Friday, October 29, 2010


Thursday was really awesome. First, I slept 7 1/2 hours Wednesday night, which for me is remarkable.

I started the day before dawn, decorating my new meditation room. When I finished, it was still dark, so I turned out the light, lighted the candles, and deep breathing meditation for 35 minutes. Thank goodness I set my alarm, because I really was transported to another place.

I then met my friend Ann at the mall, we walked for 45 minutes, and I was back at my home desk, ready to work by 9. I was organized, productive, and so in control. I ate well, and yes, I felt energized enough to cut up vegetables so two big salads marked lunch and dinner. I journaled throughout the day, and the happy mood I was in Thursday morning continued throughout the day.

I finished the day taking a yoga class.

As I sit here this morning thinking about yesterday, I'm wearing a big smile. Sleep, exercise, meditation, good food choices, journaling, combined with a committment to make time for myself, really does work.

Leading a healthy life takes work. But isn't everything good worth all the effort you can put into it.

I am printing this post out and putting it in my journal. If I have day when I am not as positive, I hope I will pull this out and read it carefully.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Emotions at work

Yesterday, I wrote about learning to say "NO" and creating a plan for tackling new tasks.

Then I read a post on Everyday Health, which adds to yesterday's blog. It was talking about emotional eating, something I know about all too well. It's usually never hunger that causes me to reach for foods, but my mood or emotions that keep me from making good choices.

I know when I am tired, I eat more than I should. Ditto for days when the sun's just not shining on my life. Food becomes a distraction, and I usually eat it without thinking twice about what's going in my mouth.

That happened to me two nights ago. We had leftovers from Monday's Thanksgiving feast, and instead of filling my plate with turkey and greens, my plate had a white look to it. Turkey, turnips, corn, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Could I cram anymore starch into my mouth? Yes: a slice of apple pie. And yes it was a small slice, but I really did not need it at all.

Tuesday I was more than exhausted. I didn't sleep well Monday night -- the bowling ball of food rattling in my belly made me very uncomfortable. And now we all know that lack of sleep sets us up for a day of bad eating. When I got home Tuesday, I had enough energy to heat up leftovers -- and not more. We ate dinner on the couch watching TV -- two more no nos -- and then I promptly fell asleep.

Everyday Health claims there are ways to prevent our emotions from getting in the way of weight-loss, and yesterday I gave them a try.

1. Journal: I did that throughout Wednesday. Each time I felt like eating, I wrote down why. It was an interesting exercise, because "bored" and "tired" won out. I also wrote down what and when I ate.
2. Keep yourself distracted. Everyday Health says that instead of focusing on cravings, engross yourself in a good book, listen to music, watch a movie, call a friend, or better yet, hit the gym or head outdoors and get some exercise. At work, I could do known of these things, but I did get up and take a walk around the office. I also drank one glass of water before each walk, and put the kettle on to boil for a cup of tea. It really did help.
3. Cook something healthy. No time last night because I went to yoga. That was my priority. I had a piece of wheat-free bread and some peanut butter for dinner. Everyday Health says if you make the effort to prepare a wholesome meal rather than grabbing convenience food, you’ll really enjoy eating it. Cooking is also great way to take your mind off what’s bothering you.
Before you grab that doughnut, think, “Is this going to make me feel any better?”

Baby steps.....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yes vs. no

I recently read a post on Daily Health News, which cited a study that found Seventh-Day Adventists who are vegetarians rate themselves happier than fellow church members who eat meat. The researchers said the vegetarian diet elevated their mood. The writer was making the case that these vegetarians are comfortable saying "no" to themselves when it comes to food, and that it is this self-control that helps make them happier people.

Interesting premise and one I have been giving a lot of thought since I read the post. I have been super busy the last three weeks. Last Saturday I allowed myself one hour of downtime, and I felt so guilty, I took 30 minutes. I am busy at work, busy with freelance assignments -- all of which I love -- but I am also busy at home. Last week I had to cancel three yoga classes because of commitments, and I despised doing that.

And don't even talk to me about my house. It is a nightmare. We are painting one bedroom, the extra stuff from that bedroom is in another bedroom, and I am trying to change my closet over to winter clothes. Let's not even mention my office, or my built-in 6-year-old fridge that died Sunday.

And guess what this has led to: BAD food choices. I have no time to plan, and the thought of cutting up vegetables is too much for my brain to absorb. Of course, there is not much real food in my house since everything from our built-in fridge is crowded into our small garage refrigerator, bought at the same time at Home Depot for $250 and is still going strong. But I digress.

I just need to say "NO" more often. Loud and clear.

On the post, they talked to life coach Lauren Zander, who said that saying yes to anything and everything is not freedom. Instead, it is a guarantee to bring trouble. "To accomplish anything important or wonderful in your life means that you’ll inevitably have to deny yourself," Zander adds. "Implicit in every choice is the loss of other choices... and that is where real freedom lies -- in being able to say no to yourself."

Zander says that the parts of our lives in which we feel the most dissatisfaction tend to be the ones in which we practice the least self-control. (Like my weight?) Organization and a plan bring control.

Her advice: pick out an area that isn’t going well, one you’re not so fond of discussing, one you’re not so happy about but don’t think you have the power to change. Zander urges: "Literally verbalize aloud the reason you handle this area poorly." She said that she can virtually guarantee that the first word will be "because"... and, she says, you must pay attention to what comes next. That will be what she calls "the Big Lie" -- the fallacy that keeps you stuck where you are.

This is most especially true when what follows your "because" is "this is just the way I am."

The good news: We can change if we put effort and discipline into transforming a part of our life. And if successful, it will make us feel proud of yourself and more in control.

I'm all over this. So I am giving myself some homework:
1. I'll say "no" to one event between today and Sunday.
2. I will put that free time to good use by turning my closet over and painting one wall in the bedroom (it's a big one!)
3. I will visualize what I am most unhappy about -- my weight -- and do the "because and what comes after" exercise.

And I would wager a bet: I will find more time to fit in the things I love to do, and that includes cutting up vegetables. Just writing this down makes me feel so much more in control.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thanksgiving came early

Who holds a Thanksgiving feast on a Monday night in late October? We do, and the bowling ball that is my stomach this morning is proof of our dinner.

But why?

Six weeks ago, our daugher-in-law, Kim, invited two Dutch women to our Monday-night family dinners -- social worker interns in the Bridgeport school system, where Kim is a social worker. We immediately loved these sweet, smart Dutch women, who have joined our Monday-night group ever since. Last night was bittersweet: They are going home this Friday, so in their honor, we decided to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

We also added to our guests list: two more of the Dutch interns (there is a group of a dozen or so who have been studying here), and one set of parents, who came to see New York City and take their daughter home. So there were 12 of us.

And what a feast it was. Lots of laughs, lots of wonderful food, lots of stories. It was a night none of us will forget for years to come.

But of course you know what Thanksgiving dinner means: butter and more calories than I probably should have consumed this whole week. And right now, having all the leftover food in my house is really scary.

But I promise that by 9 a.m., I will formulate a plan, call Jack to tell him what to do with all the goodies, and come home knowing the pies will be gone -- or at least hidden -- as will assorted other goodies I really should not touch.

If I don't, this just could set up a week of bad eating. I CANNOT AFFORD TO DO THAT.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An old favorite

Friday night, I made an old favorite -- sauerbraten -- and it really was amazing. A big hunk of bottom round was marinated four days in a spiced vinegar mix, followed by hours spent in the oven. The result, as always, was a flavorful brined beef, a true stick-to-the-ribs meal.

Later that night I clicked on my email, only to find the following recipe for Bavarian Beef from SparkPeople. Yes, that site is flooding my email box daily, but honestly, some of the advice and recipes are truly food for thought.

When I compare this recipe for Bavarian Beef and my sauerbraten, there are similarities, but there are also big caloric differences. I made my sauerbraten the way my grandmother taught me so many years ago. The gravy base is one big roux, made with 5 tablespoons of butter. Gingersnaps give it zing. This recipe omits the roux and goes straight to the gingersnaps, which cuts down incredibly on fat and calories.

Since I only make beef once a week, I'll wait a few days before giving this a try. But if I read it correctly, this has all the makings of a great meal, and just might replace my sauerbraten. I also plan on cooking this in my slow cooker -- 8 to 10 hours on low will turn the stew meat soft as silk.

This classic German stew is made with lean trimmed beef stew meat and cabbage.

1 1/4 lb. lean beef stew meat (trimmed of fat), cut in 1-inch pieces
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tblsp. sugar
1/2 small head red cabbage, cut into 4 wedges
1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps

* Brown meat in oil in a heavy skillet. Remove meat and sauté onion in remaining oil until golden. Return meat to skillet. Add water, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/4 hours.
* Add vinegar and sugar; stir. Place cabbage on top of meat. Cover and simmer 45 minutes more.
* Arrange meat and cabbage on a platter and keep warm.
* Strain drippings and skim off fat. Add enough water to drippings to yield 1 cup of liquid. Return to skillet with gingersnap crumbs. Cook and stir until thickened and mixture boils. Serve with meat and vegetables.
* Makes 5 servings. Per serving: calories: 304; fat: 11.9g; carbs, 12.7g; fiber: 2g protein: 35.8g.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Go away guilt!

My inbox is flooded with diet tips and motivational advice from all sorts of websites. But the following from, really hit home and just in time.

This week I have been exhausted, and have been doing battle with myself every day, throughout the day. In most cases I was able to pass up the temptation; a few times I was not. And when I did give in, that slip dd not lead to uncontrollable eating.

But I did feel guilty. Ah guilt: that niggling little thing that has been ingrained in me since birth.

Hopefully, the following thought will at least get me through today. I love the first line.

From SparkPeople:
If you can do your best and forget your worst, you've already got a head start on tomorrow. As long as you lay it out there every day, you can relax when yesterday is behind you.

Of course, the only way this will happen is if you give yourself permission to forget. You can use this approach in anything: Pick up a problem, do what you can with it, and then put it down. Work your tail off at the office, then leave it there (the work, not your tail). Deal with a personal crisis by finishing off one day at a time. There's a great deal of satisfaction in leaving things be for a moment.

There's a great deal of freedom in knowing that you could do no more. And there's a great deal of success awaiting the person who gives it her all, no matter what.

Thank you SparkPeople.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Not my fault!

There was a time when I could sleep for hours and hours. But it seems the last two decades, sleep some nights is as elusive as a mansion on the ocean.

And now it seems that could be why I have a hard time losing weight. IT REALLY IS NOT MY FAULT!

It's all about two little hormones -- leptin and ghrelin. Have you ever tossed and turned one night and found yourself eating everything in sight the next day? Those two little devils are at play.

Ghrelin, produced in the gastrointestinal track, stimulates appetite. Leptin, produced in the fat cells, signals your brain that you're full. Not enough sleep drives leptin levels down, so no matter what you eat, you won't feel satisfied. Ghrelin levels go up, so you want to eat.

In simple terms: You're brain is screaming "feed me, feed me!" And in many cases, I do. And when I eat too much, I gain weight.

The really scary part is that the latest study says this happens in people who don't get eight hours of sleep each night. EIGHT HOURS? The last time I slept eight hours in one night I had the flu. If I average six hours a night I think I am doing well. I am in the danger zone, because the study found those who slept between 5 1/2 and seven hours were most at risk.

Perhaps the real key to losing weight is a good sleeping pill? I've been known to try worse things....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mind games

Yesterday I did something no one should ever do: grocery shopped when I was famished. I had just did 3 miles in the Connecticut Lymphoma Walk, and on my way home, decided to shop at Whole Foods.

Two steps into the doors I knew I had made a mistake. My stomach really started growling.

I made it through most of the aisles, and then I hit the nuts. I had my hand on this glorious bag of nuts, chocolate and dried fruit, when I flipped it over to read the calorie count. Reality smacked me in the face: 330 calories in 3 tablespoons. Since there were 10 servings in the bag, I knew by the time I got home I would have consumed 3,300 calories, just a tad more than my daily allotment.

But I needed something -- and fast. My solution was a dark chocolate and cherry cashew Kind bar, which weighed in at 4 Weight Watchers POINTS. I pared it with a bottle of mint water -- 0 calories -- and had my treat on the way home.

It did the trick. I felt in control and really proud of myself. And when I got home, I made myself a healthy lunch. Another baby step in the right direction.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


A word to live by. At least, it's how I am beginning to view my daily eating plan.

There was a time in my not-too-distant past that if I ate something I knew I shouldn't, that led to a whole day of eating, followed by another day and another day, until I was out of control.

Now -- and I honestly have no idea why -- if I eat something naughty, I don't beat myself up anymore. What that has done -- and again I have no idea why -- is to stop my uncontrollable eating. It has also made me calmer and more focused.

I don't waste my energy reprimanding myself for my lack of self control. And once I stopped doing that, I started making much better food choices.

A few days ago I ate one of my favorite treats -- Trader Joe's Gingerly Nutty Mix. I think it's the chunks of preserved candied ginger and the macadamia nuts that I have a hard time resisting. Usually, I would eat this treat, never considering what harm I had just done to my diet. And this treat was always followed by another treat, and another treat -- you get the picture. I had blown my "diet" so I might just as well continue eating.

This time, I did something I had never done before: looked at the nutritional label to determine how many Weight Watchers POINTS I had just eaten. Suffice to say I made a huge dent in my weekly allotment of 35 extra POINTS.

That was an eye opener. And mentally, instead of calling myself an out-of-control loser, I simply said, "I'll never do that again."

And I really believe I won't. That was stupid. And not at all worth the POINTS. Sure they taste good, but so do other things that won't pack on the pounds.

And the other thing I did after my nutty feast: Went home and had fish and veggies for dinner. That was a breakthrough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Only 110 calories

So what's 110 calories? 1 tablespoon of mayo, a little factoid that arrived in my email this morning from the Diet Detective.

Thank goodness I don't like mayo, but I like lots of other things that are equally caloric -- those little extras that we often just smear on food or take little handfuls of thinking there's no need to count them in our daily calorie totals.

Face facts: to burn off those 110 calories you would have to:
•Walk for 28 minutes
•Bike for 16 minutes
•Run for 12 minutes

No wonder we are a diet/exercise obsessed nation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall recipes

I am so in the mood to cook, something that happens as soon as the air starts cooling and the sun starts setting earlier each day. I love the fall, and adore my days when I am firmly ensconced in my kitchen. The first recipe has been in my files forever; the next two are from Weight Watchers.

What follows are a few terrific seasonal recipes, all of which are too good not to pass on.
6 medium thinly sliced leeks
2 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 14-oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 tsp.n each salt and white pepper
1 quart buttermilk
8 oz. light or fat-free sour cream
1 Tblsp. lemon juice

* Wash leeks well. Place olive oil in a Dutch oven, add leeks, and cook until tender. Remove a little less than half of the leeks and transfer to a small container; cover and chill until an hour before serving.
* Add potatoes, chicken broth, lemon peel, and salt and white pepper to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly.

 In a blender or food processor, process mixture in small batches until smooth and transfer to a large container. Stir in 1 quart buttermilk. Cover and chill for 8 to 48 hours. Bring to room temperature. 

Just before serving, ladle into cups or bowls.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice; drop a small spoonful of the mixture onto each serving of soup. Top with the reserved chilled leek slices. Makes 16 servings.

1 tsp. table salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 lb. uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast (four 4-oz. pieces)
3 sprays cooking spray
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large Vidalia onion., chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 lb.)
3/4 cups uncooked jasmine rice, or basmati rice, rinsed
3/4 cup(s) dried apricot halves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups canned chicken broth, or more if needed
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh, minced

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
* Rub salt and pepper all over chicken; set aside.
* Coat a large oven-proof pot with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add oil; heat until it begins to shimmer. Add cumin, coriander and cinnamon; cook until fragrant, stirring, about 30 second to 1 minute. Add chicken; cook until lightly browned, flipping once, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate; set aside.
* Add onion and squash to pot, scraping down sides and bottom of pot to incorporate pan drippings. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to turn translucent and squash begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Add rice and apricots; place browned chicken on top. Pour in broth; bring to a boil for 1 minute.
* Cover pot and bake in oven until rice and squash are tender and chicken is cooked through, checking half way through to see if more broth is needed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving. Yields about 2 cups (including a piece of chicken) per serving 4 servings, 8 POINTS per serving.

2 spray(s) cooking spray
9 cups butternut squash, cut into large cubes*
1 Tblsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. fresh sage, minced
3/4 tsp. orange zest, finely grated

* Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat two large baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
* In a large bowl, thoroughly toss squash with oil and salt; spread onto prepared baking sheets, leaving room between squash cubes.
* Roast squash, stirring after 15 minutes, and rotating baking sheets to promote even browning, until squash is tender and well-browned, about 30 to 40 minutes.
* Transfer squash to a serving bowl; toss gently with sage and orange zest. Yields 6 servings, about 3/4 heaping cup per serving. 2 POINTS per serving.
* A medium sized, 2 pound squash will yield approximately 3 1/2 cups of diced squash cubes so you’ll need 5 pounds whole squash for this recipe.
* Peel a whole butternut squash with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Trim the ends and cut it in half lengthwise. Use an ice cream scoop or melon baller to easily scoop seeds and membrane from each half.
* Precut butternut squash is widely available in supermarkets and is a great shortcut for time-pressed cooks. Be sure to trim down the pieces to small, even-sized cubes or slices before roasting to allow for better browning.
* If you have one, a microplane grater makes quick work of finely grating citrus zest.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Broken record

There are times recently when even I think I am talking too much about yoga. I know that when I really love something, I tend to throw myself into it. But usually I tire of my obsession du jour fairly quickly, and move on to something else.

Not yoga. Instead of tiring of it, I am trying to fit in as many classes as I can each week. Friday was amazing: I started the day with a class that ran from 5-7:30 a.m., followed by another class at 1 p.m., a trip to the beach to read for an hour, and then my last class of the day, which began at 4. Did I also mention that I walked at the mall with my friend Ann about 9 a.m.?

When I finally got home about 6 p.m. Friday, I was calm, relaxed and so at peace. But what was most amazing is that I ate very well Friday, and never once had an urge to eat something I shouldn't.

As I said to one of my yoga teachers before my Saturday morning class -- yoga has been a life-changing experience for me. Each time I enter the studio, spread out my mat, and start my practice, I first take some centering breaths and thank God for my luck in finding something that brings me such happiness. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The skinny on low-cal diets

According to HealthDay News, diets that restrict calories can actually make it harder to lose weight and keep it off. Cutting calories increases production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is linked to added belly fat, a new study finds.

"For the first time in humans, we are finding out that cutting your calories increases cortisol," said lead researcher A. Janet Tomiyama, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of California, San Francisco. "We think this may be one reason dieters tend to have a hard time keeping weight off in the long-term," she said.

People who count calories feel stressed, she said, but it's the reduction in calories that increases cortisol, which, in turn, stresses the body and leads to weight retention.

"No matter how you cut calories, whether that's doing it on your own, or doing something like Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig, it doesn't matter, it's still going to increase your cortisol level," she said.

Oh good gravy: Now whaswt can we do?

At any given time, 47 percent of U.S. adults are dieting, but up to 64 percent gain back more weight than they lost, according to background information in the report published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

For the study, Tomiyama's team randomly assigned 121 women to one of four diets. One group tracked their calories, keeping them to 1,200 a day; another group ate normally but recorded the number of calories they consumed; a third group ate 1,200 calories a day, but did not have to record them, and the fourth group ate normally without any calorie-tracking.

At the start and end of the three-week trial, the researchers measured each woman's cortisol and stress levels. When calories were restricted, cortisol levels increased. In addition, calorie-counting also increased the women's perceived stress, the researchers found.

The best way to drop unwanted pounds is to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors that include eating a variety of healthy foods, physical activity, patience and a game plan.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said while dieting isn't easy, certain strategies can help reduce stress and achieve a healthier lifestyle.

"Food itself, a reliable source of immediate gratification, may be used to relieve stress," Katz said. "When food intake is restricted, something else should replace it."

In general, dieting alone is not all that useful, Katz added. "Eating well and being active for life is the way to go," he said.

"By eating foods of higher overall nutritional quality, fullness can generally be achieved on fewer calories, eliminating the need for deprivation," Katz said. "In addition, physical activity can accelerate weight loss, promote health and alleviate stress in the bargain."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To scale or not to scale

A few months ago, I decided to weigh in at Weight Watchers once a month, because getting on the scale weekly was frustrating. Depending on what I eat during the day can mean I lose a tad of weight – or at times – gain a pound.
But that doesn’t keep me from getting on my scale daily, before I jump in the shower. I am scale obsesses, and I really don’t think it is healthy. According to an article I read on, I’m right!
The website quotes Keri Gans, RD, a nutrition consultant in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.=: "People get frustrated with the movement of the scale, and it might take them away from sticking with their plan. Especially if they see it going up one day — that could affect their sticking to their plan.”
One study of Minnesota junior high and high school students found that girls who frequently weighed themselves often resorted to unhealthy dieting tactics such as skipping meals, smoking, and using diet pill or laxatives to reach a healthy weight. Frequent self-weighers also tended to gain more weight than girls who did not weigh themselves that often.
The problem is that a person's body weight can fluctuate wildly day to day, and even hour to hour. "If you weigh yourself first thing in the morning, you're going to have a different weight than if you weigh yourself at 5:30 p.m.," Gans says. "You weigh less in the morning because you're on an empty stomach, and you're usually a little bit dehydrated."
What you eat also makes a difference. For example, if your meal the night before was high in sodium, you might be a little bloated, with water affecting the weight on the scale. In addition, women's menstrual cycles can play havoc with the amount of water they are retaining. These hormonal variations can cause the scale to tip in a way not reflective of your overall healthy weight.
Gans recommends a once-a-week weigh in, at the same time of day on the same day so there is consistency. Starting today, I am going to try once a week at home, monthly at Weight Watchers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall clean-up

Larrian Gillespie, MD, in her book “The Goddess Diet,” suggests shifting the groceries in your home to retrain your brain to crave healthy -- not junk -- food.
Since I’ll try anything, this weekend I am going to take her advice. Hey: It’s fall, and time for me to clean out my pantry and fridge.
Start at the top shelf of the fridge, and stock it with healthy and low-cal beverages: skim milk, 100% fruit and veggie juices (no sugar added) and calorie-free soft drinks. Why? Says Dr. Gillespie, “Staying well hydrated naturally helps curb your appetite." Use these slimming thirst-quenchers to cut just two sugary sodas out of your daily diet and University of Minnesota researchers say you can shed up to 33 pounds this year.
Second shelf is the place for fruit and veggies. Weird huh? What about those drawers? (More about those later.) Dr. Gillespie suggests: “For a double duty benefit, keep ready-to-eat, pre-cut pieces right at the front, and you’ll double your produce intake.”
Third shelf is for protein: hard-boiled eggs, precooked, skinless lean meats, nuts and reduced-fat dairy (such as yogurt and cheese). Women who add at least two ounces of protein to every meal eat 31 percent fewer calories daily, say Yale University researchers. Protein stimulates the intestines to release cholecystokinin, a hormone that travels to the brain and shuts down hunger pangs.
And about those crispers: Stash calorie-laden food, like leftover fast food and sweet treats. Plus, tucking diet-busting temptations out of sight can cut snacking by more than half, according to Cornell University studies.
Refrigerator door: Fill this space with spicy mustards, hot sauces, salsas, vinegars, marinades, flavored oils and zesty dressings. Why? Jazzing up the flavor of meals helps people feel genuinely full on 200 fewer calories daily, and can help them shed up to 18 pounds per year.
Freezer: Fill it with lots of healthy conveniences to make dinner prep easier: individually-wrapped fish fillets, lean chicken breasts and frozen mixed veggies, and low-cal, guilt-free treats, like fruit bars and chilled berries for smoothies.
Cupboards: Keep your tallest, most narrow glasses and smaller salad plate upfront at eye level; larger items are stored higher. You’ll ultimately drink and eat less.
The pantry: Those diet-sabotaging chips and snacks go in opaque containers, stored on the highest shelf.
Counter: Add a radio. Soothing tunes while preparing and eating dinner will help calm stress. According to a Johns Hopkins study, people who listened to relaxing music ate 40 percent less food without even realizing it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two salads

I have been eating my weight in salads these past few months. And since I will never confess how much I weigh, let’s just say it’s a lot of salad. But even when everyone else's thoughts are turning to soups and stews, salad for lunch is my year-round choice, although I am always changing what goes into my salads. Here are two of my favorites.

The Bean and Corn Salad makes a wonderful side dish, and if you ever need a fill-in for a buffet, double or triple it to feed a crowd. I also love adding some to a bowl of greens. It really makes them sing.
Romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
Baby spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 cup sliced red onion
1 4-oz. jar diced pimento peppers, drained
Vinaigrette: 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling over salad

I put the lettuce and spinach into a bowl.
Then I mix the artichokes, onion and pimento and place in a container. For me, this is enough topping for five days worth of salads.
I mix the vinaigrette and keep it in the refrigerator. I add about two tablespoons vinaigrette to my daily salad, and sprinkle it with Parmesan.
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups frozen corn kernels, rinsed and drained
3 scallions, diced, include some of the green parts
Half a red onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice
1 canned chipotle pepper, diced (if you like your dressing milder, use half the chipotle)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all the salad ingredients.
Mix together all the dressing ingredients. If you have a min-processor, use it to mix dressing ingredients together. Add dressing to salad and toss to combine.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I love oils, but recently have been limiting myself to the unsaturated ones, and just a few tablespoons a day. I use them to flavor salads -- which are quickly becoming the mainstays of my diet.

Of course, the most famous one is olive oil. The South Beach diet website recently posted some information about some unsaturated oils -- most which I use all the time, but one -- pumpkin seed -- I have never tried and added to my shopping list the next time I drop by Whole Foods. To me, it screams fall.

What follows are some of the more unusual heart-healthy oils South Beach suggests, and ways to use each:

Avocado oil: Pressed from the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit, this nutty-flavored oil, like olive oil, is rich in monounsaturated fats. It has a high smoke point, which makes it good for sautéing or stir-frying fish, chicken, or vegetables. It's also delicious in vinaigrette dressings or drizzled over vegetables.

Grapeseed oil: Extracted from the seeds of grapes, and typically imported from France, Italy or Switzerland, this oil also has a high smoke point, which makes it good for sautéing or stir-frying. It is equally delicious in salad dressings. Some of the imported oils have a rather grape-y flavor, but many are quite bland or even nutty tasting. Try a few to see what you like best.

Nut oils: The good thing about nut oils, such as almond, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pistachio and walnut, is that they provide the same monounsaturated fats that are found in the nuts themselves (but they don't contain the fiber). Since overheating will diminish the flavor of nut oils, avoid sautéing and use them instead in salad dressings or drizzled over cooked pasta or vegetables. Nut oils can go rancid quickly, so store them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Pumpkin seed oil:
Made from roasted pumpkin seeds, this very flavorful, dark green, opaque oil is best used in combination with lighter oils for sautéing or in salad dressings. It can also be used undiluted to add a distinctive flavor to fish or steamed vegetables.

Safflower oil: Relatively flavorless safflower oil contains more polyunsaturated fats than any other oil and also has a high smoke point, which makes it fine for sautéing or stir-frying. You can mix it with more flavorful oils for heart-healthy salad dressings, too.