3 Tips for Getting Back on (the Healthy) Track

 Have the gray, cold, dreary days taken your healthy New Year intentions captive? Don’t worry; all is not lost!  Usually, when we make a commitment to turn over a new leaf, the first few days – or weeks – can seem effortless.  We are caught up in the excitement and have fun changing up the foods we eat and adding new variety our fitness routine. 

 But then IT happens. 

Something catches us off guard:  a fight with a loved one, an extraordinarily busy work schedule, or a cold that just won’t seem to go away.  Whatever it is, once your new routine is disrupted, it is common to seek solace in your past habits.  We begin to crave the foods that comfort us and zoning out in front of the TV becomes much more appealing than working up a sweat.  You tell yourself you’ll just take a day off, but days quickly turn into months, and you find yourself making the same resolutions every year! 

 Does this sound familiar?

 The truth is, life has a way of always getting in the way.  Try as you might, everyone get sick, stressed out, and has disagreements.  The key lies in being prepared for the bumps in the road.

1. Make a list of activities that comfort you – and don’t involve food: Some of my all time favorites: catching a yoga class, taking a warm bath, and meeting a friend for tea.  These all help me to reconnect to myself, my intentions, and put things into perspective.  

2. Schedule in healthy activities into your calendar:  It’s easy to get lost in our busy schedules.  Don’t just wait to see how the week unfolds to figure out when you will get in activity or stock up at the grocery store.  At the beginning of the week, plan when you will exercise, grocery shop, and if you want extra bonus points – plan your meals for the week.  This will help keep you organized and prevent last minute take out. 

3.  Get Support!  Whether you turn to a good friend, fitness trainer, or health coach, it is important to make your goals heard and establish accountability.  This helps to keep you focused on your goals, and is an excellent resource to turn to if you fall off track.  It is important to stay in touch or have occasional sessions even when everything is going.  This will help to increase momentum, build trust, prevent relapses, and most importantly – get you back on track if you happen to slip. 

Amanda Skrip provides culinary and wellness services to inspire healthy living.  She specializes in food-based cleanses, weight-loss, and eating for energy.  In addition to working with private clients, she teaches natural foods cooking classes around the city.  Visit her website to and be sure to check out the blog, event schedule, and sign-up for the newsletter – www.amandaskrip.com

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Make Your Own Mix and Match Energy Bars

Get instant pep from these easy healthier homemade bars–for only $.19 per serving.

Make your own wholesome, on-the-go snack! Start with this recipe and mix and match to suit your taste using a combination of healthy ingredients in the chart below.

 Work Time: 10 Minutes / Total Time: 55 Minutes + Cooling Time / Servings: 18

 2 c cereal, coarsely chopped
3/4 c roasted unsalted nuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 c dried fruit, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 c second nut or fruit or an extra (see chart below for quantities), optional
1/3 c sugar, honey, or brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 lg egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract, optional

 1. Heat oven to 300°F. Line 9″ x 9″ baking pan with foil. Oil and flour the foil. (An 8″ x 8″ pan can be used. Just bake 5 to 10 additional minutes.)

 2. Mix cereal, nuts, fruit, flour, and an extra, if using, in large bowl.

 3. Combine sugar and salt in small bowl. Whisk in egg whites and extract, if using. Pour mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.

 4. Pat into the prepared pan with moist hands or plastic wrap.

 5. Bake until bars are dry to the touch, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on ingredients used. Cool completely.

 Need a little inspiration? Try these tempting combos for a healthy treat.

 Strawberry Fields: Granola, cashews, strawberries, poppy seeds

 Mango Tango: Wheat flakes, pistachios, mangoes, wheat germ

 Perfect Pear: Puffed rice, pistachios, pears, chocolate chips

 Big on Fig: Rice flakes, hazelnuts, figs, apricots

 Peachy Keen: Wheat flakes, almonds, peaches, raisins

 Classic: Granola, peanuts, raisins, chocolate chips

Prevention Magazine, December 2010

Shed Holiday Excess with a Food-Based Cleanse

The New Year is here: are you feeling as healthy and vibrant as you can be?  If your holiday celebrations have left you vowing to turn over a new leaf once and for all, a food-based cleanse may be the perfect solution.

 Weight loss, increased energy, improved sleep, and reduced cravings are all results of detoxing.  If you thought that starvation, strange liquid concoctions, and bulking up on a bevy of pills and supplements were all requirements for cleansing, forget everything you have heard!  Cleansing with food is safe, and perhaps more effective, than drastic, harsh techniques. 

 Ready to get clean?  Bulk up on leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water, and high-quality protein sources.  Focus on eliminating common food irritants such as: processed foods, wheat, dairy, soy, caffeine, and sugar.  Read on for more tricks-of-the trade to set you up for cleansing success. 

 1- Scheduling Smarts: Planning a detox is like planning a vacation; you need to look at your calendar and see when you can take ‘time off’ from food and alcohol indulgences. Chances are you will never have a few weeks free of social commitments and mealtime obligations but be strategic and choose when temptation will be at a minimum. 

 2- Pre-Detoxing:   Sugar and caffeine are the two culprits that cause the most withdrawal symptoms.  If you are particularly sugar or caffeine dependent, try to wean off the stimulants fully before starting to cleanse.  A sugar and caffeine-free diet help to keep cravings in check, energy levels up, and will make the removal of other ‘favorite’ foods much easier and less tempting. 

 3- Kitchen Cleanout: To make your cleansing plan easier to stick to, give your refrigerator and pantry a makeover.  Get rid of the foods that tempt you.  Do you like to mindlessly munch on candy after dinner?  If it’s not in the house, your habit becomes much easier to break.  Once cleaned out, take a trip to the market and stock up on leafy greens, citrus, berries, and cleanse friendly snacks so you can stay on track. 

 4- Exit Strategy:  How you end your cleanse is just as important as how you begin.  Give yourself a few days or a week to gradually re-introduce the foods you have omitted. You have just diligently worked to clean out your body, so it would be foolish to start throwing all sorts of toxins back in.  People sometimes find that they have previously unnoticed sensitivities to wheat or dairy, and they feel so much better by continuing to leave them out of their diets.  Others are shocked that their once overwhelming cravings for coffee, sweets, cheese, and/or bread have vanished. 

 Amanda Skrip (www.amandaskrip.com) provides culinary and wellness services to inspire healthy living.  She specializes in food-based cleanses, weight-loss, and eating for energy.  Amanda teaches cooking classes and wellness workshops around the city including Detox 101 and a Natural Foods Boot Camp.  You can check her schedule here (http://www.amandaskrip.com/?page_id=138)

Revamp Your Resolutions

 Revamp Your Resolutions

By Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN

Doesn’t it feel like less and less of us are making New Year’s resolutions these days? It could be because at times they’re nothing more than obligatory and far-fetched vows like these: “I won’t eat late at night anymore!” Or, “I’ll exercise every morning at 6am, no matter what.” They sound like empty promises, right? Even if your intentions are positive, if you have no plan as to how to achieve your resolutions, they’re likely to flop. Think about what’s really important to you and design a plan to go and get it. Here are some suggestions for realistic and achievable resolutions, along with ways to succeed:

 

  1. I will not stuff myself at every meal.

Plan: I will eat every 3-4 hours so I don’t get over hungry. I’ll carry around healthy snacks and remind myself that I’m keeping my energy and metabolism steady throughout the day.

  1. I will eat breakfast every morning.
    Plan: I’ll create 3 different simple morning meals so that I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat.
  2. I won’t raid the kitchen at bedtime. Plan: I will try other tactics to escape my cravings like brushing my teeth, taking a bath, or enjoying a cup of hot tea.
  3.  I will exercise 3-4 days per week, every week.  Plan: I will carry my exercise clothes with me in the car at all times. In addition, I’ll plan to do something different like a pilates or yoga class once a week.
  4. I will eat more fruit (this is my resolution!).
    Plan: I’ll keep fresh and frozen fruit in the house at all times. I’ll research what fruits are in season during the year and try one new fruit each month. (I even have an app on my phone that tells me what’s in season every month and how to enjoy it!)

 Once you’re following a plan, find ways to reward yourself for your hard work (not with food!). Buy a new exercise shirt or get a massage. In addition, forgive yourself for any mishaps. Resolutions are just goals to help you live a healthier and happier life. Focus on the positive, and the rest will fall into place. Happy New Year!

Sandy Sfikas is a registered dietitian, who in addition to seeing clients, is the editor of a international diabetes magazine. She has both a nutrition and journalism degree, and has worked in clinical settings as well as health clubs. She feels fortunate to have a career and clients that motivate her to continue to advance her knowledge of nutrition and wellness.

How to Curb Late Night Eating

Every person most likely has dealt with late night hunger pangs. Whether it be in front of the tv late or when returning home from a long night out, hunger seems to strike in the early morning hours with full force. This can be annoying  as it is not only during these hours that we seem to lose all self-control and indulge in anything within reaching distance, but also because this food typically doesn’t have time to digest and therefore can pack on the pounds very fast. Here are Healthy in Chicago’s tips for avoiding late-night pig out sessions.

  1. Load up on protein at dinner. Protein keeps you full longer, so will help to starve off those cravings. Protein will satisfy the appetite, so those that are of age and will be drinking alcohol at night will be less likely to munch later on at night. Also, contrary to popular belief, loading up on lean meats instead of carbohydrates before a night out drinking alcohol is better for your stomach and digestive system.
  2. Set up a healthy snacks .If you know you will be hungry when you come home from studying or a night out, make a plate beforehand with what you are “allowed” to eat. The portion sizes are what can get lost when snacking late at night; so setting up a proportional snack beforehand can be beneficial.
  3. Drink water. A lot of the time you are getting “hunger pangs” they are actually for water. This would make sense for those indulging in alcohol that is depleting their bodies of water. So, drink a glass of water or a sport drink and then reevaluate to see if your hunger is still there.
  4. Make a sign for your fridge. Better yet, lock it. If possible, buy an easy lock and, if your late night eating is a serious problem, lock it up. This may seem a bit extreme, but sometimes, you just need to be reminded to not late night eat.
  5. Leave the money at home. If there is a “late-night” place you like to stop at after getting drinks with friends or on the way home from a late night at the office, avoid stopping there by simply leaving your money that you would spend there at home.
  6. Don’t feel too guilty. If you do happen to over-indulge late at night, don’t beat yourself up about it. There is a reason your body is craving food, whether it be from the calories burned on the dance floor or the brain power utilized while working. As long as it is not a regular occurrence, your body will not be affected by this one late night eating session.

How to have a stress free Thanksgiving

10 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Turkey Day by Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN

 1.  Don’t show up hungry to a gathering. It makes no sense to starve just to stuff. Eat a small healthy snack before leaving home to avoid overindulging at the party. Consider a handful of almonds and a piece of low-fat cheese.

 2.  Budget your treats. Make a decision whether you want a cocktail or two, or a slice of pie. You shouldn’t take a break from budgeting your calories on Thanksgiving. Plan ahead and choose wisely.

 3.  Stay hydrated with plenty of water, seltzer, and soda water (sugar-free). Many people mistake dehydration for hunger. In addition, water helps us feel full. Also, alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body, so keep hydrated by sipping water and sugar-free beverages.

 4.  Don’t hang around the food table. Find a spot away from the food table and you’ll find that “out of sight, out of mind” really is true when it comes to food.

 5.  Eat Slowly. Since it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full, slow down and enjoy your meal. According to experts, putting down your fork between bites and eating mindfully is a sure-fire way to enjoy your meal and be satisfied with less food.

6.  Bring a healthy side dish. You may not know what’s in the other holiday goodies, but by bringing your own dish, you’ll rest assured that you’re filling up on something nutritious.

7.  Get enough sleep. When we’re tired, our hunger and fullness signals don’t work properly. We may crave more carbohydrates and tend to over eat unknowingly. Get at least 7 hours of sleep during the holidays.

8.  Follow the 80/20 rule. Eat until you feel about 80% full, then wait 20 minutes for your body to register that you are full. Eating until we are 100% (or more) full causes overeating by 20% or more.

9.  Try the plate method: Fill your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ starch, and ¼ lean meat. If it doesn’t fit on your plate, skip it!

10.  Get in some activity: Find the time to get in at least 20 minutes of exercise. Most gyms are open on Thanksgiving, so carve out some time to get the blood moving. Or, take a walk with friends and family and enjoy their company on the holiday.

Sandy Sfikas is a registered and licensed dietitian in Chicago. She’s also a nutrition editor, writer, and blogger. She’s worked in clinical settings as well as fitness facilities. “Change is uncomfortable and if you’re not ready to make changes, I can’t force you. My clients do all the work, and I’m there to facilitate the process. I provide the tools and encouragement to overcome weight loss hurdles. Sometimes a complete lifestyle change is needed, and other times a few tweaks to their current diet can make all the difference.” To contact Sandy, send her an email at sands345@yahoo.com.

Mindful Eating By Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN

You eat breakfast in the car while hurrying to work, chow down lunch at your desk while finishing a few emails, scarf a quick afternoon snack at the vending machine, and devour dinner at home while leafing through a magazine. If this sounds like you—you may need a lesson in Mindful Eating.

 The word mindful means to be aware and conscious. So, it only makes sense that Mindful Eating is all about being aware of the food we’re eating as well as being in touch with our hunger and fullness. It’s about noticing the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food.

Think about the last time you truly enjoyed a meal. Chances are, you weren’t at the computer or in the car.  In order to practice Mindful Eating, it’s crucial to elminate all distractions while eating. Being fully in-the-moment puts the focus on slowing down, savoring the meal, and stopping when we’re full.

Additionally, Mindful Eating is about acceptance. When we can accept our bodies and let go of the preoccupation with dieting and losing weight, we can sincerely enjoy our food. How can we hope to make healthy choices when we’re constantly criticizing and judging ourselves? How can we take pleasure in our food when we categorize it as “good” or “bad?” Accepting our bodies and acknowledging that our self-worth is determined by a number of things and not just by our pant size, will contribute to a much healthier relationship with food.

The benefits of Mindful Eating are endless. It not only also leads us to appreciate and value the food that we eat, but it helps us to eat less! Being present while eating helps us to become full and satisfied quicker and eat less over all.

Once we can master these things, we’ll then be able to make healthier choices.

 

Where to start:

At your next meal, try to really taste your food. Smell it, chew it, and enjoy it. Eliminate all distractions like the TV, the computer, or the phone. Pay attention to your fullness and put your fork down in between bites. Spend at least 20 minutes eating. Take smaller bites and be thankful for the food in front of you.

For more information, visit the Center for Mindful Eating http://www.tcme.org/about.htm.

Sandy Sfikas is a registered dietitan, who in addition to seeing clients, is the editor of a international diabetes magazine. She has both a nutrition and journalism degree and is a health/nutrition writer, blogger, and group speaker. She’s worked in clinical settings as well as in health clubs. She prides herself on helping people make realistic changes to their current eating habits and food repertoires. She feels fortunate to have a career and clients that motivate her to continue to advance her knowledge of nutrition and wellness.