The Perfect Guilt-Free Dessert To Make For Your Sweetheart (Or Yourself!)

valentines-day strawberries

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are a perfect way to top off a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, especially if you or your significant other don’t want to splurge on sweets.  They’re decadent, fairly easy to make, and provide a perfect dose of flavonoid and antioxidant-rich chocolate.

The key to making your strawberries extra delicious and nutritious?  Find the ripest, freshest berries and a high-quality, low sugar, very dark melting chocolate.  Melt in the microwave for small increments of time at 50% power, or melt on low on your stove (usually the package will have melting instructions;  the key is not to burn the chocolate), dip, and let dry on parchment paper.  Sprinkle with your favorite chopped nuts, if you wish.

A large dark chocolate covered strawberry contains 115-145 calories, so this is a great way to feel like you’re indulging without actually doing so.  Actually, this dessert is quite nutritious.  Four extra large strawberries give you 3.81 grams of fiber, 44.82 IU of vitamin A and 94.12 mg of vitamin C.  Strawberries have more vitamin C per ounce than citrus fruits, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Don’t have a sweetheart?  Who says Valentine’s Day is just for couples?  Make them for yourself, and enjoy every bite!

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Meatloaf? Sure! Trainer’s Tip #11: Make Your Meals Hearty

turkey chili

 

Trainer’s Tip #11:  Make your meals hearty.

Yes.  Eat REAL FOOD, food that satisfies, and enjoy it.  Create hearty, filling meals using healthy, quality ingredients, and lose weight.

Why?  Because…

A.)  Calories are NOT created equal.  Your body wants and needs nutrient-dense foods like nuts, legumes, whole grains, avocados, lean meat, healthy oils, etc., to fuel your workouts.  Eating these foods will promote a better metabolism and better fat-burn, and you’ll feel way better.  Don’t be afraid of calorie-rich food that is packed with good-for-you-fat.  Just watch your portions and listen to your body’s signals, and don’t forget to give veggies and fruit a starring role in your meals.

B.)  In order to stick with a healthy diet long-term, you must enjoy the food you eat, and you must feel full.  Satiety is key with clean eating, and this has been illustrated through studies.  Why do you think people yo-yo diet so much?  They try to lose weight using short-term solutions that too severely restrict calorie consumption and eliminate complete food groups that contain vital nutrients.  Rather than flip-flopping endlessly between states of deprivation and bingeing–fill your meals with whole, natural, nutrient and fiber-rich ingredients.

Here’s a super-easy “Mini Meat Loaves” recipe that even kids will love:

Combine 1 egg, 1/2 cup of (lower sugar) marinara sauce, 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1lb lean organic ground beef or turkey, and 1/2 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella in a bowl.  Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into ovals.  Place on a foil-lined baking pan.  Spoon a dollop of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkle lightly with a little more cheese.  Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Pair meat loaves with your favorite vegetable.

For the recipe on the above chili, click here.

Trainer’s Tip #10: Snack Smartly At Holiday Parties

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Trainer’s Tip #10: Snack smartly at parties.

Tis the season for throwing healthy eating out the window at holiday parties.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Just be smart, and use moderation.  Here are a few tips:

~Eat something before you arrive.  You may think you need to save your calories for the party, but doing it that way will likely set you up for a bit of a binge.

~Bring your own healthier appetizer to share.  That ensures there will at least be ONE healthy option there.

~Don’t sit next to the food table.  Get a plate, move away, and eat slowly.

~Portion control, people!  If you’re drooling over the peppermint fudge, have one piece and really enjoy it.  Then move on.

~Limit alcohol.  It clouds your healthy-eating judgment.  Studies show that after a third drink, people are way more likely to abandon their healthy-eating goals.  Go for light beer and wine.  Stay away from sugary punches and mixed drinks.  Bonus:  No hangovers!

~Finally, opt for fresher choices that aren’t processed or fried.  One of the better choices? Shrimp cocktail!

Happy Holidays!

Trainer’s Tip of the Day #6: Ditch the Trendy Diet

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Trainer’s Tip #6:  Ditch diets that cut out whole food groups.

I love this article, written by a registered dietitian, which expresses the downside of the Whole30 diet perfectly.  My favorite line:  “Any diet that bans nutritious whole grains like quinoa and millet, but allows you to survive exclusively off of bacon and Larabars, should make you question the legitimacy of its health claims.”

I know there’s disagreement here.  I know that some of these diets have helped people lose weight, and if they educate people about the health risks of eating too much sugar and processed foods, that’s all good.  But research shows that they are not the best way to get in shape, and stay in shape for the long haul.  Let’s look at the facts:

1.) Many of the pounds lost on fad diets are made of water.   Dehydrating yourself is not sustainable for the long term.

2) Weight lost is the result of drastic calorie reduction, not the elimination of so-called bad foods.  Furthermore, usually muscle is broken down and burned, not fat.  Less muscle=lower metabolism.

3)  When off the diet, studies show the weight comes back easily because people are unable to stick to the drastic eating regimen for the rest of their lives.  Hence, a lifetime of yo-yo dieting.

4) Many of these diets do not place importance on physical activity, which is necessary in maintaining a healthy weight and body composition.

5) Many of these diets are created by unqualified people who publish books that have little scientific weight to stand on.  Someone who has passed a test in nutrition is not a registered dietician.   What do the creators of the Paleo diet think about this bit of knowledge?  I’d be interested to know.

 

 

I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

 

Trainer’s Tip of The Day #4: Beware the “All or Nothing” Trap

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Tip #4:  Forgo the “all or nothing” mindset.

By this, I mean, don’t obsess over calories consumed and calories burned when you’re trying to get in shape.  A continual state of anxiety over exercise and food is no way to live.  This doesn’t mean don’t pay attention at all to this.  But if you screw up and eat a cookie, don’t give up on it all.  One cookie is not going to derail the healthy lifestyle you’re trying to build.

And that, after all, is what matters most:  What you’re building in the long-term.  Not the cookie you ate today.  Too often when we screw up, we think “I messed up so I might as well eat this pizza too.  I’ll try again next time.”  But then next time keeps getting postponed, week after week, year after year.  My advice:  Follow the 80/20 rule.  Try to eat clean at least 80 percent of the time.  Studies show that if we feel too deprived when we’re trying to eat healthy, we don’t stick to it.  If you really want a cookie one day, eat the damn cookie.  Savor it.  And then move on.

I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

Trainer’s Tip of The Day #2

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Tip #2:  Eat a nice, big breakfast.

Recent studies show that making breakfast your biggest meal of the day promotes weight loss and reduces your risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.

I’m not giving you a license to pile on the syrupy pancakes and greasy sausage (sorry!).  Choose unprocessed foods like oatmeal, whole grains, eggs, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and of course, fruits and veggies.  A good low-sugar mix of protein, fiber and complex carbs will keep you full, and energized, longer.

A couple examples: two eggs with whole grain toast and avocado slices; low-sugar oatmeal or cereal with milk and fruit; a smoothie including things like plain yogurt, a banana, flax/chia seeds, kale…get creative!

I hereby commit to posting extremely brief tidbits of useful wisdom, termed “Trainers Tips,” on a regular basis.  You may ponder, ignore, or do as you wish with them as you go about your day.

Info about what?  Well…fitness.  Exercise tips, motivational tips, nutrition tips, health and well-being tips.  Maybe mind-blowing, maybe obvious but perhaps overlooked.  Tips to help you in your quest to become the happiest, healthiest you ever, one day at a time.

How often?  Most days.  Okay, I may get super busy or lazy one day.  Or two.  Don’t hold it against me.

Where?  Here.  On this site.  And my Facebook page and google+ page.

Why?  Because they’re short and sweet and force me to post to my blog regularly.  And because I love helping my readers in any small way I can, of course.

No time to make dinner for the family? Start here.

roasted sweet potatoes

According to a new study from the CDC, one third of all children eat fast food, every day.

Parents, let’s change this statistic for the better.  Let’s make getting healthy, delicious food on the table for our kids a priority.  Cooking at home is possible, even when our lives our crazy.  Have them help you prepare it.  It just takes a little advance planning.  They are worth it, and so are you, by the way.

Do your kids swear they hate veggies?  They can taste delicious, it’s all in how you cook them.  Keep experimenting, and don’t give in.  The earlier you start them on healthy eating habits, the easier the whole process is.  So don’t wait another minute.

Take advantage of fall’s wonderful, colorful, nutritious root vegetables while they are still in season–Try oven-roasting root veggies.  Dice them up, add a few ingredients, and throw them in the oven, and that’s it!  You’ll be amazed at how good they taste!

Start out with sweet potatoes!  And, you won’t need butter, brown sugar or syrup to get that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.  Here’s my favorite way to do them:

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel and dice 2-3 sweet potatoes or yams (this, seriously, is the hardest part!).  Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet.  Drizzle with a couple tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and turn to coat.  Drizzle with a small amount of honey or agave nectar.  Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.  Roast until edges are browned, turning over half way through.

It’s impressive how nutritious this dish is.  A medium sized sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10 percent of the necessary potassium.  Not to mention, sweet potatoes contain an abundance of antioxidants and anti-imflammatory properties.  Plus, studies show that cinnamon and honey provide a variety of health benefits from insulin regulation (cinnamon) to disease prevention (honey).

For other healthy recipes to try with the whole family, check out these other posts:

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2013/04/24/healthy-quick-dinners-the-whole-family-will-eat/

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2015/03/26/a-super-quick-homemade-dinner-for-a-crazy-weekday-night/

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2013/10/21/healthy-sweet-potato-stew/

http://equilibriumfitness.me/2013/03/21/easy-healthy-turkey-chili/

Garden overflowing? Try this end-of-summer pasta.

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If your veggie garden is currently spilling over with ripe, juicy tomatoes, shiny, plump eggplants and fragrant basil then this recipe is for you.  In addition, it’s tasty, healthy, and a perfect weeknight meal!

Important to note–

-I use less pasta and more veggies than I listed here to make the meal less carb-heavy.

-I used an organic poultry sausage here, but meat is optional in this dish.

-I only eat whole-grain pasta, and highly encourage you to try it if you haven’t.  If you absolutely can’t stand the taste, try a white pasta with extra fiber added.

Here’s what you need:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

optional:  3/4lb to 1lb chicken or poultry sausage, cooked and cut into chunks

2 medium eggplants, cut into small chunks (I peel the skin off)

1lb whole grain pasta of your choice

6 small or 3 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into chunks

1 to 2 tsp. thinly sliced garlic

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped fresh basil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Here’s what you do:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and stir occasionally until tender.
  2. Add pasta to boiling water and prepare as directed.  Add tomatoes and garlic to the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the meat, if desired.
  3. Drain and toss cooked pasta with the eggplant sauce and Parmesan.  Add additional seasoning if desired and garnish with basil.

A super-quick homemade dinner for a crazy weekday night

busy-times

Last night was one of those crazy week day nights.  Before I knew it, it was 5:30, and the family was starving.  I hadn’t planned anything to eat that night.  On this type of night, I grab whatever is on hand and make it work.  I use veggies that need to get eaten, and meat that has recently been, or can quickly be, thawed.  I usually have chicken breast on hand for last-minute, throw-together dinners.

With the weather still yucky, the oven is still one of my favorites for quick meals.  Roasting produce and meat brings out their flavors without a lot of added fat and calories.  So last night, I threw some broccoli florets on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper, and into the oven they went.  Then, I took some chicken breast tenders, rolled them in crushed almonds, and threw them in.  (Crushed corn flakes also work well for a healthy chicken coating.)  Add seasonings to taste.

Note: I used foil here to line the baking sheets, but I usually use parchment paper.  Your dishes will come out practically clean!

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Here they are after a short time in the oven.  Dinner is finished!

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To add a healthy carb, I sliced up an organic, 100% whole wheat bread loaf to go with it.

So…before your reach for that take-out menu, think about what you have on hand.  Often you can have an oven-roasted, homemade dinner in minutes, with minimal effort.

Veggies are delicious when roasted!  Here’s what I did another night with carrots and brussels sprouts, tossed in olive oil/salt/pepper.  SOOO easy!

before-

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after-

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Eating Healthy At A Super Bowl Party–It Can Be Done!

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Ah, the Super Bowl.  It ranks only behind Thanksgiving when it comes to calories consumed.  Complete with wings, burgers, pizzas, and dips, dips and more dips….It’s not the easiest event get through for someone who is trying to lose weight.  But, don’t despair.  It CAN be done.

~First, if you see any of these healthier options at your Super Bowl Party, go for them first to fill you up (instead of that gooey cheese dip):

guacamole (high in calories, so watch the portion)SONY DSC

hummus

fruits and veggies (of course)

pico de gallo (salsa)

Triscuits, (they are 100% whole wheat)

chili (esp. turkey or chicken chili)

turkey meatballs

bean dip (white bean, black bean)

popcorn (without heavy toppings)

homemade trail mix (watch the portion)

Limit tortilla chips to a small handful.

~Second, eat something before you arrive at a Super Bowl party.  You may think you need to save your calories for the party, but doing it that way will likely set you up for a bit of a binge.

~Bring your own healthier appetizer to share.  That ensures there will at least be ONE healthy option there.

~Don’t sit next to the food table.  Get a plate, eat it slowly, and don’t go near the food again until half time.

~Portion control, people!  If there’s something naughty that you really want to eat, have a little and really enjoy it.  Then move on.

~Limit alcohol.  It clouds your healthy-eating judgment.  Studies show that after a third drink, people are way more likely to abandon their healthy-eating goals.  Go for light beer and wine.  Stay away from sugary mixed drinks and ciders.  Bonus:  No hangovers at work on Monday!

Good Luck!