Welcome to the Biggest Loser - Turlock's 12 Week Weight Loss Challenge.

Biggest Loser Turlock begins a new 12-Week Individuals Challenge on January 7, 2014! You’re making a commitment to lose weight, and we’re looking forward to supporting you along the way. Check in on our blog often for weekly results, mini - challenges, and tips to help you stay on track and lead a healthy lifestyle!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Take the Cinco De Mayo Fitness Challenge

One of my favorite holidays is Cinco De Mayo. Growing up in Houston, Texas, the rich Mexican-American culture allowed for elaborate celebrations, with great food, dancing, and beautiful costumes year after year. To commemorate the day, I thought I’d challenge myself in the next seven days to add more fun-filled physical activity, with a focus on the number 5. My aim is to add 5 hours of additional movement leading up to next Sunday. The aim is not to overdo your current workout, but rather to seek out a play-based physical activity. While you can make yours Latin-themed, any activity that helps you keep 5 in mind should be motivation enough to keep moving. Here are my ideas:

Five Latin-Themed Workouts
This week I’m going to enjoy Latin dance and music through fitness, and I’ll also use the entertainment to stay moving. Today’s 24th Annual Fiesta Broadway Festival in Los Angeles will be the kickoff. You too can use a festival or outdoor event to burn extra calories. This event will run across 10 blocks in Downtown LA. My aim will be to walk, step, lunge, and squat(not all at the same time of course) around the perimeter of the event at least 5 times. How many miles can you add to during a festive outdoor event. The people watching alone will make the time fly by. No matter the venue, make it a point to circle the premises a few times. Next up, I’m skipping Zumba class, and instead going to a nightclub that offers a salsa lesson, before allowing the music to continue through the night. Of course, a fitness DVD will work as well. But who says you can’t pick any of your favorite dance movies to dance along to while you’re watching. I’ll also be purposefully adding Reggaeton, Cumbia, and Samba to my regular workouts. For my yoga session, I’ll add some Spanish guitar-infused music.

Five New Fitness Trends
I worked out alongside tennis phenom Venus Williams this week at Jamba Juice’s FiTrends event this past week. The highlight were the innovative fitness trends demonstrated. While I’m already a CrossFit convert, the other workouts introduced were new to me. This was my first time trying out Piloxing, a mish mash of Pilates and Boxing, BlogilatesBroadway BodiesLaBlast, and Bokwa. Group class lovers are primed for Broadway Bodies, LaBlast and Bokwa. The first two are dance-inspired Zumba-like classes that are driven by choreography and popular music. The latter, Bokwa, was the most interesting idea I’d seen… it’s a dance workout(though the website says it isn’t) where participants draw letters and numbers with their feet to music in free form. I’m already thinking of how I can turn Happy Birthday from just a song over a cake, into a minute long choreographed display. For those of us who are short on time, or always online, Blogilates may be the ticket. Cassey Ho, a Pilates trainer who blogs fitness routines can help you add a little extra movement with just a computer or smartphone, no equipment needed.

Daily Challenges with the Number Five
If you’re looking for something a little simpler to get more physical activity simply add 5 to your existing exercise regimen. Here are five daily options for you to try this week.

Add 5 Rounds of Tabatas
Tabatas are high intensity intervals using 20 seconds of extremely intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Seems easy enough, but these extra 20 minutes of activity will add an intense burn. If you do a round when you wake, a couple hours before bed, an hour after lunch, and a few more during your break, you’re in for some fitness gains you hadn’t even bargained for.

Add 5 Minutes of Sprints
Another high intensity workout, that won’t put much of a dent in your day time-wise is adding sprints into your day. Before, during, or after your regular workout, push yourself to the max with 5 minutes of sprints. Break the 5-minutes into 30 to 60 second-dashes depending on your fitness level.

Five of Five for Five
A great set of exercises that isn’t so hard to get done is five reps of five of the most popular exercises. If you can do this 5 times throughout your day, you’ll feel stronger after this week passes. That’s 5 push-ups, 5 jumping jacks, 5 squats, 5 lunges, and 5 sit-ups. It’ll only take a few minutes to do each time, but if you can get it done, your body will thank you.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Consider What You Eat BEFORE Workout

Eating Before Exercise for Maximum Results
Everyone knows that athletes must plan and time their meals and snacks very carefully to reach their performance goals. But what about the rest of us? You try to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Do you have to be careful about what you eat before and after your workouts, too?

Usually not. If you’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories to support your activity level, you can probably rely on your own appetite, energy levels, and experience to tell you whether you need to eat anything before or after exercise and what it should be. The basic rule here is: Find out what works best for you, and do that.

There are some advantages to knowing how your body works and what it needs to perform at its best. The bottom line for healthy weight loss and fitness sounds simple: You have to eat fewer calories than you use up—but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best.

The size, timing, and content of your pre- and post-exercise meals and snacks can play an important role in your energy levels during your workout, how well your body recovers and rebuilds after your workout, and whether the calories you eat will be used as fuel or stored as fat. Here’s what you need to eat and drink to get the results you want!

Your Pre-Exercise Fluid Needs
Being well-hydrated will make your exercise easier and more effective. Try to drink 16-20 ounces of water during the 1-2 hours before starting your workout.

Your Pre-Exercise Meal or Snack
News flash: Most of the fuel you use during exercise doesn’t come from the food you’ve recently eaten! It actually comes from the carbohydrates (called “glycogen”) and fat that’s stored in your muscles, liver, and fat cells. That’s enough to fuel 1-2 hours of very intense exercise or 3-4 hours of moderate intensity exercise.

This means that if your overall diet is adequate to keep your fuel tanks topped off, you may not need to eat anything before you work out. So, if eating before exercise upsets your stomach or you like to exercise first thing in the morning or at a time when eating first isn’t convenient, don’t feel like eating first is a must.

Some people do have a hard time exercising without eating first, especially if it’s been a long time since their last meal or snack. These individuals often are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels, which fall during the first 15-20 minutes of workout. That drop in blood sugar can cause tiredness, mild dizziness, or even faintness—especially if your blood sugar was already low, but eating something beforehand can help prevent this. If you have health issues like diabetes or hypoglycemia that can cause low blood sugar, you’ll probably want to eat before your workout. If you get very hungry during a workout (and it interferes with your energy levels or focus), or become so ravenous after an exercise session that you end up overeating, try eating before you hit the gym to avoid these problems.

If you are a moderate exerciser who tends to perform better with a pre-exercise snack, there are two ways to handle your needs:

1. Eat a small (100- to 200-calorie) snack about 30 minutes before you work out. This snack should include fast-digesting (high glycemic index) carbohydrates and very little fat (which digests slowly), so that you digest the meal quickly and the fuel is available during your exercise session. Here are some ideas:
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit smoothie
  • High-glycemic fruits like pineapple, apricots, banana, mango, and watermelon
  • Sports drinks
  • Pretzels or bagels (but not whole grain varieties, which digest slowly)
  • Energy bars (look for 3-5 grams of protein, at least 15 grams of carbs, and very little fat)
2. Eat a nutritionally balanced meal 1-2 hours before your exercise. This is the best option for many people. The larger the meal, and the more fat and protein it contains, the longer you may need to wait before exercising. Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal about half the calories you expect to burn during your upcoming workout. So if you burn about 600 calories during your workout, aim for at least 300 calories during this meal — or a little more if your exercise is “high intensity” (over 75% of your maximum heart rate). At least 50-60% of these calories should come from carbohydrates, which should keep your blood sugar and energy levels fairly stable during your exercise session. Include some protein to help prevent the breakdown of muscle for fuel and give your muscles a headstart on recovery after exercise. Some good food choices and combinations for this kind of meal include:
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereals (with more than 3 grams of fiber) and milk
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Hummus and raw veggies
  • Hard boiled eggs (or egg whites)
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Half a peanut butter or turkey/chicken sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Whole grain crackers with nut butter or cheese
  • Whole grain fig (or fruit) Newton cookies
  • Milk (especially chocolate milk)
  • Tomato or vegetable juice
  • Yogurt smoothie (with added protein powder, if desired)
  • Most protein/energy bars
As a moderate exerciser, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing your meals and choosing your foods. The most important things are getting to know your body and how it responds to exercise, so that you can give it what it needs to perform at its best. Eating the right foods at the right times before you work out is essential to keeping your energy up, your workout performance high, and your body in fat-burning mode.

  -- By Dean Anderson, Fitness Expert

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Keeping a Food Diary

There are many reasons to keep a food diary, the most common being to watch caloric intake versus expenditure. However, you also may be interested in identifying what emotional triggers result in overindulging in unhealthy foods or recording the types of food you ingest. This article will guide you through the practical steps needed to create an effective food diary tailored to meet your specific needs.
What to write in your daily food log
What you write in your food diary will depend on the purpose of your diary. Not everyone keeps a food diary for the same reasons. The following are different types of food journals and suggestions for what types of things you might write in that kind of food log:
Overcome emotional eating
If you are concerned that you are an emotional eater, a person who copes with unpleasant emotions by eating unhealthy amounts of food or unhealthy food, you may want to keep a food diary monitoring your mood and your food choices. This kind of food diary does not need to include calories or nutrition details, but rather should cover your daily experiences with food. If you ate healthfully that day and were in a great mood all day, this should be noted. If you were doing fine both mood-wise and with your food choices until dinner and you found yourself eating a carton of Ben and Jerry's ice cream because you felt so lonely, you will want to make a record of this experience. This kind of a journal requires room for note taking about emotions, events, choices, and possible solutions for the future.
Some emotional eaters overeat when they are celebrating or rewarding themselves for overextending themselves, and some have the converse problem. Some people with emotional eating issues cannot eat when they are distressed, lonely, angry or otherwise upset. These people can also benefit from keeping a emotional eating (or not eating) food journal, making note of when they need to nurture themselves with healthy meals instead of starving their anxiety or sadness by starving their bodies.
Engage in more healthful eating
If you need to change your dietary habits in order to make more healthful choices, you will want to keep a different type of food journal. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you may need to eat more vegetables and proteins and avoid foods with high sugar index ratings; likewise if you have discovered you have high cholesterol, you may want to change your diet to lower your cholesterol. Perhaps you simply want to switch from unhealthy food choices to healthier meals and snacks and you need help seeing the nutritional values of the foods you eat.
This kind of journal will focus on the nutritional values of the foods you eat. You will want to make columns in your food diary to record values such as calories, fat grams, types of fat, grams of fiber, and sugars. You'll want to keep track of what foods helped you move towards your eating goals. When you find yourself eating foods that go contrary to your eating goals, you can look up substitutions for those foods that might satisfy you. For instance, if you ate a plate of French fries, you might write down that next time you'll spray some potatoes slices with Pam, sprinkle some sea salt on them, and roast them in the oven as healthy French fries.
Weight loss
If your goal is weight loss, you may want to combine parts of both of the journals listed above for your journal. Keeping track of caloric intake versus expenditures in exercise may be the most important aspect of your weight loss food diary, but noting the other aspects mentioned above may help you in your choices.
What kind of daily food diary will work best for you?
What kind of daily food journal you choose to use will depend on your lifestyle and what works best for you. If you are at your desk most of the day and have privacy in your office, you may want to keep your journal online or on a spreadsheet on your computer. If you have a laptop, perhaps you'll want to create a daily journal on your laptop and use it throughout the day. Some people like to use their Blackberries or notepad on their phones, and some people like to handwrite their food log in a journal or tiny notepad small enough to fit inside a purse or computer bag.
You also need to consider how much time you have to invest in your food diary. If you have a lot of time to write in details and look up alternative strategies for the future, you'll want a more complex diary. If you're very busy and need something quick and easy, a tiny notebook in your purse might be the way to go for you. Consider what will be easiest for you to actually use and don't overwhelm yourself with too much obligatory information to record in your food diary.
Consider paying for an online food diary 
There are several online food journal services available for low monthly fees. These services allow you to enter your meal choices and even calculate out calories consumed and calories burned through exercises. An online food diary service will most likely provide charts for measuring your progress, online support groups and forums for moral support, and articles about healthful eating and exercise. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stop Binge Eating in Its Tracks

How to Prevent a Binge and Regain Control-- By Lauri Watson, Registered Dietitian

We’ve all heard the lunch room chatter about people's latest diets and weight-loss escapades. Maybe you’ve even led the discussion by saying something like,"I am going to be ‘good’ today and only eat salads and fresh fruit and avoid the sugar and junky stuff." Or maybe the conversation went more like, "I ate so bad this weekend! Now I have to go to the gym for two hours after work to burn it all off." Sound familiar?
As a dietitian, I often get asked "What do you think about the [fill-in-the-blank] diet?" My response is almost always the same: Diets do not teach healthy lifestyle changes that can be maintained over many years.
Unlike small and sustainable changes you can live with, diets are usually restrictive in nature and short-lived. While some people do find success on a variety of fad diet plans, most of the initial weight loss is simply water weight that comes right back once the diet is over or once you’ve cheated or given up on the eating plan that you simply couldn't take anymore.
Unfortunately, many people will not only gain back every pound they worked so hard to lose on a short-lived diet, but they can actually gain even more than they lost. Many times, dieting can lead to out-of-control binge eating episodes in which the dieter gets so fed up with restricting herself that she overindulges in every "sinful" treat she had been avoiding. However, these binges can also be on "healthy" or diet-approved foods, too.
If you're reading this article, chances are that you've experienced binge eating and may be wondering things like:
  • Is it ever OK to binge? Is the occasional binge normal?
  • Is it better to eat "right" Monday through Friday and then to throw caution to the wind on the weekends or plan for one cheat day per week?
  • Will I ever find a happy balance between eating the foods I crave and maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
  • I’ve heard of "intuitive eating," but what exactly does that mean and how do I apply it to my daily eating habits?
Let's explore some of these thoughts a little further.
Instead of defining "normal" eating here, this article will focus on how to prevent binges and get back on track after them. To read more about whether your eating habits are "normal" check out this three-part series on the topic by SparkPeople's behavioral psychology expert, Coach Dean.
What is binge eating?
Binging is an uncontrolled ingestion of large quantities of food within a short time period, often accompanied by feeling out of control over the eating taking place. 
We have all overeaten at one time or another, most notably around the holidays or on a special occasion. I think we have all gone back for seconds (or thirds) on Thanksgiving, or had an extra slice or two of cake at a birthday party. So when does the occasional overindulgence cross the line into the realm of real binge eating?
That isn't always easy to define. But if your days and weeks are becoming more filled with sessions of overeating and guilt; if thoughts of "bad" food and "good" food are constantly on your mind; and the lines between enjoying a small piece of cake on occasion and eating the whole pie are becoming more obscure, it might be time to step back take notice.
Keeping Binges at Bay
I’ve had many conversations with co-workers and friends about their post-weekend-binge guilt. Most often they say something like, "I was good all week! No sweets, no candy or cookies, and I even passed on mom’s mac & cheese at dinner the other night! But I just couldn’t help myself on Saturday when I opened the pint of ice cream to just take a bite and before I knew it, the whole carton was gone. Now I feel so guilty. I have to be extra good this week and go to the gym every day to work it off."
My response usually seems to surprise people: "Instead of eating the whole carton of ice cream on Saturday night, why not enjoy a small serving a few times throughout the week?" A half a cup of ice cream will likely set you back around 150 calories—maybe 200 for a really rich variety. But the whole carton will do much more damage than that! Not to mention the havoc all that sugar intake in one sitting will have on your blood sugar levels! Small amounts of sweets or high starchy foods over time are more likely to keep those cravings at bay and help prevent the cycle of binge eating and guilt.
For those of us who struggle with occasional binges that are more annoying and guilt-providing than obsessions or compulsions, there are a few tricks you can implement to keep yourself on track and avoid bingeing. <pagebreak>
  1. NEVER eat directly from the whole carton, bag or box. Take out your portion and put the rest away.
  2. For sweets and treats, use small (4 ounce) bowls and cocktail spoons or forks. A half a cup of ice cream or pie will look like a lot more food if you put it in a small bowl, rather than a large bowl with lots of extra empty space. Using smaller spoons and forks will make smaller portions last longer and slow down your eating.
  3. Set a kitchen timer or monitor the clock and try to extend meal times to 15-20 minutes. Take small bites and put your fork down in between bites. Have a conversation, chew slowly, etc. These strategies will allow your body to have enough time for its fullness cues to kick in. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your tummy to send a single to your brain that you are full. Remember last Thanksgiving when you gobbled down 2-3 plates of food in about 5 minutes and then regretted it 10 minutes later because your tummy felt like it was going to explode? It’s a miserable feeling, but eating slowly is the best defense to preventing it from happening again.
  4. Learn to differentiate between hunger and cravings.  Cravings are usually for something specific (brownies, French fries, bread, candy, etc.). However, if you are truly hungry, you will most likely eat anything, including raw veggies dipped in hummus or a small handful of nuts. The lines between hunger and cravings are often blurred, especially with the abundance of food options we have in America. Listen to your body and learn to decipher between cravings and hunger.
  5. Sometimes, we can confuse hunger with thirst. If you find yourself staring into the fridge looking for something to eat, but don’t know what you want, you are most likely experiencing boredom cravings. Grab a glass of water and walk away.
  6. When a craving for a specific food strikes, have an answer for it: Go for a walk, read a good book, take a hot bath, whatever you have to do to get your mind off of the craving.
  7. Sometimes binge eating isn’t really about the food or the craving at all. Instead it’s more of a stress reliever after a really bad day or a difficult breakup. Often without realizing it, we eat the whole bag of cookies or that entire bowl of pasta as a coping mechanism for stress or personal struggles. One of the most important things to prevent these types of binges is to stay present. Slow down and savor each bite of food. Better yet, seek out stress relief by going for a walk around the block or taking a hot bath.
  8. DON’T skip meals! This is very important. Skipping meals and snacks can cause you to overeat at the next meal, and eating just one (or two) big meal per day can wreak havoc on your blood sugars and hinder weight loss. Aim for three meals per day plus one or two (based on your calorie needs) healthy snacks
  9. Stay present while eating. Be aware of what you are eating and how much. Focus on your food and minimize any other distractions: Avoid eating in front of the TV or computer. Clear off the kitchen table. Don't read, study, write or talk on the phone while you eat.  By eating more mindfully, you will enjoy your meals more, notices fullness, flavor and satisfaction better than ever before, and feel less of a desire to overeat.
  10. Know how you respond to trigger foods. You'll hear differing opinions about whether people prone to binge eating should keep their trigger foods in the house or far, far away. I think this depends on the person. Only YOU know your own limits. If you are the type of person that simply cannot stop at just one cookie or one serving of ice cream, it might be best to keep these foods out of the house for a while. However, I think the goal would be to work towards enjoying a small serving of a trigger food whenever a craving strikes in order to avoid the inevitable binge that usually follows bouts of restriction. For some, allowing a small serving of a trigger food throughout the week can prevent binges—because you allow it versus labeling it off-limits. Others have a harder time staying in control.
And remember, it's okay to enjoy a sweet treat or a hearty side item every now and then. Depriving yourself is usually worse in the long run and can lead to out-of-control eating episodes that add up to far more calories than the food you initially wanted to eat. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures in small amounts a few times per week.
Coming Back from a Binge
So let's say it's been a rough week and you binged on one or more foods. It doesn't matter whether it was your favorite flavor of ice cream, healthy foods from your "approved" list, or anything you could get your hands on. Now what? Here's a list of dos and don'ts to get you back on track:

  • DON'T beat yourself up over it. We’ve all had those days at some point, and you can't change what happened in the past.
  • DO move forward and make your next meal or snack a healthy, portion-controlled one.
  • DON'T overly restrict your diet over the next few days to "make up for being bad." This will make you more likely to continue the cycle of deprivation dieting and binging.
  • DO focus on making the best food choices you can each day, focusing on lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water. But continue to allow yourself to enjoy that small piece of dark chocolate (or other portion controlled treats) on occasion.
  • DON'T punish yourself at the gym after a binge. Stick to your usual exercise routine. Maybe go for an extra walk or do some other light activity in addition to your workouts, but try to avoid the mindset of "working off" the calories you consumed. This, too, can lead to an unhealthy cycle of binging and over-exercising.
Remember, the overall goal is to seek balance. A healthy lifestyle is not defined by one single meal or eating episode. Even the healthiest eaters in the world aren't perfect all the time. It's the combination of your choices over time that will create an overall healthy lifestyle. 
Please note: Overeating on occasion, such as your birthday or Thanksgiving may very well be considered normal. However, if you are experiencing purging behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives or enemas, or excessive exercising to prevent weight gain OR if you’ve noticed that you are overeating very frequently, please seek professional help. On the same note, if every "sinful" bite of food or any overindulgence episode (big or small) leads you straight to the gym for several hours to work it off, you may be dealing with abnormal food and exercise issues, such as clinical binge eating disorder (a real eating disorder) or compulsive exercise, which can be a form of bulimia—another serious disorder.  Learn more about recognizing eating disorders and getting help.
Elsevier USA. "Dorlands Online Medical Dictionary," accessed March 2011. www.dorlands.com.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why is the 2nd week SOOOOO Hard?!

With two-thirds of Americans currently overweight, it is evident that losing weight is not an easy task to accomplish. During the first week of weight loss, motivation is high and the pounds seem to roll off. Week two is often a different story. Understanding why weight loss can slow down will keep you from getting discouraged as you continue along on your weight-loss journey.


It is common to lose 3, 4 or even 5 lbs. the first week when changing your diet. However, a large percentage of this lost weight is water. When you decrease caloric consumption, your body starts to burn glycogen for energy. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate and tends to hold onto large amounts of water. When it is burned for energy, this water is released. Because each gram of glycogen holds onto 4 g of water, there is a significant weight loss when it is burned. That is why week two's weight loss won't match week one's weight loss.


Refined carbohydrates like sugar, candy, soda and chips tend to have an addictive quality to them. For most people, the more you have of them, the more you want them. When you change your diet and cut down on these foods, your body goes through a kind of withdrawal, and you get intense cravings for these foods. If you are eating a healthy diet, these cravings will dissipate after a short time, but they tend to be really bad in week two. This is something you just need to try to tough out until the cravings become more manageable.


When you first start a diet, you are really excited to make changes, and your focus and adrenaline get you through the first week easily. In week two, you start to realize that this whole weight loss thing is going to take some work. The realization that your life will have to seriously change to accomplish your goals becomes apparent. In other words, reality sinks in. This can be a challenge for many.


Most weight-loss plans include an exercise component. It is common to overdo it the first week and experience delayed onset muscle soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness occurs after 24 to 48 hours in response to either aerobic or resistance exercise. Eccentric muscle contraction leads to structural damages to the muscle that tends to result in an inflammatory response. This soreness can sap your will to exercise because it is uncomfortable. It is a good idea to gradually increase your physical activity over a period of weeks to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness. This will help to keep you motivated in week two and going forward

Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Easy Ways to Lighten Up Any Recipe

Boost Nutrition and Cut Calories in the Kitchen

Choosing healthy foods is an important part of eating right, but cooking them in a healthful way is another huge part. For example, zucchini can take on two completely different forms when it's quickly sautéed in olive oil versus battered and deep fried. What we add to foods makes all the difference when it comes to home cooking.

The first step to healthier cooking is to take recipes as suggestions. Before you start chopping and mixing, scan the recipe to see if there are any unnecessary calories. Look for excess cheese, butter and oils, as well as sugars.

Here are some tasty, healthy ideas to help you become a professional recipe overhauler!  
  1. Sauté—the skinny way! A couple of tablespoons of  low-sodium vegetable broth can be used instead of oil or butter in your stir fry or as the basis for a sauce. This method will add a nice flavor to your dish as well as a little moisture—and you'll save calories to use elsewhere. To get a dose of unsaturated fats, serve your broth-sautéed veggies with a side salad, and pour an olive oil-based dressing over the top.
  2. Say no to skin. Three ounces of chicken breast meat with skin has almost 150 calories; three ounces of chicken without the skin has 50 fewer calories. Tasty as it might be, the skin contains mostly heart-unhealthy saturated fat. You can cook with the skin on to retain moisture  (add fresh herbs or citrus zest underneath it to really bake in some flavor), but be sure to remove the skin before you enjoy your meal to save on calories and saturated fat.
  3. Squeeze on the citrus. To add a powerful flavor punch with minimal added calories, use citrus on steamed veggies instead of butter or over a salad instead of a dressing. It’s even great on fruit salad in place of sugar and adds some zip when squeezed onto a pasta salad. Don’t forget to use the flavorful zest of citrus fruits as well! Wash a lemon, orange or lime, then use a zester or grater to add the zest to dishes such as baked seafood.
  4. Be choosy about cheese. When using a mildly flavored cheese, such as Monterey Jack, you need more cheese to taste it. But when you choose a cheese with intense flavor, you can use less and still get the desired effect. Try a reduced-sodium feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan next time. Light cheese wedges such as The Laughing Cow brand are useful when you're watching fat and calories, too. Try mixing one of these soft cheeses into your scrambled eggs or noodle dishes instead of loading on the shredded mozzarella.
  5. Go Greek. Tangy, fat-free Greek yogurt is a healthful replacement for sour cream. Try this switch in herbed and spiced dips, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, or throw it in a cooked dish as a thickening agent. You’ll save 45 calories for each 2-tablespoon serving.
  6. Puree your produce. Add body to soups and sauces with pureed vegetables instead of heavy cream, evaporated milk, butter or cheese. This move will also add fiber and nutrients to your dish for very few calories. A puree of carrots will add texture to meatless spaghetti sauce, and mixing a blend of beans into a chili or soup will add flavor and thicken it—all with very few added calories. In this recipe, Chef Meg thickens a taco soup with chickpeas!
  7. Get cozy with cottage cheese. When a recipe calls for a significant amount of a crumbled cheese, such as feta or ricotta, substitute half the amount with reduced-fat cottage cheese. This will retain taste, texture, protein, and calcium while ditching some of the fat and calories. This works well for stuffed peppers and most baked pasta dishes.
  8. Pump up the veggies! You can easily reach the recommended five servings of fruits and veggies when you’re cooking at home. Veggies can compliment any dish on your menu, adding nutrient-packed bulk to the meal for few calories. Add chopped asparagus and mushrooms to your next omelet, red peppers (or a frozen stir fry mix) to baked casseroles, or any kind of beans to a pasta salad. Include fresh or frozen spinach in pasta sauces and soups, and broccoli in your casseroles. The opportunities for adding veggies are endless for almost any dish!
  9. Cut the cream. When making cream-based soups, sub fat-free half-and-half for any heavy cream. The switch gives the soups a creamy taste and velvety texture without all the saturated fat of heavy cream. This works great in pasta sauces as well.
  10. Make your own marinade. Marinate lean meats in vinegar and citrus combos (with a bit of oil added) rather than a pre-made oil-based dressing. You can also try a fruit juice or wine. These agents will still tenderize and flavor the meat, and a mix of herbs and spices will bring out the flavor! (You'll also save sodium by not using the store-bought varieties!) Try cutting the meat in strips before dousing it to really let the marinade take effect.
As you can see, there are endless ways you can boost the nutrition and reduce the calories of almost any recipe. Get creative and experiment in the kitchen. You may just find that you like these new ways of cooking just as much—or even better!

 -- By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Spring Challenge Coming SOON!

This next challenge is scheduled to begin April 8th and will be only 8 weeks long. This way we will be done before summer vacations commence! Check it out below! CLICK HERE to register or just show up!