dressing on the side in a small container
  • Your own mix of chex cereals, raisins and nuts, served with yogurt or a cheese slice and tomato juice
  • Kashi Go Lean Crunch, yogurt, berries in baggies to combine as a parfait

Fresh Fruit – Bring along Nature’s sweetest dessert:

  • Fresh seasonal fruit such as an apple, pear, banana, berries, melon, cherries, Cuties, orange, grapes
  • Pre-packaged sliced fruit (such as apple slices or pineapple chunks or fruit salad)
  • Grape tomatoes

Try these ideas! You’ll save calories, time and money; enjoy fresh flavors; and your new “homemade lunch” habit may help you shed 2 pounds a month! Why not start today?

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For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). You will find ideas for vegetables, leaner desserts, bars, cereals, cheeses, soups and more. My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.   

Cool Treats to Beat the Heat

Smoothie

Ice-cold treats are as much a part of summer as beach days and barbecues, but some of these frozen sweets can pack on extra pounds. The good news is cool treats on a hot summer day don’t have to be unhealthy. Luckily, there is a wide range of lower fat calorie options that can satisfy your craving for a cool treat when temperatures rise.

Here are my recommendations for some homemade cool sweets and some smarter and healthier store-bought options to choose from.

Homemade Treats

Smoothie – Blend half a cup of frozen or fresh berries or fruit of choice with a half a banana, six ice cubes, and a half a cup of orange juice (or ¼ cup juice and ¼ cup of Greek yogurt).

You can even add a few spinach or kale leaves for added nutrition!

— 150 calories, no fat

Popsicles – Freeze ¼ cup of 100% juice in individual ice cube or popsicle containers

— 25 calories, no fat

Frozen Fruit – Freeze grapes or peeled banana slices on a cookie sheet; then store in freezer safe containers for sweet cold treats.

—50 calories, no fat per ½ cup

From the Store

  • Dreyers’/Edy’s Slow Churned Light/ Breyer’s Double Churn Light (100 calories; 0-3 g fat)
  • Blue Bunny frozen yogurt or fat-free, no-sugar-added ice cream (100 calories; 0-3 g fat)
  • TCBY Nonfat frozen yogurt (100 calories; 0-3 g fat)
  • Sorbet, sherbet, fruit Ice, Italian ice, water-based gelato (about 100 calories; 0-2 g fat)
  • Skinny Cow bars -Fudge , Truffle, Dipper, Fudgesicle, Popsicle, Juice (about 100 calories; 0-2 g fat)
  • Sugar-free Fudgesicle or Popsicle (15-40 calories; 0 g fat)

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas , www.georgiakostas.com; and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition.

Nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.   

 

Make This Your Mediterranean Diet Summer

Mediterranean Diet Foods

Enjoying summer’s fresh, colorful bounty of delicious foods with amazing health benefits is what living the Mediterranean lifestyle means. And this is the perfect time of year to experiment with Mediterranean foods and flavors with your own local foods.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts – plant foods should cover 3/4ths of your plate
  • Use herbs and spices, fresh lemon juice, garlic and onion instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Choosing lean protein-rich foods (fish, poultry, lean red meat cuts) and limiting to 3 oz portions and choosing non-fat and low-fat dairy foods
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as liquid oils (olive, canola, sunflower, etc) and nuts, seeds, olives, avocado

Whether you are cooking up fresh summer squash, corn or asparagus or lightening up your next barbecue with olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon juice, the Mediterranean diet principles can be applied to any recipe or cuisine and the benefits go a long way. In fact, research has shown the Mediterranean diet drastically decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, obesity and cognition loss. Studies show deaths from these diseases can be reduced by 30 percent by following a healthy Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.1

The health and longevity benefits of the Mediterranean diet, however, are not just a result of food choices but also from overall lifestyle. The Mediterranean lifestyle encourages you to eat socially in relaxed settings and seek out fresh and locally-grown foods. There is also a big focus on adding fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, and leafy greens to your cooking to intensify flavors and provide satiety. And where sun and sea come together, quality is key – rather than quantity – with an emphasis on exercise and social connections.

This summer, make an effort to not only eat a Mediterranean diet but try to complement your eating plan and live the Mediterranean way! Start with these tips below.

  • Vow to put a focus on physical activity, enjoying relaxed meals and taking a less hurried approach to your day. Turn off the TV, phones and tablets and enjoy a meal with loved ones – engaging, laughing and talking.
  • Get up and out the door. Take a walk in the sunshine, even for 25 minutes.
  • Socialize and eat with your friends. Add a big salad with tomatoes at lunch or dinner. Add vinaigrette or oil and vinegar to your salad and eat cooked vegetables. Enjoy a 3-ounce portion of fish, poultry or lean lamb or beef at mealtime or beans as a protein entree. Try adding more whole grains to your day like whole wheat bread or brown rice or oatmeal. Top salads with nuts and/or beans.
  • Snack smart and reach for an apple or nuts. And don’t forget a little cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt, topped with fresh berries and/or nuts, make a delicious snack option, too. On of my favorites is fresh veggies dipped in hummus/Greek yogurt blended as a dip.

This is how you protect your health, your life and your zest for living.

Source: 1 New England Journal of Medicine

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.   

Healthy Summer Grilling Tips & Picks

Grilling

Photo credit woodleywonderworks

Grilling season is officially here! As you fire up the grill, consider cooking up some healthier options.

For healthier grilling, follow these tips:

  • Choose cuts wisely – Stick to healthier leaner cuts of meat. Choose chicken breasts instead of fattier thighs and wings. Look for “loin” and “round” beef and pork cuts, such as tenderloin, top loin, ground round and 90-95% lean (fat-free) ground beef. Trim off fat around pork chops for a leaner meal. Kabob meat is often lean and fat-trimmed, whether beef, lamb or pork.
  • Add fish to the menu – Try grilling salmon and trout – delicious and high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Shrimp on skewers can be brushed with cilantro, fresh lemon juice and a touch of oil for great flavor!
  • Go bold on flavor – To add more flavor to grilled meals, try adding a variety of seasonings to your marinades, such as mustard seeds, paprika, ginger, or tumeric, or add sauces like Worcestershire, chili, hot peppers, vinegars or low sodium soy sauce. Or, try a prepared marinade, such as one of McCormick’s new Grill Mate sauces. Be sure to add a splash of lemon juice or citrus to any marinade to reduce carcinogenic by-products from meat fat dripping over hot charcoal.
  • Remove fat – Trim off visible fat and skin before grilling to reduce the fat and calories in meat and poultry entrees. Consider using a grill rack so fat can drip off. After cooking, drain “shine” off any cooked meat or ground beef or poultry patty.
  • Throw veggies on the grill – Vegetables take on a whole new flavor on the grill. For the best success, lightly coat veggies with olive oil (and a little flavored vinegar) before grilling to help your seasonings stick. To prevent burning, sear your veggies over high heat and then move them over to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. For smaller vegetables – like delicious cherry tomatoes – use a grill basket or skewers (pre-soaked in water to not burn), as these cook fast and you want to prevent them from rolling away.
  • Ensure your grill is ready to go – A great way to ensure your grill is ready is to use the 4-second rule. If you can hold your hand 4 inches above the grill for 4 seconds your grill is good to go. If you can’t, your grill is too hot and you are likely to burn your meal. If you can hold your hand for longer than 4 seconds your grill is not hot enough, so you’ll have trouble getting that nice sear on your meat or veggies.

Here are some of my favorite grilling recipes that can be enjoyed all summer long.

Grilled Salmon and Zucchini with Red Pepper Sauce (courtesy of Eating Well Magazine)

Take your grilled salmon to the next level with a delicious red pepper sauce. This salmon sauce is made of roasted red peppers, tomatoes and almonds and works as a tasty and nutritious sauce for grilled vegetables, too. The recipe can be found here.

Easy Barbecue Salmon (via Health Magazine)

This recipe calls for combining the sweet flavor of brown sugar and savory paprika for a delicious barbecue chicken rub. It’s ready in 30 minutes and is just about 300 calories. Check out the recipe here.

Grilled Beef Steaks with Ancho Chili Rub (via Beef It’s What For Dinner)

Choose a lean cut of beef and kick up the flavor with a tangy rub. This recipe combines chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, orange peel and cocoa powder. You can find the recipe here.

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.   

The inclusion of links to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on the websites or any association with their operators.   

Healthy Eating On-the- Go

When eating on the go, it’s easy to opt for quick, high-calorie, unhealthy fixes but healthy meals and snacks are key to feeling energized, satisfied and generally better about your overall health. All it takes is planning ahead to have healthy, tasty, grab-and-go choices on-hand. You can buy or prepare these ahead of time.

Here are some healthy “real food” ideas to keep within reach in your car, at the office or at home. 

7 Eleven Fresh To Go

Shop Smart

Great news – a new wide range of healthful individually-packaged food options are available at convenience stores and grocery stores, as more and more shoppers seek out fresh, healthy choices. Know where to go and what to look for. 7-Eleven recently launched a wide range of better-for-you snack and meal options, including sandwiches and salads under 400 calories. Some of my favorites: tuna salad and turkey sandwiches, Chicken Caesar and Thai salads (light dressings are available), hummus and pita chips, fruit cups, mixed nuts, yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola topping, carrot and celery sticks with Ranch dip, individually wrapped string cheese and cheese rounds and hard-boiled eggs.

Almonds and raisins snack

Think Ahead, Prep Ahead

Set aside a half hour each week to make your own portable snack packs to grab when heading out the door each day. Combine a variety of foods that go well together and put them in small baggies. Try raw almonds mixed with golden raisins. Mix up different kinds of nuts like pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts (3-4 tablespoons per baggie); mix in dried fruit like dried cranberries, cherries and strawberries. Add a few fiber-rich brown rice crackers to pair with Cabot Cheese individual slices. Package grape tomatoes or baby carrots or cucumber slices. Have 6 oz. nonfat Greek yogurts on hand, and individual cottage cheese containers that can be topped with nuts.

Go Portable

Stock up on portable snacks that are perfectly sized to stash in your purse, desk drawer or office fridge. Wonderful options include raisins, popcorn, carrots and celery sticks with a low-fat Ranch dressing or hummus, soy nuts, string cheese, fruit, pistachios, almonds, cereal, trail mix, instant oatmeal packets individual 1-tablespoon almond or peanut butter or avocado packets with whole-wheat crackers or pita chips.

Fruit kabobs

Photo courtesy of Bethany King

Don’t Get Bored – Get Creative

Take your snacks to the next level. Don’t just stick to the same foods — if you tire of these, you may find yourself reaching for salty and sugary options. Instead, come up with new ideas and swap in foods that excite you. You’ll be more inclined to snack on these throughout the day. Some fun, tasty, creative and healthy ideas:

  • A handful of dried plums, edamame beans or brown rice crackers
  • Salad on a stick – skewer grape tomatoes, cucumber slices and feta cubes
  • Fruit on a stick – skewer 2 strawberries, 2 pineapple chunks, melon chunks and grapes
  • Your favorite fruit cut in half (try apples or other fruits in season) topped with a tablespoon of nut- butter and a sprinkle of ginger
  • Vitamin-rich mandarin oranges (try Cuties or Halos)
  • Celery sticks wrapped in slices of your favorite low-fat, low-sodium deli meat (try turkey breast or ham) and dipped in one teaspoon of whole grain mustard

For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com