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Healthy Replacements for Junk Foods

healthy trail mix This month, I have focused on cutting out some processed foods in my 30 Day Eat Less Processed Foods Challenge.

I didn’t set any “rules” for myself, but just tried to find some healthier alternatives to some of the more processed foods I was eating at times.

For example, I know that in the afternoons I tend to crave something crunchy or sweet, and I found this trail mix (pictured above) in the bulk bin at a local health food store.  It has everything from pumpkin seeds to dried cranberries to dark chocolate chips.

One warning about trail mix is that you are much better off if you pre-portion it, because it is calorie dense!

Here’s some replacement ideas for junk foods…

Instead of potato chips…try pickles (or other pickled vegetables such as pickled okra!)

Instead of peanut butter crackers…try celery with peanut butter.

Instead of packaged chocolate chip cookies…try homemade granola bars.

Instead of a candy bar…try a small piece of dark chocolate.

Instead of nachos….try pita chips and hummus.

Instead of a Slim Jim…try beef jerky.

Instead of ice cream…try greek yogurt with honey.

One way to cut out processed foods at dinner is to keep it simple.  The more you focus your meals around the vegetables, the healthier you will probably be.

If you need some new ideas for simple dinners, check out pesto pasta recipe, sweet potato salad recipe or the cranberry bbq chicken!

What are YOUR favorite healthy replacements for junk foods?  {Leave a comment below!}

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30 Day Eat Less Processed Foods Challenge: Get Educated!

If knowledge is power, then knowledge about what’s in your food is health!

If you have ever taken the time to read ingredients lists on some of your favorite foods (especially snack foods), you have probably noticed that you cannot pronounce some of the ingredients.  And the list might be so long you fall asleep in the middle of reading it!

I try to provide healthy foods for my family, but I’m still a little disturbed by some of the ingredients lists in our pantry.

I’m not going to get super extreme about it, but I am determined to find some healthier replacements for some foods.

One way to get educated about foods is to use some of the incredible new technology available!

Here is an example of an app I found (available for both iphones and android phones) that I am loving so far: Fooducate!

(see bottom right corner and try to ignore how many unread emails I have!)

fooducate app The amazing thing about this app is that you can scan a product (or search for it) and it will provide a lot of information about what’s actually in it:

fooducate scanner Here’s an example using Lance crackers!  Notice it gives a rating (score) and some basic warnings regarding ingredients.  You can also click on the warnings for more detail.

fooducate crackers The great thing is you can see healthier options!  You could even do this right there in the grocery store!

fooducate options Here is an example of a very healthy food with a high rating:

fooducate almonds

From a dietitian standpoint, the information that I saw seemed pretty solid.  I was happy to read that the Fooducate app was developed by dietitians, making it more trustworthy.

You can read more about the app here!

{Linking up to Life Made Lovely}

I’ll share more helpful websites and apps as I find others that help us live a healthier lifestyle!

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Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

If you’re like me, this is the time of year when you set some new goals for yourself.  The question is, how long do you actually work on meeting these goals?

If you’re like me, maybe two months. Maybe.

This year, I’m going to approach New Year’s resolutions a bit differently.  In the past, I would set some crazy goals for myself that were just plain unattainable.  Or unsustainable.  Because that’s how I “like” to do things.

I’m going to set some monthly goals, so that I can break it down into more “doable” tasks.

When I did the 30-Day No Sugar Challenge in September, it helped me to realize the power of changing something in my life for 30 days. {sidenote: I’m doing this again for January!}

There are different areas of my life that I want to make changes in, but for the purpose of this blog, I will stick to 30 day challenges that pertain to health in some way.

For the month of January, I am going to work on purging our pantry of some highly processed foods.  Don’t get me wrong: we don’t buy Cheetos and Little Debbie cakes (but no offense if you do!).

As a dietitian, I do try to stick to only buying decent food for my family.  However, there are some things we love that are a bit more processed than I’d like.

Here’s a sneak preview of my first attempt at replacing a processed food with a DELICIOUS homemade version:

homemade granola bars I hope to share some good ideas and recipes with you over the next month that will help you eliminate some of the highly processed foods in your pantry!

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30 Day Simple Meal Plan Challenge Week One: Use Pantry Staples

This week’s focus in the challenge is using what you’ve already got! (in your pantry, freezer, or anywhere you keep food in your house)

In trying to plan this weeks menu for the 30 Day Simple Meal Plan Challenge, I realized that I have so much food in my pantry and freezer that just sits there week after week.

First, I looked in my pantry (and freezer) and tried to just mentally process what is in there.

pantry staples Then I realized that this wasn’t going to work.  I’m one of those kinds of people who has to write it down!

pantry staples list Once I saw the list of everything we had right in our own kitchen, I got to planning!

This week’s menu:

Monday: Crock pot roast with carrots, potatoes (roast from freezer)

Tuesday: Baked spaghetti made with homemade spaghetti sauce and lean ground beef, salad (had all the ingredients on hand to make spaghetti sauce)

Wednesday: Crock pot cranberry chicken (will be posting recipe!), brussel sprouts, sweet potato (had all ingredients on hand except the boneless skinless chicken breasts)

Thursday: Easy Mexican Casserole, salad (using canned beans from pantry)

Friday: Homemade pizza  (have all ingredients to make homemade pizza dough on hand + olives and cheese)

(we never know what our weekends will hold, but we will stick to the plan of not eating out!)

 

What do you have in your pantry?

How to Use What is On Hand

  1. Write it down!  I know it sounds simple, but I spent a while this weekend going through all of my canned goods, dry goods and even freezer items and wrote it all down.
  2. Organize it.  As I was going through my pantry, I kept finding yet another can of tomato sauce that I didn’t realize I had because it was wedged between cans of beans!  If you have it organized, you can find what you need a lot easier.
  3. Plan some meals that use these items.  I know this seems like an obvious one, but if you just pick some meals that use these items you have, you will buy less groceries this week!

Having a plan will help us in this first week of the 30 Day Simple Meal Plan Challenge.  Remember, keeping it simple will enable you to stick to it and be successful!

What staples do you have on hand and what do you plan to do with them?

{Linking up to Life Made Lovely!}

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30 Day Simple Meal Plan Challenge

It’s time for another 30 Day Challenge!

Last month, we did a 30 Day No Sugar Challenge and it helped me clean up my eating and crave sugar less.  Watch the video on that post if you haven’t yet!

I was trying to think of another area of my life that I need to work on, and I decided on meal planning!  I’m assuming that if I need to work on it, many others do as well.

Here is the background for why I’m choosing this 30 Day Simple Meal Plan Challenge:

  • I am busy (work part-time, two kids under 5 years, lots of laundry to do, dishes to wash, blog posts to write)
  • I want my family to eat healthy
  • I know that if you don’t plan it, you probably won’t eat it!
  • Save money

Are you with me?  Do you find yourself frazzled and stressed about what to cook for dinner almost every night?

If so, you are not alone!  Our culture is so fast-paced and we lead busy lifestyles.  I don’t think many people truly live a Martha Stewart-type of lifestyle, even if they appear to!

An interesting tidbit in the world of nutrition: when I was becoming certified in Adult Weight Management in Atlanta this year, the topic came up of eating breakfast and weight loss.  You’ve probably heard a million times that eating breakfast can help you lose weight.  The question is: why?

Some may say that it gets your metabolism going in the morning, others may say it helps to prevent overeating later in the day.  I think both of these can be true, but I wonder if part of the reason is just simply that people who eat breakfast tend to be more conscientious in their meal planning.

We’ve all done it one time or another: you run out the door for work or to take your kids to school without eating a bite.  Why?  Too rushed and not enough time to sit down and eat a small breakfast.  Most likely if this is the case, you may have also not even thought about what you will eat for lunch, much less dinner.

Here is my challenge to you (and to myself): Every week, let’s plan a simple menu for the week and do our best to stick to it!  My goal for our family is to not eat out or “just grab something” (which is easy to do if you haven’t planned ahead). 

As a Registered Dietitian, I will show you a simple, healthy meal plan each week that I am using for my family.  Some of these meals may not suit your family, but hopefully a lot of them will!

The focus will be dinner planning, as this tends to be the most challenging for our family (and probably yours).

I am going to use a lot of my tried and true recipes that I know my family will enjoy and I know will not require too much time in the kitchen.

However, no one wants to get stuck in a rut!  I am going to be trying new ones as well, and I’ll let you know how that goes.  (So often, I find a recipe that could use a little tweaking to be healthier.)

Follow me on this 30 Day Simple Meal Plan Challenge to a less-stressed, healthier mealtime with the family!

 

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30 Day No Sugar Challenge: Days 29 & 30!!!!

Congratulations!  You made it 30 days with no “sweets.”

This challenge was not meant to necessarily be anything extreme (unless you wanted it to be).  For me, I knew that cutting out desserts and “sweets” such as chocolate, cookies, etc. would benefit me tremendously.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

My cravings decreased to almost nothing.  I learned what my actual weaknesses are.  I gained control.

I hope this 30 Day No Sugar Challenge has benefited you as well!

The key now is to lose the ground you have gained.  If you went 30 days without sweets, you have cut out one of the biggest causes of weight gain.

Keys to Maintaining a Sugar-Less Lifestyle

  1. Save sweets for special occasions.  If you’re like me, I can find a “special occasion” to celebrate with sweets at least once a day.  The problem is, we slowly start eating more and more sweets until it’s just a part of our everyday lives.
  2. Don’t keep it around.   Unless you’re a super-self-controlled person, it’s probably best to not let it in the house.
  3. Eat more fruit.  Eating fruit may help to curb the appetite as it gives the natural sweetness.
  4. If you find yourself getting off-track, just start again.  You don’t have to do a 30-day challenge, but sometimes just avoiding it for a day or two might get you back on track.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this 30-day journey towards a healthier you!

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30 Day No Sugar Challenge: Days 26, 27 & 28

I know I haven’t been posting as frequently here lately, but I hope you are sticking with this 30 Day No Sugar Challenge all the way to the end with me.

We’re almost there!  Two more days and you’ll be able to say you went 30 whole days without any sweets.

Daily Recap (of the last few days)

  • Didn’t have much temptation the last few days
  • I am just finding myself not even giving most desserts a second thought.  Though I have had days where the temptation is strong, lately it has subsided (thank goodness)

Sugar Rehab

Are you finding yourself less addicted to sugar now?  I hope so!

It doesn’t mean you’ll never want it or even eat it again, but hopefully you have more control.  So many foods we eat that aren’t even “sweets” have added sugar in them, so we definitely do not need the sugar from desserts, candy, sodas, etc.

Start thinking about what your plan is for handling sugar and desserts once this challenge is over.  Do not think of it as “whew, now I’m done with that.  Now I can go binge on some chocolate!”

I wanted this challenge to be a lifestyle change for me…one that will help me more easily resist the many temptations that come my way.

{If you are new to this challenge, check out this post and watch the video!}

 

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30 Day No Sugar Challenge: Days 23, 24 & 25

Even though I haven’t posted in a few days, I am still hanging in there with you in this challenge!

I will say that this last week has been the hardest, probably because I have just been more tired than usual.

Daily Recap (of the last few days):

  • I had to indulge in no sugar added ice cream (which, by the way, is not low calorie!)
  • I have craved sweets pretty intensely the last few days

Sugar Rehab

One of the featured article on MSN today was this article on sugar and it’s scary effects on the body.  Most of these effects I have mentioned at one time or another throughout this challenge, but it was a thorough list with some backup found in studies.

Though the source of this article may not be the most reputable ever, it reiterates what we do know about sugar:

  • Provides added calories that usually contribute to weight gain
  • Excess weight can increase risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer
  • Eat a high-sugar diet, thereby having sugar highs and lows, can affect our moods

Even if you do go back to eating occasional sweets after this challenge, just keep in mind that we must keep our cravings under control in order to avoid these negative effects.

 

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30 Day No Sugar Challenge: Days 21 & 22

Hope you are still hanging in there with this 30 Day No Sugar Challenge!

I’ve had a challenging week so far, and I must admit, I’ve craved some sweets at time.

Daily Recap

  • The last two days, I have avoided sweets despite some added stress
  • I have seen over and over again, my “weaknesses” when it comes to sweets

Sugar Rehab

Take a step back and try to look at your life and eating objectively.  When do you crave sugar?

Is it every night while you watch TV?  Is it during the day when you’re stressed at work or have screaming kids running around your house?

If you’re a sugar-lover, you need to spend the next week (the last week of the challenge) looking at your lifestyle and determining your “weaknesses.”  By doing so, you can work hard at not going back to your old ways.

If you have to, keep a journal of how you feel throughout the day and when your cravings hit.  This will help you come up with some ways to push through those cravings.

Hope your last week of the 30 Day No Sugar Challenge is a strong one!

 

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30 Day No Sugar Challenge: Day 20

Hope you are staying strong on this “homestretch” of the challenge!

I found myself craving sweets today, but I was also tempted by some cupcakes at work that looked delicious.

Daily Recap

  • Craved sweets, but stayed strong!
  • Have learned that for me, stress = craving sweets, being happy = craving sweets, and boredom = craving sweets :)

Sugar Rehab

If you think you’re the only one who loves sugar, the statistics show that you’re not alone:

  • According to the USDA, in 2000 each American ate an average of 152 pounds of caloric sweeteners.
  • This means that the average American consumed 52 teaspoons of sugar per day

Sounds shocking when you actually hear the numbers, doesn’t it?

By doing this 30 Day No Sugar Challenge, you are cleansing your diet of these added empty calories!

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