Slash Holiday Calories In Half

The average person gains at least one pound between Thanksgiving and New Years. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? One pound isn’t bad at all and it should be fairly easy to take off, but the problem is that most people never do take that pound off. 5 years of holiday seasons equals 5 pounds and ten years equals 10 pounds! Most people tell themselves that they’ll wait until after New Years to do something about the thousands of extra calories they’ve eaten, because what’s the point if you’re just going to go to yet another holiday party next week? And besides, you have that New Year’s Resolution you’re planning on tackling (yet again this year) to finally take off the weight you gained last year, so why not have one last hurrah before buckling down.

The more you put it off, the less likely you’ll be to actually follow through with your plan, so here are some ideas to get a jump-start on your resolution, but still enjoy the parties and food.

Wine – There’s about 100-120 calories in a 4 oz. glass of wine (more for dessert wines), so if you know you’re going to have more than one glass slash the calories in half by turning it into a wine spritzer. Mix half wine with half seltzer and top it off with a slice of lime.

Looks pretty yummy and festive!

Cheese & Crackers – One cracker with an ounce of cheese will run you about 125 calories. Yikes! And you know you won’t be able to stop at just one. Cheese is usually pretty pungent, so you know that a 1/2 ounce portion can go a long way. Cut the calories even further by having the cheese with veggies instead of the crackers.

Mashed Potatoes – Heap a 1/2 cup on your plate and pile on 120 more calories. Lighten it up by leaving the butter out and using skim milk or chicken broth to smooth it out. For a bonus, leave the skin on the potatoes and it’ll look like you’re a gourmet chef. You’ll get an added boost of fiber too.

Gravy – There’s 50 calories in a 1/4 cup serving. But who can really tell how much we pour on anyway? The more the merrier, right? Well, yes, but only if you’re skimming off the fat. Use a bit more chicken broth and a little less of the turkey drippings to cut down on unnecessary calories. Secret tip: Place the gravy in a Ziploc bag, seal, and snip a tiny corner off the bottom. Squeeze the gravy out of the bag and watch the fat rise to the top. Stop squeezing as soon as you reach the fat and throw away.

There are too many things to list in this post, so check back later in the week and I’ll have some more for you! Happy Holidays!

Ask Dani – Did I Make The Right Choice?

Dear Dani,

I was in the cereal aisle of the supermarket the other night trying to decide between two cereals. One had 100 calories per serving, but no fiber, and the other had 140 calories with 5g of fiber. I ended up choosing the one with the fiber, figuring that the fiber makes it better, but now I’m not sure if I made the right choice. Can you help me out?

Thanks, Munching Michelle

Dear Munching Michelle,

You definitely made the right choice by going with the fiber filled cereal. Just because something is lower in calories doesn’t mean it’s a better choice, because they can be empty calories and your body doesn’t use them as efficiently as nutrient dense calories. Fiber creates more bulk in your food which will help you feel fuller longer and ultimately help you eat less, plus it’s great for your digestion and colon. But, just because something has fiber in it doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want. There are a lot of products on the market now that tout added fiber, but that doesn’t give you leeway to eat 5 fiber filled cookies. Plus, the added fiber that they put in yogurts or even cottage cheese isn’t necessarily the same kind of fiber that is naturally found in grains and produce (but, that’s a whole other conversation…). If you’re looking to lose weight you still need to take in fewer calories than you burn. So, you did a great job at choosing the fiber cereal, but always pay attention to the ingredients and serving sizes to make sure that you’re actually making the best choice. It sounds clich

Be The Next Stair Search Winner!

2 of my husband's groupies

I am looking for the next “Stair Search” winner. For the next 21 days your challenge is to take only the stairs at work (and if you don’t work then take the stairs whenever you can) and to inspire as many people in your office as possible to follow your lead. This little challenge was inspired by my husband who began taking the 7 flights of stairs up to his office instead of the elevator, because he realized that he’s too tired to work out after a long day at the office, but at least he would get some activity in throughout the day. Sure, it’s not a substitute for working out, but it is a major step in the right direction when it’s a choice between that or nothing. He’s even got groupies now and at least 5 other people are choosing the stairs over the lazy man machine. It’s even become somewhat of a joke and he’s started to challenge even more people to do it.

Did you know that 15 minutes of stair climbing will help you burn at least 133 extra calories a day (based a 130lb. woman)? As long as you’re not replacing those calories with food, that’s one pound lost every 26 days. Depending on what floor you’re on that’s pretty much a done deal by simply walking up and down the stairs about four times. 6 minutes are already taken care of by getting to work, going out to lunch, and then leaving work. Find a reason to leave your office or just take a quick break to go up and down the stairs, instead of checking Facebook for the 4th time that day (Farmville, Mafia Wars, or your IQ test can wait until you get back). 133 calories is equal to 6 Hershey’s Kisses, 5 oz. of a peanut butter flavored Tasti-D-Lite (supposedly…), or a can of regular Coke. Think about it, you know there’s usually some sort of yumminess lying around the office, so by simply by taking the stairs, you can have that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or 2 Dunkin Donut’s Munchkins, or morning croissant with your coffee guilt free. Not bad!

So, here’s the challenge: For the next 21 days you need to start taking only the stairs at work and inspire as many other groupies as possible at your office to do the same. Submit your name, your company’s name, and the name of all other people following your lead as they join in. The winner will receive a 5 pack of Very Personal Training with me in my Park Slope, Brooklyn studio. Being as how there is no real way to prove that you are the honest to goodness winner of this challenge, I am trusting your honesty, and will only ask that you send along with the above information pictures or video of your “Stair Search” challenge.

Good Luck!

Burn Hundreds of Extra Calories

New research at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has found that standing burns significantly more calories than sitting. And it’s even better, because it doesn’t come with the normal increase in appetite that exercise usually does. The study hasn’t been published yet, but their experiment where they asked a volunteer group of people to spend one day sitting (even using a wheelchair to go to the bathroom) and the next day standing showed that the group burned hundreds of more calories on the standing day.

Obviously it’s not the only thing you should be doing, but it’s a pretty simple way to boost your calorie burn throughout the day!

beat it or eat it – meatloaf

BEAT IT:
Mmmmmmm, what’s better than some home cookin’? Comfort food to umm, comfort you! Roman loves meatloaf and I used to avoid making it, because it’s hard to find a recipe that’s good enough for your figure and good enough to eat. It’s usually loaded with fat and calories, so having it too often isn’t really an option if you’re trying to watch what you eat. Weighing in at 591 calories, 27.8g fat, and 10.5g saturated fat is definitely not going to help you at all! So, sadly, meatloaf was off the menu. That is until I found this recipe for BBQ meatloaf. Dare I say that I think it’s actually better than regular meatloaf.

EAT IT:

Juicy BBQ Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, extra lean (raw)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup barbecue sauce, divided
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350

3 Breakfast Fixes

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but calories can add up quickly when eating boxed cereals or sugary breakfast bars, so here are a 3 tips to keep the calories working for you and not sticking to your hips:

1. Choose cooked whole grains, like oatmeal, bulgur, and quinoa, over dry boxed cereals – You’ll feel fuller longer in liquid-packed cooked cereals than you will with boxed cereals. Think about when you pour yourself a box of cereal, doesn’t it seem like there’s never enough in the bowl. And it seems to disappear in only a week! You’ll be eating way fewer calories with the cooked cereals, but you’ll feel more satisfied, because the liquid adds bulk. Don’t have time to cook in the morning? That’s ok, you can make a large pot of it on Sunday and then scoop out a portion each morning and reheat it while you’re getting dressed. You can also play around with it and have a different flavor every morning by adding fresh or frozen fruits, cinnamon, and Splenda.

2. Can’t give up boxed cereals so easily? – Then make sure that they are made from whole grains, don’t have any added sugars, and have at least 5 or so fiber grams per serving. Speaking of servings, pay attention to the serving sizes on the nutrition label, because I’ve seen cereals that are 250 calories per 3/4 cups of cereal, and that’s without the milk yet! Think you’ll be satisfied with that bowl? Probably not. The fewer the ingredients, the better. Some good brands to try are Kashi, Arrowhead Mills, and Natures Path.

3. Are you a toast kind of girl? – Use whole grain bread and instead of butter use fat-free cream cheese or non-fat greek yogurt. Swap the jelly or jam with fresh berries and save on added sugars and calories!

Myth #4 – All “Bad” Foods Are Off Limits

To go along with yesterday’s myth buster, I wanted to just let you know that you are human and sometimes you are going to want to indulge in your favorite bad-for-you foods. Unless you have some crazy love for broccoli or a special hidden talent, I don’t know anyone who can resist pizza for the rest of their lives. Still though, so many people think that the way to lose weight is to cut back on everything pleasurable. But, do you think that you could really give up cheesecake and ice cream for good? Most likely not. You’ll eventually start picking at that luscious piece of cheesecake and before you know it will have devoured a third of it (at least). This kind of flip-flopping between all or nothing, better known as yo-yo dieting, activates your stress system, making you want to scarf down even more. Which is why you can’t seem to drop the weight, even though you’ve been so “good”.

Taking off weight and leaving it in the dust for good depends on learning how to live a BALANCED lifestyle, which includes the occasional piece of birthday cake. Follow my 80/20 rule. If you eat well 80% of the time, then you can indulge the other 20% guilt-free. Yay cake!

Myth #4 – All "Bad" Foods Are Off Limits

To go along with yesterday’s myth buster, I wanted to just let you know that you are human and sometimes you are going to want to indulge in your favorite bad-for-you foods. Unless you have some crazy love for broccoli or a special hidden talent, I don’t know anyone who can resist pizza for the rest of their lives. Still though, so many people think that the way to lose weight is to cut back on everything pleasurable. But, do you think that you could really give up cheesecake and ice cream for good? Most likely not. You’ll eventually start picking at that luscious piece of cheesecake and before you know it will have devoured a third of it (at least). This kind of flip-flopping between all or nothing, better known as yo-yo dieting, activates your stress system, making you want to scarf down even more. Which is why you can’t seem to drop the weight, even though you’ve been so “good”.

Taking off weight and leaving it in the dust for good depends on learning how to live a BALANCED lifestyle, which includes the occasional piece of birthday cake. Follow my 80/20 rule. If you eat well 80% of the time, then you can indulge the other 20% guilt-free. Yay cake!

Myth #2 – Low-Fat Food Are Healthy

When I was in 7th and 8th grade I went through a huge Snackwells phase. Remember those? I wanted to lose weight and thought that it was so awesome that a company made “good for you” cookies, cakes, and cracker. I could eat an entire box in one day. And when Entenmenn’s came out with their low-fat danish, I polished that baby right off. Oh, and NutriGrain bars, with their yummy fruit filling, gotta love those!

Low-fat foods may seem like the best option, but that’s not always true. Many of these foods contain lots of added sugars to make up for the loss of flavor, which means that lots of times these foods contain almost the same amount of calories (take a look at reduced fat peanut butter). Too much sugar forces your body to store it as fat, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to do by eating these foods. You’re trying to look leaner not lumpier, right? Shockingly, even though they are lower in fat, these foods can still contain unhealthy saturated fats. And like myself, once upon a time, most people who eat these foods eat double the amount thinking that it’s “safe”, because after all, it’s low-fat, right?… Nope!

Make sure to read food labels and pay attention to serving sizes, calories, and added sugars. Not all low-fat foods are entirely bad for you, but you have to see what these foods are really made of. And you may even find that sometimes it’s worth having the full-fat version, because you will be more satisfied. Just make sure to stick to one portion!

The Favorites List

There are a few things that I use regularly that make it easier for me to stay in good shape and health. They also help me feel like I made the right choices which makes me feel strong in body AND mind. So, here are a few of my favorite things…

* Cooking Light Magazine – This is actually my all time favorite I think. All recipes have a calorie count and you won’t feel like you’re cooking a tasteless, ugly, healthy meal. You’ll feel like you’re eating a gourmet meal. I use this whenever I entertain and no body believes that the food is good for them. Plus, they have great articles too.

* Skinny Cow 100 Calorie Truffle Ice Cream Bars – Each bar comes individually wrapped, so you won’t have to worry about eating too much from the container. They taste so good, you wouldn’t know they were only 100 calories. And they come in both chocolate and vanilla. YUM!!!

* Stability Ball – A stability ball is a great way to maximize your workout, by challenging your balance. Say you’re doing a bicep curl, if you do it seated on a bench you’ll just be working your biceps, but if you do it seated on a ball you will be working your biceps plus your core, which will boost caloric expenditure and shorten your total workout time.

* Oatmeal – This is my regular go to breakfast. It will keep you satisfied and tide you over until your next meal. Added bonus is good for you carbs and fiber which will help clear out bad LDL cholesterol and keep hunger from creeping up too soon. I make mine over the stove with water, a bit of milk, some Splenda, cinnamon, and frozen blueberries. You can make it however you choose though, the possibilities are endless.

* Salmon – When I need dinner in a pinch and I don’t have a lot of time on hand this is the perfect go to meal. Within 30 minutes I can have salmon, asparagus, and potatoes on the table. Salmon cooks quickly (broil on high for 10 minutes), is packed with protein, and has heart healthy Omega 3′s which are the “good” kinds of fats.

* Lulu Lemon Pants -Ok, so this has nothing to do with making me feel strong in mind or body. Well, maybe mind, because they are fabulous! I don’t wear any other kind of workout pants. They fit great, can be worn around the city without looking frumpy, are made of real quality material, and if you care for them properly by only washing on delicate you will have them for at least 5 years. My favorite thing is the little hidden pocket in the waistband for a key, cash, and credit card. If you think you don’t look good in tight black pants, try these! They’re a bit pricey, but well worth the investment.

* Water – Of course!! It’s the only real thirst quencher and as many of my friends know is my answer to everything. Have a headache, drink water. Feel sluggish and run down in the middle of the day, more water. Dry skin, water. It will provide much needed oxygen to your body and will help you feel at your best.