Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Dietitian's Dilemma...Progress as the New Year Approaches

As we all get ready to say farewell to 2011, we are also thinking of what's to come in 2012. All good things, I hope! Since I have already started my New Year resolution, I felt that I should share my exciting progress, and hopefully encourage you to go for your goal, no matter what it is.

A few weeks later and a few pounds lighter! My Dietitian’s Dilemma seems to be all the motivation I needed. I have been eating healthy, exercising regularly, and even indulging in some of my favorite holiday treats! It’s been a few weeks since my first entry and I am down 5 pounds- only 2 pounds away from my usual weight. I am now able to run 20 minutes- just about 2 miles- only 1 mile away from my (somewhat small) goal! See how easy it is? Ok, you got me. Not so easy. But totally worth it- trust me.

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Setting goals and actually accomplishing them can be all the motivation you need to succeed in any area of your life. However, mix this sense of accomplishment with feeling and looking your best and you have a winning combination! Here are a few problems that I have encountered along the way and how I solved them in the moment.

Holiday party. Usually if I am going to a holiday party I like to have a bite to eat first. However, since this party was at 6pm I did not have time. When I got there, I found beer, meats, cheeses, bread (white), fried foods, and cake…for sure a dieter’s dilemma!

Solution: Although it is tempting to arrive and dig right in, the first few minutes are when the empty calories often add up. So, I found the bowl of walnuts and craisins and munched on small handful (about 4 walnuts and 5 craisins) and passed on the first round of drinks. After an hour I decided to have a glass of red wine (for the antioxidant effect of resveratrol, of course). Finally, I indulged in one piece of bread with meat and cheese and passed on dessert. *Hint- this could be a good one to keep in mind for New Year’s Eve J

Girls Day. Although this sounds innocent enough, from a dieter’s perspective it may not be. This particular day included lunch of pesto pasta and frozen sugary drinks (calories galore).

Solution: Offer to bring a dish to the party and make something low-cal and full of fiber to keep you satisfied. I brought a black bean and quinoa salad, ate mostly that with a small portion (about ½ a fist) of pesto pasta. Have 1 fruity drink as to not offend the maker/host and then quietly switch over to seltzer or even a low-cal alcoholic beverage such as wine, light beer, or a more figure-friendly cocktail such as a vodka soda

Florida. I know it doesn’t sound like a problem, but if you have been to Boca West (where my beautiful grandmother lives) you know that it is all about food! Buffet after buffet, I swear the dessert table was a mile long.

Solution: Exercise! Although I was ok with having a healthy breakfast and lunch, and maybe even going easy on the buffet, I was not ok with skipping dessert. So instead (motivated by my cousin the Marine Officer) I did PT (physical training) including a daily 15-20 minute run and a 300-600 meter swim, plus we even hit the gym a few afternoons for strength training (or observing of his).

Any more tips on dieters' dilemmas and solutions? Please tell us your stories so we can share them with our readers!

Starting to think about that New Year’s resolution? I hope this motivates you to get started. It is so simple once you have the right mind set, I promise. Making a resolution to shed a few pounds in 2012? Stay tuned for our next blog…100 ways to save 100 calories!!

Happy New Year everyone! Have fun, be safe, eat healthy, and splurge a bit!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fire up that menorah, not your oil!

For those of you who don’t know, tonight is the first night of Hanukkah or the festival of lights in the Jewish religion. The most coveted and delicious tradition is the latke or fried potato pancake. I look forward to my mom’s version every year! But I’m always looking to make traditional foods healthier…

Why have you done a good thing?

Everyone knows that fried foods are notoriously high in calories, but why? Fried foods contain a large amount of oil, which is a type of fat. Fat is the highest source of calories compared to any other nutrient at 9 calories per gram, as opposed to carbohydrates and protein which have 4 calories per gram. Thus, foods high in fat like fried foods, oil, nuts, avocado, seeds, nut butters, butter and cheese are calorically denser than any other foods, making portions very small as each bite contains a very large amount of calories. For example, 1 oz of carrots is only 12 calories compared to 1 oz of nuts which has 185 calories. However, just because fats are high in calories, does not mean nuts and other healthy fats like avocadoes are bad choices. They are perfectly healthy choices and important to include in your diet, just in smaller portions!

So save the oil for the menorah and try lightly frying your latkes in less oil and baking them the rest of the way in the oven. Less oil means less calorie density, making portion sizes of your latkes larger. Hot air from baking is calorie free!

My basic latke recipe:

8 large russet potatoes, grated or shredded (find the smallest graters possible!!)

1 medium onion, diced (optional, some people prefer no onion!)

4 large eggs

¼ cup matzo meal

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3 tbsp of oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Clean and peel potatoes. Shred the potatoes by hand or in a food processor. Squeeze shredded potatoes to remove as much liquid as you can.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onions (if using them), beaten egg, matzo meal, salt and pepper until mixture is combined and sticks together. If the mixture seems lose, add another couple tbsp of matzo meal. Don’t add too much matzo meal because it will make your latkes too dense!

Add oil to the pan and let heat for 2 minutes. Add about 2 tbsp of latke mixture to the pan (careful not to crowd them) in batches and lightly brown on both sides. Flatten the latkes when you put them in the pan for more even cooking.

As latkes are taken out of the pan, but them on a baking sheet fitted with a cooling rack on top. This way, when you bake the latkes in the oven, they will crisp up on all sides. Bake until nice and crispy, about 10 minutes.

Looking for fun alternatives to the traditional latke? Try shredding other vegetables in combination with potatoes. As non-starchy vegetables are the least calorically dense foods, you can reduce the calories per latke by making them half potato/half vegetable. Remember to squeeze out the liquid after shredding from the vegetables too! Try these combos on for size:

Sweet potato, zucchini and/or yellow squash

Potato and cauliflower

Potato and leek (try it instead of onion!)

Potato and carrot

Potato and parsnip

Potato and pear or apple (sounds weird, but salty/sweet tastes great together!)

More vegetables with your latke means more room for vitamins, minerals, and fiber and less starch…You can justify eating just one more that way!

Keep latkes even lower in calories by choosing applesauce instead of sour cream. Try making your own applesauce and make interesting varieties like apple/pear/plum combos!

Happy Hanukkah everyone!!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN