Welcome tABLE Health!

I’m so very please to announce Very Personal Training’s new partnership with tABLE Health, a small, energetic business that was founded on the premise that fresh, local ingredients are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. They offer environmentally sustainable, nutritionally focused cooking classes and individual and group consulting.

Run by registered dietician, Rachael Saks, and a super business savvy, Ora Warmflash, they are trying to change the way people eat from the inside out. They are to food what I am for fitness – helping you not just have a quick fix, but to really change your behavior and habits.

Check out their menu of services for an idea of what they can offer you. All sessions take place in your very own home, so there’s no need to go anywhere!

In addition, they also have a cooking event coming up on January 12th where you can learn to cook healthier (but still yummy) versions of comfort foods, such as Mac n’ Cheese, Baked-Fried Chicken, and Raspberry and Peanut Butter Bread Pudding. YUMMMMM!

This is a great addition to Very Personal Training and is something I am very excited about. One of the things I highly recommend to anyone trying to get over emotional eating or under-eating issues is the Menu Planning session. It may just be the bridge you need to help you relearn how to eat without having to make so many daunting choices.

Their services are available for purchase on my website, by clicking here and signing in. And as always, if you are having trouble, please feel free to contact me to let me know and I will help you.

Even More Ways To Slash Holiday Calories In Half

So, last week I wrote out a list of popular high-calorie holiday foods and easy ways to cut down on some of those calories while still getting to indulge in them. I’m a big believer in not depriving yourself, because when you ignore what you really want it doesn’t go away, you just end up eating too much of everything else, and then that nagging craving just comes back stronger.

I said this about Thanksgiving and I’ll say it about Christmas too, give yourself permission to eat that day and not worry too much. I know, not the advice that magazines and most nutritionists would give you. But take it from me, someone who has tried all sorts of diets – if you’re just honest with yourself about eating more than normal, you won’t have the guilt later when you eat too much, and honestly, it’s just one day, not 30. You can start fresh tomorrow. Set yourself up for success, not failure. It’s when we make promises to ourselves that we can’t keep that we overindulge and then beat ourselves up about it.

That being said, I’m going to finish off that list of foods that I started last week, so that you can still indulge in the things you love, and still save a few hundred calories, without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.

Green Bean Casserole – I was never such a fan of this one, but I know a lot of people are. A 1 cup serving can pack 110 calories. Not too bad compared other holiday side dishes, but you can still cut down on the amount of calories, so that you can enjoy more of some of the other things on the table. Top the green beans off with lower-fat mushroom soup, and caramelize your own onions instead of using store-bought fried onions.

Bread Stuffing – A 1/2 cup serving has at least 180 calories, and lets face it, the stuffing is one of the best parts, so you know you’re going back for seconds. Skip the butter and use chicken broth to moisten the bread. Use whole-wheat bread instead of white, and cook the stuffing separate from the bird, so that it doesn’t accumulate all the fatty drippings.

Pumpkin Pie – Mmmm! We all know that the only reason we eat dinner is to get to the dessert. An average slice of pumpkin pie will cost you about 320 calories. Instead of using heavy cream use reduced-fat evaporated milk and save about 87 calories.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with an awesome appetizer that looks beautiful, is healthy, and tastes awesome too.

Tuna Tartar Wrapped In Cucumber (adapted from Recipe Rehab With Tanya Zuckerbrot)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sriracha (Asian chili sauce)
- 8 ounces fresh, sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 avocado, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives, plus 1-inch pieces for garnish
- 2 seedless cucumbers, peeled

1. Using a knife or a mandolin, slice the cucumbers lengthwise as thinly as possible.
2. Mix mayonnaise, soy sauce and sriracha together in a small bowl.
3. Add tuna, avocado and chives, and gently combine with a fork.
4. Spoon 1 tablespoon tuna tartar on the end of the cucumber slice. Roll up and place a toothpick through the middle to secure the filling. Garnish with chives and serve.

This recipe serves 12, and per serving there’s only 56 calories, 2.5 g carbohydrate, 1.25 g fiber, 5 g protein, and 3 g total fat.

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!

Survival Guide: Airline Snacking

I just came across this awesome website from the Food Detective that offers food stats on all the major airlines and the amount of walking you’d need to do to burn it all off. Since I know that many of you will be traveling this holiday season I thought I’d help you all out by sharing it.

Here’s the basic rundown in case you don’t want to read the entire thing:

- Aside from Jet Blue being an awesome airline to travel, they were also really helpful on providing info on their snack items, which shows that they think about these things. American Airlines, Continental, and United Airlines were also pretty helpful. But, it was United Airlines that came in as the number one choice for healthy food options.

- Virgin America, Delta, and U.S. Airways were ranked as the worst. They were very reluctant to give out information, which implies your health isn’t all that important to them.

- Your best choices when flying these airlines:
* United Airlines – If you need just a snack, go for the Tapas snack box or the Lite snack box. If you’re flying longer than 3 hours and need a meal, go for the Turkey Sandwich (but skip the chips), the Fruit and Cheese Tray, or the Chicken Caesar Salad. For breakfast, stick with the smoothie or yogurt parfait. And as for the A La Carte snacks (Pringles, bread, or chocolate bar) definitely skip those!

* Jet Blue – If you’re flying less than 3 hours choose the nuts. They’re good for you and the healthy fats and protein will help keep you satisfied for a while. If you’re flying longer than 3 hours choose the Shape Up meal for sure!

* American Airlines – While AA doesn’t have great choices, stick with the Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray. Just be sure to skip the crackers, because with raisins will give you enough carbs, but with better nutrition. If you’re flying longer than 3 hours, choose the Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad, but be sure to use only half of the dressing.

* Delta – Their individual snacks aren’t all that great, but if you’re flying less than 3 hours and don’t have a meal option go for the pretzels or the peanuts. The nuts are higher in calories, but may be more filling. If you’re flying longer than 3 hours, stick with the Breakfast Snack. If that’s not available though, choose the Fruit and Cheese Plate, but skip the crackers. And, obviously the Veggies and Ranch is low in calories, but it might not tide you over.

* Continental – None of their choices are all the great, but if you’re flying longer than 3 hours go for the Parfait or the Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad (use half the dressing though).

* Southwest – The nuts are the only way to go.

* Virgin America – For a small snack, stick with the PopChips or yumBar, and for larger snack, go for the Veggies & Hummus box. If it’s a meal you need though, choose the Protein Meal or the Homestyle Chicken Sandwich.

* U.S. Airways – Go for the CafePlus, but don’t eat the cookies (save them for later when you’re sweet tooth attacks).

Un-fried Sweet Potato Latkes

After much experimentation I finally figured out how to make healthier latkes that actually hold their form. Instead of making them with regular baking potatoes I made them with sweet potatoes, which gives them a great sweet and savory taste. They are super yummy, and super easy. Here’s what you’ll need…

- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
- 3 shallots
- 1/4 C. flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3-4 egg whites (start with 3 and add another if you need it)
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line two baking sheets with foil. Spray with Pam.
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and shallots and grate both in a food processor or box grater.
3. Place grated potatoes and shallots in a cheese cloth or clean towel and squeeze out all the liquid.
4. Place in a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Start with 3 egg whites and add a 4th if the mixture isn’t bound enough.
5. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once warm, take a dab of olive oil on a paper towel and just wipe across the pan’s surface, so that it’s just greased. You don’t need a ton of oil for these babies!

6. Drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture onto the skillet to form 2 1/2″ latkes. “Fry” for a few minutes until the bottom of the latke turns golden and it feels set. Flip and repeat on the other side. In the meantime, line a plate with a sheet of paper towel and place the cooked latkes onto the paper towel (although you won’t really need it, being as how these latkes won’t be greasy).

7. Once all the latkes are cooked through, place them on the greased baking sheets.

8. Bake for about 5-7 minutes until latkes feel set.

9. Transfer to a plate and serve with all-natural applesauce!

Recipe yields about 12 latkes (unless you’re Martha Stewart and measuring them with a ruler and they’re all the exact same size…). Here are the stats for 4 latkes: 195 calories, 5g fat, 34g carbs, 4g fiber, 4g protein. Not bad, considering that the typical latke has 264 calories, and 13.8g of fat (and that’s for just 1!).

If you try these please let us all know how you liked them!

Have What You Want To Have

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and instead of giving you “5 Tips For Making It Through The Holidays” I’m going to give you my one piece of advice that I know will make all the difference.

Most dieters and nutritionists come up with lists to guide you through the holidays, such as choosing the most important things you want to eat and only eating that, making lower calorie versions of popular Thanksgiving foods, or tips on serving sizes. But for me, that’s all a bunch of rules and restrictions and I’ve found that being rigid on the holidays is a surefire way to failure, so I have only 1 tip for you. Ready? Here it is… Thanksgiving is one day a year and one day of eating won’t break the bank or all the hard work you’ve invested in trying to live a healthier lifestyle, so enjoy yourself and don’t obsess too much about how many calories are in your aunts sweet potato casserole or debate whether you should have that dessert.

Holidays don’t happen all that often and it’s a way for family and friends to come together and enjoy themselves. You should enjoy these times rather than be stressed out and focused over what 3oz. of turkey looks like. Is it a deck of cards, a fist, or a tennis ball? Who knows what those really look like on a plate anyway…

Obviously you shouldn’t gorge yourself either, but you definitely shouldn’t deprive yourself. Give yourself permission on this day so that you feel in control of your choices and don’t end up feeling guilty on Friday. Guilt leads to self-sabotaging behaviors (“I guess I really messed up yesterday, so I might as well eat some more pie and start fresh on Monday”), which is a recipe for disaster. Give yourself that day and agree that on Friday you’ll go back to your normal routine. Remember, Thanksgiving is one day a year, not the entire 38 days between Thanksgiving and New years, so relax and enjoy yourself this Thursday and be thankful for the food you have, your health, and your family and friends (not the number on the scale).

And before I leave you, I absolutely must give a shout out to my client Valerie for a stellar performance. In only 10 sessions with me she’s managed to go from not working out at all to working out 2-3 days a week. This past week she went on vacation to Spain and really proved herself by managing to work out in the hotel gym twice and walking everywhere instead of taking cabs. And she even managed to fit in 20 minutes of cardio yesterday morning before meeting me for our session. She then gave me a rock star workout and committed to add another day to her workout routine every week. Valerie is going to succeed, you know why? Because she is not relying on me to do the work for her and doesn’t make any excuses. She does her homework and sticks with what she says she’s going to do, because she knows that her success is up to her. I’m only there to guide and motivate. I have no words left to say how amazing you are, Valerie, but just know that you are going to be a MASSIVE success!

Put Your Hands Up And Step Away From The Third Bowl of Mac N Cheese!

Just like bears, when winter rolls around we go into a sort of hibernation. When the days get shorter and colder we bundle up in our warm jammies and cuddle up on the couch with comfort foods. And then, just when the warm weather starts to wake us up out of our winter food coma we wonder how our once loose jammies got so snug. Then the inevitable frantic race to lose the weight before summer begins. As you know, I’m not one for crash dieting or any sort of crazy “slim down for summer” programs, so spare yourself the trouble, put down the third bowl of mac ‘n cheese and try experimenting with winter squash (I know, not as glamorous as mac ‘n cheese, but nevertheless, I promise, yummy!).

Here’s why squash is awesome: There’s more than 10 types of winter squash to choose from (butternut, delicata, acorn, pumpkin, and spaghetti squash just to name a few…) and they’re awesome choices if you want something warm, sweet, and filling. They’re high in fiber and water, which means you’ll feel fuller quicker and can eat more without the copious amounts of calories (just lay low on the butter and brown sugar). And they’re a great source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene, and Omega 3′s.

Try this awesome Mashed Maple Squash recipe from Eatingwell.com.

**Update**

My mom just emailed some interesting and very helpful info for cooking with maple syrup! This isn’t surprising to me in the least, because if there’s anyone who knows everything it’s her. Want to know the definition of “sesquipedalian”? She knows! Or, need an idea of how to make a diorama on bees that would make Martha Stewart swoon with delight? Yup, she knows that too! Thanks Mommy! (Yes, I’m an adult that still calls my mom “mommy”.)

You may want to share this with your ‘people’. After reading a story (with one of my classes) on maple syrup tapping in Vermont, I discovered the following:

Grade A – derived from the first of the season sap ‘drippings’ of the tree

lighter in color and sweeter

Grade B- derived from a later in the season sap

darker in color and more robust and hearty – best for vegetables, meats and
dishes not of the dessert variety

While both are sweet, the B is heartier. One tends to need less of it, hence, less calories. It is also advisable to mix the grade B with a bit of hot water to thin it out and make it go further on veggies, chicken, etc., Most will not know the difference. I, for one, am going to use only grade B from now on. If I do see a deficiency in sweetness, I will add a bit of Splenda. Even if thinned out with a bit of water, the B is still thick enough to nicely glaze whatever you intend it to glaze.

The Best Thing To Eat After A Workout

This tip is going to be short and to the point today. For all you inner kiddies out there you are going to love this. Eating after your workout is just as important as eating before your workout, because it helps your muscles repair and your metabolism stay revved throughout the day. Without proper nutrients after a workout your body will end up replacing the energy in your muscles that you burned during the workout by breaking down your muscle and stealing protein from them. And because your metabolism needs to slow down to compensate for the lack of fuel your weight loss efforts will be tossed out the window. Pretty counterproductive, huh. You’ll also feel pretty sluggish the rest of the day. So, within 15-60 minutes of a workout you want to make sure that you’re refueling your body with the right thing, which should consist of a carb and protein. And you know what the best thing is???? Chocolate milk!

Mmmmmmm good!

Not only does it have good for you carbs and protein, but it has Vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. If you’re watching your weight though, just make sure it’s the low-fat kind. Try Horizon Organic Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk after your next workout and let me know how it goes! They come in individual drink boxes, so you can be sure that you won’t have more than your fill, plus they’re shelf stable, so they wont go to waste! Now you’ll be working out just so you can have your chocolate fix!

I Have A Confession

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I too am afraid of eating bananas. The other day I was faced with a dilemma: Do I eat the yummy looking banana sitting on the kitchen counter or do I go for a peach in the fridge, because it’s lower in calories? What I really wanted was the creamy banana-ey goodness, but the peach seemed like a wiser option. Then I thought to myself, “Dani, what would you tell a client who came to you with this question?” I would say go for the freaking banana if that’s what you want! They are both fruits! And so I did. And it hit the spot.

Maybe you’ve never heard of this hole bananaphobia thing and maybe you think I’m crazy, but lots of women believe that bananas are “bad” for you. Since the Atkins and South Beach Diets became popular there’s been an onslaught of diet gurus telling people that bananas are the devil, because they are high in sugar and high in calories. Some people even believe that you can eat a banana in the afternoon, but not in the morning and definitely not before bed. This is ridiculous though! A regular sized banana (not one of those gargantuan embarrassing looking ones) has about 150 calories, and is loaded with potassium, vitamins B and C, and fiber. It’s not like you’re making the choice between a peach and a piece of red velvet cake. It’s a freaking banana! Have one!

I want to know, what foods are arbitrarily off-limits to you?

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