Posts tagged ‘weight loss’


We are 5 weeks into the New Year… how are your New Years Resolutions coming? Did you make one? Did you write it down? The following infographic is from the Education Database Online and raises some great points about the benefits of goal setting!

Setting Goals Infographic

If you are in the majority of those who do make resolutions, it is likely that one of your goals is to lose weight or get healthier. While these are great goals, they are incredibly broad and difficult to measure success on a weekly basis. In my clinical training, I have learned to help people set more attainable goals within their main objective. For example, exercise 3 times a week could be a mini-goal for the month of February, which would be a step towards weight loss and better health. Weight loss can be influenced by other factors, but making a decision to add exercise is something that you can tangibly work towards. Besides providing compelling evidence for written goal setting, I love the emphasis at the end of this graphic on making step-wise, attainable changes! I hope that this helps to motivate you in whatever goals you are trying to accomplish in 2013.

Question: Did you make a New Years Resolution? Share below, and let us know how you are doing! Does anything in the above graphic help you with your goal?


February 7, 2013 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Abs are Made in the Grocery Store

There is a popular saying that goes, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym,” referring to the fact that our body composition depends as much if not more on our food choices than the amount of exercise we do. However, I think that phrase needs some revising. I truly believe that the choice happens at the grocery store, not the kitchen. If you buy healthy foods, you will eat healthy foods! Keeping tempting snack foods and indulgences out of the kitchens makes it much easier to make healthy choices when it is late, you are tired, or the stress of the day makes you want to eat everything in sight! But how do you conquer the grocery store and leave with only healthy purchases? This is what my best friend asked of me, so we took a field trip to Trader Joe’s to learn some healthy grocery shopping basics. This is the advice we came up with for filling your grocery cart with healthy food on a budget.


1. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is the oldest advice in the book when it comes to healthy grocery shopping tips, but it really works! The real food – like fruits, veggies, dairy, and meat – tends to be located towards the periphery of the store. The tempting snack foods, desserts, and prepared frozen meals tend to be located in the center aisles. While necessary ingredients are located in the center as well, the bulk of time should be spent perusing the outskirts. The 80-20 rule applies here. 80% of your time and grocery budget should come from the perimeter, while the other 20% is dedicated to the shelf stable centrally located necessities.

2. Stock up with fruits and veggies, and try at least one new produce item each week. The most common comment I hear from friends is that they don’t buy fresh produce because they are afraid of not being able to use it and wasting food. I have found that the more produce I have in my house, the more I am forced to make healthy choices for that exact reason. It is easier to choose an apple for a snack when you know you have to eat the fruit before it goes bad! It may take a few weeks and a little playing around with how much you can realistically eat within a week, which may mean a few up front weeks of spoiled veggies or sad fruits. However, it is worth the experiment in the long run! If this really is an issue, then frozen fruits and veggies are still an excellent option. Simply look for things that are flash frozen, have no added salt or sugar, and will maintain texture and flavor after being frozen.

Trying new things is also crucial here – you may find new favorites and will never know unless you begin to expand your horizons! This will also break you out of boring produce ruts and help to ensure that you get the full range of nutrients in your diet.

3. Focus on whole grains. Make sure that your bread is made with 100% whole wheat flour, choose whole wheat crackers and wraps, and look for items like quinoa, brown rice, old-fashioned oatmeal, and other unprocessed grains. White grains turn more quickly into sugar and are only for a treat, but often hide in products marketed as whole wheat or healthy. Be a label sleuth and a grain snob – it is for your health.

4. Read the labels! And don’t just stop at calories and fat. While counting calories is important for weight loss, there are other important items to consider. Serving size is key – my friend picked up a package of chicken taquitos and exclaimed, “Oh, only 110 calories!” That may sound ok until we looked at the serving size and realized that it is per tiny taquito, which would not make for the most filling lunch.

Ingredient lists are also good to peruse – anything with a laundry list of ingredients or with lots of hard to pronounce chemical names is probably something to steer clear from. Another important line to read is sodium. Anything with more than 10% of the RDV of sodium is probably not worth it – you can add salt if your taste buds need it, but you can’t take out the hidden salt. High sodium foods are not heart healthy, and also lead to water retention, which can be discouraging for dieters. The last place to look on a food label is the carbohydrates section. You want high fiber foods, since they help with satiety and help, well…. ya know. You also want to avoid added sugars, which I learned during my challenge, are everywhere!

Now take the reading labels example as a whole: my friend was choosing between 2 different types of bread. Both were 100% whole wheat, no weird preservatives, and similar in calories (110 vs. 80 per slice). Many dieters would stop there and choose the lower calorie bread. However, we looked down and noticed the 110 calorie option had 3x the amount of both fiber and protein, making it more nutritious per calorie and therefore the better option. Reading food labels is important!

5. Keep a well stocked pantry. Having staple ingredients on hand when the fridge seems empty will help you avoid the take-out temptation. Bulk grains, pastas, beans, low-sodium canned tomato sauce, and frozen veggies are helpful and can be thrown into a quick meal, like rice and beans or pasta with vegetables. Vinegars and herbs are also helpful for adding flavor and interest to a simple meal, without high cost, calories, or sodium. Having healthier quick-fix meal options, like low sodium soups or healthy frozen entrees instead of boxed mac and cheese and high sodium options, is also important for nights when things are too busy to cook.

6. Never shop hungry. If you are hungry, you will fall victim to end cap sale items, junk food treats, and impulse buys. Shopping on a full stomach will help you focus and make the best choices at the store.

7. Use a list. Some people go to the extreme with meal planning and lists, but I take a looser approach. In order to shop the sales, I make a bare bones shopping list: 3 types of fruit, 5 types of veggies (2 leafy green, 1 starch, peppers, mushrooms), bulk grain, bread, yogurt, eggs, etc. This allows me to choose what looks best that week or what is on sale, while still allowing me to have the essentials for meals throughout the week.


With these guidelines in hand, my friend was able to conquer Trader Joe’s and emerge with bags of healthy food! Together, we brainstormed healthy lunches, picked up fruit for healthy snacks, and compared a lot of labels to pick the best products. We both learned a lot and had fun in the process, but who wouldn’t have fun with this little guy smiling back at you the whole time?!


Question: Do you have anything to add to this list? What is your grocery shopping style?

Sources: WebMD and

May 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2 comments

Mom’s Reflections on the Vegan Challenge

You have seen my progress in the Vegan Challenge, and have occasionally heard from my parents and friend, but I thought I would give them a chance to share about their experience in their own words! One of the highlights of the month for me was recipe swapping with my mom. She taught me the basics of cooking and shared her passion of good food with me at a young age. I was excited to be able to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way with her, and am amazed by her creativity with vegan cooking! I hope you are as inspired by my mom as I am!

Somehow my daughter was able to talk my husband into going vegan for the month of January.  I don’t think he really had any idea of what he was agreeing too, but I had wanted to try going vegan for some time.  Some of my friends had done the Daniel Fast, a “spiritual fast” based on the book of Daniel in the Bible in which he ate only vegetables, fruits, and drank only water.  A “side effect” of their fasting was weight loss.  So needing to shed some pounds and really cleanse my body and mind, I thought, “Why not join him in this challenge?!”  So during the Christmas holidays, with help from my already vegetarian daughter, I prepared both my mind and my kitchen for the challenge.  She gave me tips on how to incorporate protein into each of our meals so that we wouldn’t go hungry.  I stocked my kitchen cabinets with beans, quinoa, and rice and my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits.  I had recently started getting a weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables which proved to be a huge help during the challenge.  She took me to Whole Foods and taught me how to read labels to find all those hidden sources of off limit ingredients and introduced me to tofu and tempeh.  I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk–which I now absolutely love and will not go back to milk.  We even found some different coconut creamers for my husband’s coffee in the morning.


Spaghetti Squash with Delicata Squash, mushrooms and tomatoes. One of my first dinners on the Vegan Challenge.

For breakfast, I made oatmeal with a variety of different fruit mixed in.  I took Jen’s advice and made sure to add either almond milk or sometimes peanut butter to give the oatmeal some protein.  On the weekends, when I would normally have loved scrambled eggs, I began making hash brown potatoes, something I learned from my younger daughter.  On a recent Saturday morning, I shredded some sweet potatoes I had gotten in my organics box, added some onions and black beans, and fried them in olive oil for a delicious and filling breakfast!  I discovered a love for hummus at lunchtime, which also helped to keep me full.  My favorite quick lunch is spread some hummus on a wrap, add some mixed salad greens and diced cucumbers or any leftover grilled vegetables.  Fabulous!  I had a lot of fun finding new recipes and enjoying all the things that I could eat.  That was the best advice that Jen gave me at the start of the challenge.  It was never about what I couldn’t have but making the most of what I could have.  I made homemade pizza with caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for a topping—I didn’t even miss the cheese.  I made chili with sweet potatoes instead of meat.  I even made a vegan macaroni and cheese using butternut squash and some nutritional yeast to make the “cheese sauce”.


Thai Fried Rice with sautéed Bok Choy, onions, broccoli and ginger. My last dinner on the Vegan Challenge.

So, after my thirty days as a vegan, I definitely feel better and lost 12 pounds in the process.  I learned a lot about healthy eating and filling my body with good food.  It definitely takes a bit more planning and preparation to be vegan and social settings are definitely hard.  I had friends over for dinner during the challenge and fearing that they would have to be satisfied with a weird vegan dinner, the men all admitted to having eaten meat or chicken BEFORE they came over to eat my vegan food.  So I do agree with Jen, being Vegan with Benefits is much easier.  That’s pretty much what I have been doing (significantly reducing my meat and dairy intake) since the challenge ended as well and plan to continue doing, although I do admit to having some pepperoni pizza while cheering the Giants to victory over the Patriots in the Superbowl this past weekend!  So thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and support in helping me succeed in this challenge!


Sweet Potato Chili with brown rice and Daiya cheese sprinkles

The question still remains: how did Dad fare? Well, he has been busy with a snowmobiling and business trip, but I will try to wrangle a paragraph or two of thoughts from him as soon as I can! Looking at the pictures of what my mom cooked throughout the month, I can assure you he didn’t starve!

February 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm 2 comments

Woah, We’re Halfway There

Please tell me that Bon Jovi immediately popped into your head when you saw the title of this post. No? Just me? Great, well now that’s out of the way… We are already halfway through our vegan challenge, and there already some exciting results to share! First, I’ll let my friends and family do the talking, and then I’ll add my two cents at the end.

1. Do you miss meat, cheese, or dairy has much as you thought you would?
Mom: “I really don’t miss the chicken and meat as much as I do miss my eggs and cheese.  So many of my favorite vegetarian dishes have cheese.  It is also very hard, if not impossible, to eat out as a vegan.  Breakfast is also hard for me as a vegan.” (Obviously, I have failed to get my mom on the oatmeal bandwagon! ;)
Dan: “I am constantly reminded daily of things I can not eat. My internet stumbling chooses to show me new recipes of mac and cheese or McDonald’s flirtatiously reminds me of the glory that is a Big Mac. But, all in all, the craving for meat is not as bad as I thought. Although opening the fridge and knowing there’s nothing in there to eat is a downer…”
2. What is the food you have been enjoying most as a vegan?
Mom: “I don’t know if I have a new favorite food but I have been having fun trying new recipes, like using butternut squash [and nutritional yeast] to make a vegan mac and cheese.  I made the most delicious vegan pizza over the weekend with no cheese or meat in sight and Daddy and Mr. H loved it!”
Dan: “I agree… [that] quinoa is an awesome new grain I’ve never had before. However, after eating nothing but that for a week I’m now sick and tired of that nutty almost cous cous like taste. So I guess the food I’m enjoying most is vegetables?”

Dan's reaction to his vegan burrito. All in jest, though.

3. What has been the biggest struggle as a vegan?
Mom: “For me the biggest struggle is the time it takes to be a vegan; you really have to think about what you are putting in your mouth and I have been packing my lunch everyday to avoid the temptation of eating the wrong things.”
Dan: “My family, although supportive, is not doing this challenge. Therefore, they proceed to eat meat and animal products in my face. Especially my brother… he particularly enjoys watching a commercial on TV or eating pork ribs and asking, “Bro, you want some? Oh wait, that’s right… you can’t!” Furthermore there’s a lot of hidden animal products in Korean cuisine. A lot of our soups and stews may seem innocuous at first, but the soup base will call for anchovies to create a seafood broth. Things of that nature.”
4. Have you cheated (intentionally or unintentionally)?
Mom: “No cheating; I read all labels like you taught me.”
Dan: “Yes I’ve cheated. Once on the first day completely unintentionally thereby restarting the challenge the next day to maintain a full 31 days. The other at CG: where an innocent looking bowl of wheat pasta was tossed in *GASP* butter! Believe me when I say I did not taste any butter nor did I receive any satisfaction for having tasted that delicious animal product. Our beloved referee did however give me a reprieve for this transgression.”
5. How are you feeling?
Mom: “I feel great and have already lost 9 lbs!  Just think where I may be in another couple of weeks!  While I don’t think I would ever decide to become totally vegan, I do think cutting way back on animal protein is something that I will definitely stick with for the future because it is really helping me to feel better and shed some pounds.”
Dad: “Same for me and down 8 lbs.”
Dan: “There may be some truth to the medical community’s fervent support of a high fiber meal being healthy for you. I feel good nah nuh nah nuh nah nuh nuh. I knew that I would.”
My Dad did not have to say much for the questions, but did add in this really touching thought at the end. “Never ever would I have agreed to vegan vs. vegetarian.   However, it has forced an unknowing amount of discipline that I thought I was incapable of.  The love of my daughter and support of my wife has made this possible.   It is good to know that I can get my life back.” Gotta love my big teddy bear of a dad! I am proud of all of us for the changes we have made in the past two weeks, but am most proud of my dad. He had the most barriers to overcome in this challenge, and the least positive mindset. However, after seeing the first few pounds come off and realizing that my Mom was still cooking delicious dinners, his tune changed! Even over an unexpected road trip for a family emergency, he stuck to the vegan challenge – without the supervision on provision of my mom! Nothing put a smile on my face like his Saturday morning text, “Day 14.”

Dad's fruit bowl at work for healthy snacks

Needless to say, it looks like everyone is flourishing with this challenge! It has been fun for me to stay so connected with my parents, through swapping recipes with my mom and talking about changes my dad is making. Even though we won’t be permanently vegan, there have already been some huge lifestyle shifts made! My dad has a bowl of fruit on his desk at work now, so he is no longer tempted by vending machines and office snacks. My mom is bringing her lunch and focusing on eating real food. She is also keeping a food journal, which is why she has been so successful in her early stages of weight loss! All of us have certainly become more mindful of what we are eating, and our vegetable consumption has increased substantially.
How am I doing? I got over my cheese craving in the first few days, and now I am loving it! The hardest part for me is communal eating – potlucks for our weekly Bible study and desserts from classmates are much harder to navigate. Even so, I feel cleansed from all of the holiday cookies, have more energy throughout the day since I am more mindful of what I am eating, and my skin has even cleared up! I agree that I could not remain a strict vegan, but my dairy and egg consumption will certainly decrease following this experience.
Question: Did anyone’s response surprise you? How do you think we will fare over the next two weeks?

January 16, 2012 at 8:07 pm 7 comments

How to Win the Weight Loss Battle

Before leaving for the wedding weekend on Thursday, I got to attend a lunch talk by Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and professor at the Sargent School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at BU. I have heard this same talk twice before, but she always has so many excellent points that I come away with at least one or two new ideas each time! Her talk was entitled, “How to Win the Weight Loss Battle” and focused on the obesity epidemic, potential reasons why weight is becoming such a problem, and strategies to help people make small changes. Here are some of my favorite tips from her lecture:

You have to move more! But don’t reward your hour-long walk with the dog or half hour at the gym with an extra serving of dessert! She has a client vignette that cracks me up every time: an older man had reached a plateau with his weight loss, so she recommended that he walk the dog for 45 minutes every night before dinner. He did, came back and only had lost 1 pound. Frustrated, he exclaimed, “I did exactly what you said, and only lost 1 pound. The dog, on the other hand, lost 11! What gives?!” She later got him to own up to his extra serving of dinner each night because he thought he burned it off walking. So be careful that you aren’t overcompensating for calories burned!

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Have family dinner! As a kid, we used to eat dinner together as a family at least 5-6 nights a week, but that is becoming a thing of the past in many households. Even with busy schedules, for both kids and adults, it is still important to slow down and share food together. This gives time to only eat as much as you are hungry for, and also increases the likelihood of it being healthier food.

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Find life outside of the kitchen pantry. This is the only point that I slightly disagreed with Joan about. I think more people need to find life inside the kitchen. Cooking can be fun and simple; it is not that hard to eat healthy, and even easy to make healthy food taste good! The problem is that so many people are kitchen-phobic. Cook dinner, sit down with friends and family around the dinner table as mentioned above, and enjoy real food. Find life outside the pantry, the snack closet, the cookie jar, or whatever other food force enslaves you, and replace the time spent mindlessly snacking in front of the TV with a new movement based hobby, but find life inside of the kitchen to find new favorite healthy dinners.

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Remove the myth around frozen veggies. Many people think that it is only good for you if it is fresh, but that isn’t always the case. Many vegetables are picked early and allowed to ripen so they are fresh in the grocery store. Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak and then flash frozen, making them just as good as fresh. Plus, they are often pre-chopped and really convenient for easy weekday meals. Watch out for mixes that contain any sort of dressing or added salt, and stay away from canned. But eating frozen veggies on weeknights for convenience is much better than eating frozen dinners or fast food!


Eat pasta in a 1:1 ratio. Joan is a NJ Italian, so she understands the “mangia” mentality about some beloved Italian American foods. Even if you aren’t Italian, who doesn’t love pasta?! The only problem is that it can be calorie dense without nutrient dense. Instead of eating 2 cups of cooked pasta (400 calories), eat a cup of pasta with a cup of cooked vegetables mixed in (250 calories). Same amount of volume, equally satiating, and an easy way to cut 150 calories from your meal. Similar to this idea, take some of the meat and cheese of your sandwich and replace it with veggies, and load up your omelets with veggies. Your stomach’s hunger signals respond to volume faster than calories, so be sure to satiate yourself with low-calorie, high-nutrient foods like fruits and veggies! Joan’s famous catch phrase: “They fill you up before they fill you out.”

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Eat on smaller plates. Standard dinner plates used to be 8 inches. Now they are 12. Most of us are not gourmets and will not leave a large rim around the plate for decoration. Instead, we eat with our eyes and fill our plates. Then we clear them, remembering times at the dinner table when mom wouldn’t let us leave food behind. This can lead to up to a 500 calorie increase in dinner! If we use smaller plates, we eat less but feel equally as satisfied after clearing our plate. Even more, you should use the plate method, newly adopted to replace the outdated food pyramid. If you divided your plate down the center, half should be fruits and veggies. The other quarter should be lean protein, and the last quarter should be whole grains.

MyPlate-green300x273 Source

You gotta eat! A hungry person is a cranky person, and cranky people are far less likely to make healthy decisions. You need to eat 3 meals a day, but they should be smaller. In between meals, snack on whole fruits and veggies or small servings of air-popped popcorn. Look for things that are full of fiber but low in calories for snacks. Don’t let your day be a triangle, with all of your calories consumed at night. Space your meals pretty evenly throughout the day, and have protein at every meal to help you stay full longer!


Breakfast is always the hardest for me to incorporate protein into. It is pretty natural to add beans to my salad, have quinoa at dinner, and ensure that I get protein at other points of the day, but it is not always so easy first thing in the morning. Recently, I have been adding a tablespoonful of peanut butter to my oatmeal, and that really makes a difference in staying full until my lunch break. This breakfast burrito is another great way to stay full all morning. It kept me full for 5 hours while running around all morning setting up for my best friend’s rehearsal dinner (more on the wedding soon!) Eggs can get a bad rep with dieters because they are high in cholesterol. The bigger problem than eggs, however, is that with eggs usually comes gobs of cheese. To keep this breakfast full of flavor without all of the added cholesterol, I filled it up with veggies and spices! In this breakfast alone there is a full serving of veggies, whole grains and proteins, and you won’t miss the cheese at all.

Question: What is your favorite take-home point from Joan’s talk?


High Protein Breakfast Burrito

serves 2

3 eggs

1 tbsp milk

3/4 cup black beans (half a can)

1/2 yellow squash

1/2 red pepper

2 whole wheat tortillas

2 tbsp salsa

1/4 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Dice the red pepper and yellow squash. Coat a frying pan with cooking spray and saute the vegetables over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, until they are soft. Add the black beans and cumin. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Pour over the vegetables and scramble. When eggs are mostly cooked, add the salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half into each tortilla, roll, and serve warm.

September 5, 2011 at 7:50 am 5 comments

In Defense of Snacks

Back to school, back to exams, back to study snacking. As much as I hate to admit it, I am definitely a muncher when I am studying. This has led to two outcomes: I lost a lot of weight during college because I wouldn’t be hungry enough to eat real meals, but wasn’t eating enough to keep up with my activity level. At other times, it has led me to gain weight, a consequence of mindless calorie consumption. No major swings, but enough to cause my mom and sister to worry (not to mention I’m not really a fan of either problem!) I tried to fix this by cutting out snacking all together, but that wasn’t really working for me either! I couldn’t eat enough at meal times to keep me from getting hungry (read: grumpy) in between. So I have resumed my study snacking ways, but have limited it to one to two snacks a day, and I try to keep them healthy. My current favorites: raisins and almonds, dry roasted edamame, roasted sunflower seed kernels, apples, and this popcorn!


Popcorn is a great snack food when veggie sticks or a piece of fruit just won’t cut it. I love veggies as much as more than most people, but I need a good, salty snack every once in a while! You can save a lot of money, fat and calories by making your own popcorn, and can make fun flavors, too. I have an air-popper, but you can do it over the stove as well. Three tablespoons of kernels is all it takes to make a huge bowl, at cents per serving and only 100 calories or so! For a classic movie theater bowl, I simply use canola oil and sea salt. With my recent purchase of nutritional yeast, I got a little more creative and made my own cheese popcorn! (Remember when I said I wasn’t at the point of being able to just sprinkle it on something? I guess my taste buds adapt quickly!) The flavor is just salty and cheesy enough to be amazing, and it is (filled with fiber, protein packed, lower in fat and salt) good for you! Cheesy popcorn not your think? Brainstorm other fun flavors! Spicy, classic kettle corn, chocolate… just a few others I have tried. Let me know what you come up with! I have a long year of studying ahead ;)

Questions: Are you a study snacker? What is your favorite snack food?


Homemade Smart Food

makes 1 large or 2 small servings

3 tbsp popcorn kerels

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp salt

Pop kernels in an air popper or using the stove method. Drizzle with oil, nutritional yeast and salt. Cover container and shake until well coated.

August 20, 2011 at 9:00 am 3 comments

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