Avoid the Winter Bulge

 By Juliana Jacobs, MS RD CDN

The habit of over-indulging during the winter months presents a problem when it comes to our waistlines. It is normal to put on a few pounds in the winter, but we want to avoid putting on any more than the obligatory “winter five.” We should use this short break from our hectic social lives to our advantage. The fact that New Yorkers stay indoors more often during the winter and eat out less is definitely something to work with. It may take slightly more preparation, but cooking is healthier and more economical than dining out anyway. Use the winter as a time to brush up on cooking skills and try out some healthy recipes. Look at cooking as a fun indoor activity—this way it won’t seem like such a daunting task.

Everyone is so busy during the week, so it is surely beneficial to prepare some healthy meals over the weekend to keep in the fridge. This way, you have a few “go-to” meals to heat up right away after work. This means fewer take-out meals, which tend to be more caloric and definitely more expensive than cooking at home. It’s a win-win situation for both your waistline and your wallet! I recommend preparing meals that can be made in large quantities and stored in the fridge, such as a big pot of lean turkey meat sauce, bean soup or vegetable stir-fry with brown rice. Try to avoid starchy vegetables. Always include 1 or 2 non-starchy vegetable on your plate such as broccoli, spinach, kale or asparagus. Non-starchy vegetables are high in fiber, which will help keep you full and satisfied for longer periods of time, without providing an abundance of calories or fat. If you are not into cooking, “breakfast for dinner” is always a great option. Make scrambled eggs with vegetables and a side of wheat toast, a bowl of oatmeal with berries or an egg-white omelet with low-fat cheese and avocado.

It is also important to note that point out that sweetened hot beverages are not necessarily your friend. These beverages are extremely high in sugar, which is eventually stored as fat in the body. Avoid one of nutrition’s cardinal sins and please refrain from drinking your calories! If you are in dire need of a hot chocolate or latte, make sure it is made with skim or low-fat milk and sugar-free syrup. If you own a Keurig coffee machine, try out the hot chocolate, latte or unsweetened flavored tea pods to take with you in a to-go cup. These pods contain less sugar and calories than any store-bought beverage and are just as satisfying, not to mention, much more cost-efficient.

Excessive ordering-in is a main culprit of winter weight gain. It is impossible to know exactly which ingredients restaurants use to prepare our meals and the majority of the time, take-out food contains more calories, fat and sodium than we think. Preparation is essential to staying on track and avoiding weight gain during the winter months, when it is inevitable that we are less physically active. On that note, it is important to incorporate even a small amount of exercise whenever you can, to maintain muscle strength and tone. Keep a set of hand weights in the closet to use when you are watching television or waiting for dinner to cook. Any small amount of exercise can make a significant difference!

Valentine’s Day

Candy Hearts and Chocolate Treats—

How to Avoid the Valentine’s Day Sugar Rush

By Juliana Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Love is certainly in the air when February arrives…and so is chocolate!

Valentine’s Day is up on our holiday checklist, which signifies many “I LOVE YOUs” and even more chocolate and sugary treats.

If you haven’t noticed, Valentine’s Day candy has been on store shelves since early-January. More than a month before the actual day! This makes it easy for consumers to purchase candy early and leave it sitting around their kitchen as an unnecessary temptation. Although one of the perks of Valentine’s Day is receiving candy and other sweet snacks, it is important to be mindful of the excess sugar that these treats contain.

Keeping that in mind, there is no need to completely boycott candy and chocolate this Valentine’s Day. We just need to indulge in a way that won’t undo all of the hard work we have done throughout the year.

Here are some sweet-tooth satisfying alternatives for store-bought candy:  

  • Mini- Muffins: Whether chocolate chip or blueberry, mini- muffins are the perfect treat to satisfy any sweet-tooth. They are not only delicious but also filling (which is more than we can say about a chocolate bar)! You can bake them using whole wheat flour, which can add extra fiber as well as low-fat milk and margarine to cut back on calories from fat.
  • Chocolate Pudding: Pudding is the perfect treat for any chocolate lover! It is low in calories and very satisfying. Also, try adding low-fat cool whip or whip cream for some extra zest! Pudding comes in many flavors such as vanilla, caramel and tapioca so it is a great and healthy option for those who crave variety.
  • Hot Chocolate: Everyone loves a cup of hot chocolate. For a rich- tasting, but still low- calorie cup of cocoa, mix a cup of low-fat milk with sugar-free cocoa powder or syrup (can add in a Splenda to sweeten if needed).  This sweet treat is so low in calories that you can even have seconds!
    • Chocolate Protein bar: Pick a bar that has up to 160 calories. You’ll get the benefit of the protein and fiber while enjoying a sweet snack.

Although Valentine’s Day is a time to spread the love, it doesn’t mean we have to over-indulge. Like on any other special day, it is okay to treat yourself to chocolate or other candy; however the key is to be mindful and not go to extremes!

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy and Healthy Valentine’s day!