Friday, October 28, 2011

3 Strategies for Preventing Holiday Weight Gain

I just returned from my daughter's Halloween celebration at preschool and I am reminded that we are embarking on National Eating Season. This is the parade of food that begins with Halloween and wraps up with Super Bowl Sunday.  Following this season of eating, many Americans find themselves a little bit heavier.   Even with the best of intentions and New Year's resolutions come January, research tells us that the weight gained during this time is often not lost again.

I understand how easy it can be to gain weight during the holidays with the barrage of all the unique food offerings of the season from the pumpkin spice lattes to Grandma's special apple pie to the egg nog.  At the same time, I also know how important maintaining health, well-being, and an optimal quality of life is for so many people.  Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels, right?   This is why I think it's vital to be proactive and make plans right now to prevent holiday weight gain.  So I thought I'd share three solid strategies to help you get started on that today.

Put your goals in writing.
While it's definitely a step in the right direction to make a mental note that you'd like to maintain a healthy weight this holiday season, I believe that writing down your goals will only increase your chances of success.  As you consider your goals for the season, be sure to make them SMART - specfiic, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive.  If the goal is to maintain or even lose weight, then be sure to consider the behaviors that are needed to do that.  What will you need to change in regards to food intake, physical activity, or stress management to achieve your weight management goal?  

Monitor your food intake and physical activity.
In my professional experience, I've seen what a powerful tool monitoring food intake and physical activity can be for those who want to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.  My clients understand the value of this, too, and almost always identify this as a strategy that helps them stay on track.  The evidence also suggests that those who regularly monitor their health-related behaviors during the holidays are better able to manage their weight during that time, too.

Practice mindful eating.
It is very easy to eat mindlessly during the holidays.  Food is everywhere!  People can also be more distracted while they eat during the holidays whether it's socializing at a party or watching the game on t.v.  If they eat while doing these other activities, they may not be fully engaged in the eating experience.  Practicing mindful eating during the holidays essentially means that you regularly check in with your mind and body throughout the eating experience.  Are you hungry?  Is the food pleasing to you?  Is food really what you want right now? Mindful eating helps create a more peaceful and pleasurable eating experience. It will also help you stay more in tune with your body so that you can naturally attain or maintain a healthier body weight.

So, in addition to planning which parties to attend and what gifts to give, I challenge you to also consider putting successful weight management on your holiday radar this season.  Choose a life of health. You deserve it!

Photo credit:  Mark Surman via Flickr

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Foodie Friday: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash

Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash © Michelle Loy, 2011

Did I mention that I'm in love with butternut squash in the fall?  Yes, I have a crush on butternut squash right now.  I'd label this dish as a comfort food side dish.  It's got bacon's cousin, pancetta, in it, so it only makes sense, right?  When I first tried this out on my family, they ALL loved it.  So it's definitely going into my special recipe binder as a permanent keeper.  It's not a lot of work with the exception of cutting up the squash and pancetta.  If you're not a pro at peeling and cutting squash, check out this simple how-to from Simply Recipes.  It'll definitely streamline your squash-cutting skills.  If you like the play on salty and sweet with your food, then you may just like this.  If you try it out, let me know how you like it.   Bon appetit!

Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash
Adapted from:  Ina Garten,       

{Print this recipe}
1 large butternut squash (about 2-3 pounds), cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes
1 head of garlic, separated but not peeled
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces pancetta, chopped (I usually find this in the deli section of the grocery store.  If you cannot find this, you could substitute bacon, but I'd cook it slightly first.)
16 fresh whole sage leaves or 1 tsp dried sage

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.
2.  Spread the cubed squash and garlic in one layer in a large sheet pan or baking dish.  Toss with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until the squash slightly browns, turning once about halfway through.
3.  Sprinkle the pancetta and sage evenly over the squash and garlic.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the squash and garlic soften a little and become slightly caramelized.  Season to taste and serve.

Serves:  6
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  186   Carbohydrate:  27 g   Protein:  3 g   Fat:  9 g   (3 g saturated) Cholesterol:  6 mg    Fiber:  3 g   Sugar:  8 g (4 g added from maple syrup)   Sodium:  264 mg
Excellent source of:  thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and magnesium
Good source of:  omega 3 fatty acids, niacin, folate, calcium, and potassium

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Foodie Friday: Butternut Squash Soup

I've come to love seasonal foods, and one fall food that I am embracing now is the butternut squash.  I love that this winter squash can be prepared so simply and in a variety of ways.  I've found that it is fabulous baked, roasted, grilled, or pureed into soups.  It has a delicate sweetness to it that pairs really well with the season's herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and sage.  Not only does butternut squash taste lovely, but it is also rich in vitamins A and C and is a great source of fiber, thiamin, niacin, vitamins B6 and E, and magnesium.

One of the foods that I find myself gravitating to when the cooler fall weather hits is soup.  This butternut squash soup has a lightly sweet flavor and the nutmeg adds a special fall flair.  If you're looking for a fresh way to incorporate veggies for lunch or dinner, a vegetable and broth-based soup is an excellent way to do so.  Research has also suggested that consuming a hearty vegetable soup before meals can help curb hunger before meals, which may help with weight loss.  Soup is also something that freezes really well, so you can store up several servings in freezer-safe containers to enjoy later on.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from:  Cathy Lowe,

1 (2-3 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil (I use this so that it's dairy-free. You could also use unsalted butter.)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth (You could also use chicken broth.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Melt the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until it's translucent, about 5-8 minutes.
2.  Add the squash and broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender, about 15-20 minutes.
3.  Remove the squash cubes with a slotted spoon.  Place in a blender and puree until smooth.  
4.  Return the pureed squash to the pot.  Stir and season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Serve.

Serves:  6
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  146 calories  Carbohydrate:  30 g   Protein:  3 g   Fat:  3 g   Cholesterol:  0 mg   Fiber:  4 g   Sugar:  8 g (natural)   Sodium:  518 mg
Excellent source of: vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, and potassium
Good source of:  thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin E, calcium, and iron
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Friday, October 7, 2011

Foodie Friday: Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette

Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette © Michelle Loy - Go Wellness, 2011.
I often feel pretty blessed to live where I do with access to so much fresh produce and seafood year-round.  My husband and I finally finished our stash of Alaskan goodies, so he decided to head to a local fresh fish market that he'd heard about to stock up on more seafood.  One of the fresh goodies that he returned home with included yellowfin tuna, which we have enjoyed in so many ways.  I've found that I like it best simply seared or grilled and served in sandwiches or on salads.  To me, the best sauce and dressing pairings with this fish are those with an Asian flare, like this wasabi-infused vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette is truly what makes this dish.  Yum!

I've experimented with a variety of types of fish, and this is probably one of our family's favorites.  I think it's because it doesn't have a real 'fishy' flavor to it, so this might be a good one to try with those who aren't fans of 'fishy' fish.  I love this seared ahi tuna dish because it's fresh, light, and easy.  Do not fret if you don't have access to fresh tuna as frozen seafood certainly has its benefits, such as less environmental impact and less waste.  Read more about the benefits of frozen seafood in this article from National Geographic.  Thank you to Field to Plate for sharing.  Enjoy!

Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette  
Adapted from: Emeril Lagasse, Food Network

1 lb sushi quality yellowfin (ahi) tuna, cut into 4 steaks about 4 oz each
Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups of salad greens (eg, mesclun, mixed baby greens, red leaf, romaine, or spinach)
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup of other fresh vegetables, such as sliced red onion or cucumber and julienne carrots or bell peppers for more color and flair, if you like.

Ingredients for the dressing:
1 tsp wasabi paste
1/2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Combine the mixed greens, tomatoes, and other vegetables into a large bowl.  
2.  In a small bowl, whisk the wasabi, honey, and vinegar.  Then whisk in the oils to combine the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  
3.  Place olive oil into a pan over medium heat.  Season the tuna with salt and freshly ground black pepper on all sides.  Place the tuna steaks in the pan and sear on each side for about 1-2 minutes, depending on how rare you like it.  Remove the tuna from the heat and set aside.  Slice each steak into 1/4" thick slices.    
4.  To serve, place about 1/4 of the mixed green salad onto the center of a dinner plate.  Top with slices of tuna.  Drizzle with the wasabi vinaigrette.  Serve.

Serves:  4
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  456   Carbohydrate:  8 g   Protein:  28 g   Fat:  35 g   Cholesterol:  51 mg  Fiber:  2 g   Sugar:  4.7 g   Sodium:  126 mg   
Excellent source of: thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, B12, C, D, A, E, and magnesium
Good source of:  omega-3 fatty acid, potassium, and zinc            

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