Beat It or Eat It – Chicken Fingers (Yum!)

Beat it:

My husband loves him some chicken fingers. Seriously, I’ve never seen him as excited as he is when he gets to eat some yummy tender pieces of breaded chicken. I didn’t realize that there was such a discerning difference between types of chicken fingers either. That it was so hard to make a nice piece of tender meat chicken and that there are specific things to look out for when eating a chicken digit. What makes a really good chicken finger is a crispy crunchy coating with soft juicy meat inside. Unfortunately, 1 serving (about 5 pieces) will tack on 614 calories, 38g fat, 3g saturated fat, 2,225mg sodium (more than one person needs in an entire day!), 43g carbs, 3g fiber, and 35g protein.

Luckily, I love him enough to find a recipe that has way better stats than those fingers and taste good too! (And they have almonds in them – another favorite!) Check out how you can slash over 400 calories and 34g fat, and 1,971mg of sodium…

Eat it:

Almond-Crusted Chicken Fingers
(Serves 4)
- Canola oil cooking spray
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 pound chicken tenders

1. Preheat oven to 475

Ask Dani – Diet Dilemma (South Beach Diet)

This is an old-time diet. They thought that would work too.

Dear Dani,

I’ve been thinking about doing the South Beach Diet, but I’m not sure. There’s so much information on diets and I don’t know how to figure out what would be the best one for me. What diet do you recommend and how would you choose which one to go on?

Thanks, Dieting Dilemma

Dear Dieting Dilemma,

Dieting is such a dirty word. When I think of a diet I think of agonizing weeks of being hungry and wishing I could eat everything else, but what I’m allowed to eat. I can’t stop thinking about food and my whole day revolves around thinking about what I’m going to eat at the next meal. Most of the time I’m also counting how many days until it’s over, which means that all the hard work I’ve done over the past few weeks will be completely undone by a mega binge on some Coldstone Creamery, as soon as I can get my hungry little paws on it. So, as you can see I don’t like diets. They are only short-term solutions to long-term issues. It’s like putting a band-aid over a gun shot wound.

What you need is to learn how to maintain healthy eating for a lifetime, which doesn’t include cutting out whole food groups or restricting your calories so much that you’re constantly hungry. You can’t keep up that kind of thing for long and it will only backfire and make your problem worse. All of that being said, I don’t condemn the South Beach Diet. I think that it does a good job at teaching you balance, but that’s only true if you really follow their guidelines and treat it as a learning process and not a quick fix. The fact that they focus on whole-grains and fiber is a good sign, because so many bad diets will cut carbs out completely or tell you to restrict way more than you need to. Normally I would say that the fact that they cut out fruit for the first 2 weeks is bad, but I can understand them doing it in order to regulate your blood sugar levels and to kind give you a reset button. My advice though is that if you want some fruit in those first 2 weeks then have the fruit. But, if you want to really maintain your weight loss you need to do some homework, which may include keeping a food diary to track your patterns, keeping a journal to track your emotions, relearning your hunger cues and patterns, and trying to get past emotional triggers. A good diet will never dip below 1200 calories per day and will have a balanced mix of all the major food groups. Every meal should consist of a carb and a protein (so that means grapefruit diets and cabbage soup diets are a major no-no), and will never cut out fats entirely (you actually need good fats in order to lose weight, as well as for healthy akin and hair). You should never feel deprived and the emphasis should be on teaching you how to make better food choices and portion control.

If you have any questions on some of the things I mentioned, such as relearning your hunger cues or getting past emotional triggers, please don’t hesitate to ask me for help!

**Have a question that needs answering? Send em in! Every Thursday I ll be answering a new question, and it might just be yours!

Beat It or Eat It – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Beat it:

Chocolate and peanut butter together are like little hugs and kisses from God. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I feel like I’m having some sort of religious experience when I eat something that has this magical combination. My spine tingles, I get light-headed, and almost all of my other senses get knocked out, because of the sensory overload in my mouth. I’m seriously like a little lab rat that will suffer through an electrical zap, just to get to my precious pb & c, because I MUST have it! I have these very high cabinets in my kitchen where I stash all the goodies that I don’t want to be tempted to eat (out of sight out of mind, right?), but I would be lying if I said that I’ve never been caught scaling the counters to reach the peanut butter and chocolate chips that I keep hidden there. And I would be lying even harder if I said that I didn’t then sit down on the counter with the jar of peanut butter in one hand and the bag of chocolate chips in the other and proceed to dip chocolate chips one by one into the jar and make little chocolate chip perfections. Hershey’s makes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and you may ask yourself why I don’t just go to the store and get a package if I love it so much. It’s a lot easier to do then climb my counters, risk falling off as the cabinet door opens (there have been a few teetering close calls), and then go through all the work of dipping each chip in one by one. True, but each package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will run me 210 calories (110 of those are from fat), 13g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 24g carbs, 21g sugar, 1g fiber, and 5g protein. However, I just came across this recipe, which I can’t believe I never thought of, because it’s insanely easy and will give me more of a chocolatey punch than a measly chocolate chip will. Plus, it’s easier to control your portions!

Eat it:

Little Kisses From God
(Serves 4)
- 8 1/4-ounce squares bittersweet chocolate (you can use other chocolates too, but as long as we’re being healthy bittersweet has some great antioxidant benefits)
- 4 teaspoons peanut butter (you can also use almond, cashew or pistachio butter)

1. Top each chocolate square with 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter (or almond, cashew, pistachio).
2. Have a religious experience.

Each of these babies will only cost you 79 calories, 6g fat, 2g saturated fat, 9g fiber, 1g fiber, 1g protein, so technically you can even have 2!

Beat It or Eat It – Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Beat it:

Chocolate and peanut butter together are like little hugs and kisses from God. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I feel like I’m having some sort of religious experience when I eat something that has this magical combination. My spine tingles, I get light-headed, and almost all of my other senses get knocked out, because of the sensory overload in my mouth. I’m seriously like a little lab rat that will suffer through an electrical zap, just to get to my precious pb & c, because I MUST have it! I have these very high cabinets in my kitchen where I stash all the goodies that I don’t want to be tempted to eat (out of sight out of mind, right?), but I would be lying if I said that I’ve never been caught scaling the counters to reach the peanut butter and chocolate chips that I keep hidden there. And I would be lying even harder if I said that I didn’t then sit down on the counter with the jar of peanut butter in one hand and the bag of chocolate chips in the other and proceed to dip chocolate chips one by one into the jar and make little chocolate chip perfections. Hershey’s makes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and you may ask yourself why I don’t just go to the store and get a package if I love it so much. It’s a lot easier to do then climb my counters, risk falling off as the cabinet door opens (there have been a few teetering close calls), and then go through all the work of dipping each chip in one by one. True, but each package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will run me 210 calories (110 of those are from fat), 13g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 24g carbs, 21g sugar, 1g fiber, and 5g protein. However, I just came across this recipe, which I can’t believe I never thought of, because it’s insanely easy and will give me more of a chocolatey punch than a measly chocolate chip will. Plus, it’s easier to control your portions!

Eat it:

Little Kisses From God
(Serves 4)
- 8 1/4-ounce squares bittersweet chocolate (you can use other chocolates too, but as long as we’re being healthy bittersweet has some great antioxidant benefits)
- 4 teaspoons peanut butter (you can also use almond, cashew or pistachio butter)

1. Top each chocolate square with 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter (or almond, cashew, pistachio).
2. Have a religious experience.

Each of these babies will only cost you 79 calories, 6g fat, 2g saturated fat, 9g fiber, 1g fiber, 1g protein, so technically you can even have 2!

Ask Dani – 200 Calories or 240 Calories?

I couldn't resist this pop-tart kitty picture. Sorry.


Dear Dani,

My friend and I were arguing this week about what’s better for you to eat: A 200 calorie pop-tart for breakfast or a 240 calorie egg sandwich on whole-grain bread. I said that the sandwich was a better option, since the stuff inside it is better for you, but my friend swears by eating as little calories possible to lose weight, and therefore the pop-tart is a better option. Help me prove her wrong please!

Thanks, Fighting Friends

Dear Fighting Friends,

Sorry to say this, but your friend is wrong. Just because something has fewer calories doesn’t mean it’s better for you to eat and it doesn’t mean that it will help you lose weight. It is true that the formula for losing weight is calories in vs. calories out, but not all calories are the same. Pop-Tarts are loaded with sugar and refined flour, which means that when they enter your body they get absorbed way too quickly, and because of that you’re hungry (and most likely sluggish) an hour later. And that means you’re going to end up eating something and then not only take in your lower calorie pop-tart, but something else on top of that too. Had you just had the egg sandwich, which is full of whole-grains, fiber, and protein you would have been satisfied for at least 3 hours. Plus, because your body absorbs those kinds of calories a lot slower you would be using more of them for energy.
So, sorry friend, I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but if you want to lose weight, make sure that your calories are coming from good sources, even if it means eating more of them.

Beat It or Eat It – Pancakes

Breakfast is by far my most favorite meal of the day. I love everything about it. The foods, eating a meal after waking up hungry, and that it’s like baking mixed in with cooking. And did I mention the foods? Pancakes, waffles, french toast, frittatas, omelets, bagels, cereal (I always say that if I had to live in one aisle of the supermarket forever that it would be the cereal aisle), etc. The possibilities are endless. I even love breakfast for dinner. Seriously, I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. I will just tell you that my love for pancakes is true. Cereal is going to come and cereal is going to go, but my love for pancakes is true, and I will love pancakes till the day I die. For real. Sadly though, I don’t indulge often enough, because like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a little girl and little girls don’t get to have 600 calorie breakfasts. So, I’ve resigned myself to sneaking a taste or two off of my husband’s plate, since he is a 6’1” man that can have his pancakes. But boy is it a happy day, because I just found a healthier recipe for yummy blueberry pancakes that will give me the chance to eat my pancakes in loving peace off of my very own plate.

Beat it:
3 Regular blueberry pancakes (with 1/4 cup maple syrup): 530 calories; 128 of those calories are from fat; 14.17g fat; 750mg sodium; 96.66g carbs (!!!); 1.5g fiber; 32g sugar; 9.39g protein

YUM!


Eat it:
Berry Good Pancakes
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 3/4 cup low-fat milk
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups blueberries

1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
2. Whisk eggs, cottage cheese, milk, lemon zest and vanilla in a medium bowl.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
4. Moisten a crumpled paper towel with canola oil and use it to lightly oil a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Spoon on about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bottoms are golden and small bubbles start to form on top, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Lightly oil pan between batches. (Adjust heat as necessary for even browning.) Serve hot. (Yields 6 servings – 3 pancakes per serving)

Ready for the stats? Each 3 pancake serving is only 233 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 630 mg sodium; 41 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 11 g protein. AMAZING! And if you use sugar-free syrup, you’ll be adding only 25 calories!

Can’t wait for Sunday!

10 Simple Ways to Rev Your Metabolism

this picture has no connection to today's post, but I thought it was awesome

Obviously working out will help boost your metabolism, and you’re still going to need to do it, but here are my top 8 are ways to help move it along:

10. Have sex – Experts say that people burn an average of 300 calories per hour having sex. What a nice added perk!

9. Drink water – When you’re dehydrated your metabolic rate slows down to help conserve your energy, so make sure to drink more to keep it moving strongly.

8. Fidget – Ever meet someone who seems like they move and speak a mile a minute? Aren’t they usually pretty thin and lean? It’s pretty hard to be bouncing off walls like that with so much extra energy and not lose weight. Tap your fingers, shake your foot, bounce your leg, pace back and forth. Believe it or not, but all this extra (and EASY) activity really boosts your calorie burn for the day. I’ve read things that say that you can burn up to 350 extra calories per day just by doing this simple little thing!

7. Clean your own damn house – It’s nice to have the luxury of having a cleaning lady or housekeeper, but think of all the extra calories you’ll burn just by doing it yourself. Look at taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, picking up your kids’ toys, and doing the dishes as opportunities to move more and lose more.

6. Get a pedometer – Aim to take 10,000 steps per day. You’d be surprised at how addicting this little gadget can be. You’ll see only 7,000 steps one day and want to beat that number the next.

5. Walk like you’re late – Even if you don’t have to be somewhere, pick up the pace when you’re walking as if you are. When we were dating my husband used to make fun of me for being the slowest walker ever (in all fairness, he’s 6’1” and I’m 5’1”, so it’s a bit harder for me to keep up with him), but since getting our dogs and having to walk them every day I’ve become the speedy one and he lags behind. Whenever I feel myself slowing down I remind myself to act as if the dogs were there.

4. Set a timer – Make sure to move around for at least 5 minutes every hour. It’s easy to sit for hours on end and not even realize the time going by. Especially if you work at a desk job!

3. Get a pedometer – Aim to take 10,000 steps per day. You’d be surprised at how addicting this little gadget can be. You’ll see only 7,000 steps one day and want to beat that number the next.

2. Sleep – Studies have shown that people who get less than 4 hours of sleep for an extended period of time have slower metabolism. Aim to get 7-8 hours for the best benefit.

1. Have breakfast - You should be eating at least 100 calories within the first hour of waking up. When we sleep our bodies go into efficiency mode, which is why our heart rate and breathing rate slow down (which means our metabolism slows down). By eating within the first hour of waking you’re signaling to your body that it’s time to wake up and speed up for the day. If you wait till lunch to eat your body will stay in this efficiency state and it will be too late to catch up.

Ask Dani – Nutrition Label Novice

Dear Dani,

I’ve recently started to eat healthier in hopes of losing weight. There are so many foods that say low-fat, high fiber, no sugar added, etc., and I’ve bought those foods in hopes that will help me take off a few pounds. I know that I should be reading the nutrition label too, but I’m just not sure that I understand it all that well. Can you give me a quick breakdown of what everything means, so that I can make better choices? What should I look out for?

Thanks, Nutrition Label Novice

Dear Nutrition Label Novice,

Congratulations on deciding to eat healthier! Navigating a nutrition label looks hard, but once you know the basics it’s actually pretty easy. Take a look at this nutrition label:

Click to enlarge - (SHAMELESS PLUG: If you want to learn more about all of this, including my tried and true tips and tricks to losing weight and keeping it off in a sane, non calorie counting, non measuring way then join my 12-week weight control phone group starting at the end of this month. All you need is a phone. You ll get to the heart of why you gained the weight in the first place and then take baby-steps to create new helpful and better behaviors. Mention this blog and save 10%! Get a friend to join and you save another 10%, and they save 10% too!)

Now let’s break it down:
Serving Size: This means that the label information is based on 2 tortillas. If you were to have 4 tortillas you would have to double all the information on the label. So, before you buy anything check the serving size to see if it is a reasonable amount. Sometimes you might see a small amount of calories, but if you look at the serving you will see that it might also be a small amount of food. Calories can add up fast when you’re doubling and tripling serving sizes, so watch out for this.

Servings Per Container: This lets you know that there are 6 servings in the entire container. Which means, if the serving size is 2 tortillas and there are 6 servings in the container, then 12 tortillas come in the package. Sometimes you need to know how many servings are in the container, because as I mentioned above you might not always eat just one serving. For example, if these tortillas were really small and wouldn’t be enough to fill you up, you might need to have more than just 2, which means that you would have to double the calories, fat, carbs, protein, etc. to calculate how much you’ve really had.

Calories: This is the mount of calories in a food. To lose weight you’re going to want to cut back on your calories a bit, but make sure to never dip below 1200 per day, otherwise your metabolism will slow down, because your body will go into starvation mode to conserve itself. What’s more important though is where those calories are coming from, so let’s go a bit deeper…

Calories From Fat: This is how many of the calories in a given serving come from fat. The bigger the difference between the number of calories and the number of calories from fat, the better the food choice.

Total Fat: This is the amount of fat grams in a serving. Make sure that you are getting enough good fats into your diet, but still being careful about how much of it you’re consuming. If you’re trying to lose weight then aim for 30-45g of fat per day in your diet.

Saturated Fat and Trans Fats: Limit saturated fat as much as possible. They are the key culprits of high cholesterol heart disease. Trans fats are what’s produced when food manufacturers add hydrogen to an unsaturated fat to turn into a solid saturated fat, in order to increase a food’s shelf life (think of the words “partially hydrogenated” that you’ve seen on some ingredient labels). They’re even worse, so keep those to 0.

Cholesterol: I think we’ve all heard that high cholesterol is bad for you, so keep these to under 300mg a day.

Sodium: AKA salt. If you have high blood pressure or a tendency for high blood pressure then you definitely want to limit this. So, keep it low – 2400-3000mg or less per day.

Carbs: Ready for this… Eat these often! (Oh, how Dr. Atkins would be rolling around in his grave now.) They are the most important nutrient for things like cognition and energy. Without them your body cannot produce energy for your brain or muscles to function properly and instead will go to sources such as protein (aka muscle) to get it, which means that you might lose weight, but you will lose muscle too, which doesn’t make for a very pretty sight. And the loss of muscle will slow down your metabolism to boot. So eat your potatoes, bread, and pasta, but just make sure that they are the right carbs. Look for complex carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain and high fiber sources.

Fiber: This is important and will guide you in the right types of carbs to eat. There’s soluble fiber and insoluble fiber and both are good for you.

Protein: Most people get more protein than they need, thinking that low-carb, high protein is the way to go if you want to lose weight. That’s not the case though. To figure out how much protein you need per day multiply your weight by .4536 and then multiply that by .5. For example, a 135lb. woman’s calculation would look like this: 135 x .4536 x .5 = 30.61. This means that a 135lb. woman should be getting 31g (I’m rounding up 30.61) of protein per day. Choose lean meats, such as fish and poultry, or beans, cheese, and nuts.

Vitamins and Minerals: Your goal is to get 100% of each for the day. In order to do this, you’ll likely need to eat a variety of foods.

Daily Values: For fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium choose foods with a low daily value %. For carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, your goal is to get 100% of the daily value. Be aware that daily values are based on a person who needs 2,000 calories per day, so if you’re a woman and trying to lose weight, the food label won’t accurately predict how much of each nutrient you need.

So, there you have it, a food label deciphered. It’s good that you’re trying to be more mindful, because you mentioned before that you’re eating lots of low-fat, no sugar added, high fiber food (“diet” food). Just because it says “low-fat” on it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best choice for you. You have to take into account where all the calories are coming from and what the serving size is. It’s great that a Snackwells cookie may only have 75 calories in it, but are you really going to stop at just one? Most of the time these snacks have so much filler and added sugars, that you’re not really doing yourself a service by eating them. So be mindful of the nutrition label and where the calories are coming from so that you can make the best possible decision. Good luck!

Beat It or Eat It – Blueberry Peach Cobbler

Beat It:
4th of July weekend is here (YAY summer!), which means BBQs, picnics and parties. In other words, food! It also means peach season is here (I’m going peach picking this weekend), so I have a yummy waist saving recipe swap for a peach blueberry cobbler that you can indulge in. Other cobbler recipes tip the nutritional scales at 562 calories (42% of those calories come from fat – yikes!), 26.8g fat, 12.8g saturated fat, 77.3g carbs, 4.8g fiber, and 7.7g protein. And that’s for only one serving! Check out this recipe, courtesy of Eatingwell.com, below.

Eat It!:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe but firm peaches, (about 1 pound), pitted and sliced into eighths, or 3 1/2 cups frozen
2 cups (1 pint) fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350

Food Fun

We’re pretty visual creatures, so it’s not surprising that sight is part of taste. When we can’t see our food, like if we were eating in the dark, we wouldn’t perceive our food to taste the same way as we would if we could see it first. Say I gave you an orange-colored drink, you would assume that it tasted like orange, right? And you would be caught pretty off guard if you tasted it and realized that it wasn’t orange-y after all, but it was really grape. Your brain and taste buds were expecting something totally different, so to be surprised like that would throw you for a loop.

So, here is where it gets interesting. Did you know that the color blue is an appetite suppressant? Interesting, huh…

Of all the colors, blue rarely occurs in nature. Aside from blueberries and some bluish-purplish potatoes, blue just doesn’t exist in large amounts as a natural food color. A million years ago, when our ancestors were foraging for food, blue, black, and purple were warning signs of potentially lethal foods.

This makes me wonder, if you were to color your foods blue with non-toxic food coloring, would you be inclined to eat less?? Would you feel less hungry while eating and not finish what’s on your plate?

Anyone up for a little science experiment?