Archives for November 2012

A Makeover Comfort Food Recipe That’s Better than the Original.

A Starchy Comfort Food Gets a Makeover!

It took a leap of faith, but I decided  to find out if cauliflower can be a stand-in for potatoes in the comfort food category.  It’s that time of year when we start to crave chili, meatloaf, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes.

For people that are counting calories and carbs, eating white potatoes mashed with milk and butter is either a diet no-no or a healthy indulgence.  Replacing the potatoes with cauliflower increases the nutritional value, dramatically reduces the calories and carb count, and is easier to prepare; there are no potatoes to peel.

I prepared creamy mashed cauliflower last week and my husband said he likes it better than mashed potatoes.

A perfect head of cauliflower I found at the grocery.

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Ten Holiday Survival Tips You Can Implement Now

The Best Advice I Have For Surviving The Impending Food Tsunami.

Welcome to the hardest time of year when it comes to keeping our weight under control and exercise program on track.  How is that the holidays have turned into a series of events where we’re expected to gorge ourselves on food and not worry about the ramifications under next year?
And not just any food.  Foods that we wouldn’t be caught dead eating the rest of the year.   Between the abundance of high-calorie dishes that make an appearance at this time of year, and the additional stress of planning the perfect holiday, gaining a few pounds isn’t at all uncommon.

I wrote last year at this time about a friend of mind that refers to what goes on at her workplace at this time of year as a food tsunami.  The workplace food tsunami, along with holiday parties, cookie exchanges, and traditional once-a-year recipes that we bake or prepare spell disaster with a capital “D”!

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Oatmeal Date Bars: A Healthy, Nutritious Treat

Health Benefits of Dates

Dates, although high in calories, are also dense in nutrients that you can’t get in other foods. You’ll begin to see them in abundance in groceries at this time of year, and can be used in a variety of ways.

Dates are high in dietary fiber, which assists in keeping LDL cholesterol in line and the digestive tract active and healthy.  They contain flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins which possess anti-infective, anti-inflammatory properties.

Whole dates in a dessert dish

Dates are also full of B-carotene, lutein, and zea-xaanthin; all antioxidants that help protect cell structure from the harmful effects of oxygen-free radicals. It is believed that eating dates offer some protection from colon, prostrate, breast, endometrial, lunch and pancreatic cancers. (Source:  Nurtition And

They have moderate amounts of vitamin-A, are a good source of iron, an excellent source of potassium and include minerals like calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium.

The Oatmeal Date Bar recipe below is an easy-to-prepare sweet treat that is low in calories, and good for you. It’s a perfect snack-bar for a holiday get-together or to take to work for the annual carry-in lunch.


1 cup cinnamon applesauce
1 cup chopped dates
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray the bottom on a 10 x 7” baking dish with non-fat cooking spray

To prepare filling:  In a small non-stick saucepan, combine all of the filling ingredients – except for vanilla extract.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring and mashing occasionally with a heatproof spatula.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Date bar filling simmering

To prepare the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Place the mixture on a sheet of waxed paper. In the same bowl, beat the sugar, butter, and sour cream with an electric mixer on high speed for one minute.  Stir in the oat mixture with a wooden spoon until combined.

Dry ingredients combined in a small bowl.

Set aside 1 cup of the dough.  Put it in an airtight container and place it in the freezer while assembling the bars.  Drop the remaining dough by spoonfuls into the baking dish.  Press dough into an even layer with the back of a wooden spoon.

Drop the filling by spoonfuls over the dough and spread in an even layer.  Crumble the chilled dough evenly over the filling.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool completely.  Cut into 18 squares.  Bars can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container or the freezer for up to two months.

Oatmeal Date Bars

Nutritional Facts:

Calories – 120.5; Fat 2.6 g, Saturated Fat 1.4 g, Cholesterol 6 mg, Sodium 117.9 mg, Carbohydrates 23.7 g, Total sugars 15.6 g, Dietary Fiber 1.8 g, Protein 1.8 g

Dates Are Versatile.  

Dates are available in the supermarket throughout the year, but are most popular during the holidays.  They can be eaten alone as a snack, stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings, and chopped up and used in salads.

Do you have a favorite date recipe?  Be Social!  Share!

Giving Thanks Is Good For Your Health

Shouldn’t A Healthy Thanksgiving Be About More Than A Fat-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe? 

As a health and wellness blogger there is this feeling of obligation to come up with magical ideas for readers so that they can enjoy the holidays guilt-free without gaining a pound.

I’ve scoured skinny pumpkin cheesecake recipes, quick exercises to do pre-mealtime on turkey day, and creative portion control strategies.  I’ve found so many great ideas it would be impossible to share them all!  But, I wonder if eating a little less bread dressing, or doing a quick set of jumping jacks before you eat is really the best way to get focused on our health as we head into the Thanksgiving and the days that follow?

You know that from now until January 2, you will be subjected to rich, buttery, sugary, high-calorie treats everywhere you turn.  Along with that, you may not have time to get your regular workouts in.  You need to put a plan in place now if you’re going to survive the next six weeks without a three to five pound weight gain and that feeling of remorse you’ll have when you step on the scale for the first time in 2013.

All of the tips and healthy recipes are good.  But, before we delve into those, there’s something else we can do to keep our waistline from expanding and our blood pressure from escalating as we head into the time of year that many of us dread because of all of the food.  It’s like my daughter’s intensely competitive high school softball coach used to tell his team about winning.  “It’s a mental game.”

Practicing Gratitude 

“Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.” –Eileen Caddy

Some of my Facebook friends have been putting up daily posts about the things in their lives that they are thankful for.  Some are using the alphabet to work their way from A to Z.  Others are taking a more random approach by counting down the days until Thanksgiving and posting something they feel especially thankful for each day.

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Strong Is The New Sexy. Body Weight Workouts Are Trending This Year.

If Zumba’s On The Way Out, What’s On The Way In? 

Fitness trends come and go.  From aerobic dance, step, and kickboxing to Pilates and Zumba (I’ve never been a fan). It’s a revolving door of workout styles that attempt to keep participants engaged and motivated to exercise.

Results from the 2013 American College of Sports Medicine’s “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends” has a couple of surprises that tell us what was fashionable in fitness last year may be on the way out the door.

Pilates, stability ball workouts and balance training didn’t make the list this year.  Zumba slipped from number 10 on the list in 2012 to number 12 for 2013. Yoga hangs on at number 14.  Strength training takes the number two spot for the second year in a row.

Get lean and mean with Body Weight Workouts. Flickr photo by Robert Couse-Baker

Body Weight Training.  The Lean and Mean Workout Method.

New to the ACSM 2013 list is one of my favorite workout genres:  Body Weight Training.  You might think that a body-weight training program limits the participant to push-ups and pull-ups, but there’s more to it than that.

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BeFit In 90: Your Weapon In Beating the Battle of the Holiday Bulge.

It Doesn’t Get Better Than This: A Different Workout Every Day For 90 Days
And It’s Free!

Be Fit has taken their YouTube channel to the next level for free at home-workouts.  Lionsgate’s Be Fit is offering a 90 day workout program led by former Olympic sprinter Samantha Clayton and former marine Garret Amarine.  The cost? Zero!  

Free workouts for 90 days at BeFit in 90.

The Befit in 90 program is designed to help you transform you body in, well, 90 days.  It’s a total body circuit and cross-training workout system that includes strength, cardio, flexibility, yoga and high intensity drills, so there’s something for everyone.

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The Latest Sitting Study Proves You Need To Take Action. Here’s How.

Different Study. Same Results.

Are you getting tired of reading about the results of more studies that show that sitting all day is bad for your health?  I know I am.  But, because I work at a desk most of the day, I’m having trouble ignoring the overwhelming evidence that keeps coming in that says even if you get a healthy dose of exercise every day, it can’t undo the damage caused by sitting.

Exercise That Works will get you moving more from 9 to 5. (Flickr photo by Josh Semans)

Bad News

The results of latest study were reported this week at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.  CT scans of 500 Californians of the average age of 65 showed that excess time sitting “was significantly related to pericardial fat around your heart.”

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Too Busy To Cook? Here’s Why You Should Make Time and A Link That Will Help.

One More Reason A Brown Bag Lunch
and Home Cooked Meal Is Better For You

You probably don’t need to hear one more reason why you should spend less time in the fast-food drive up lane and more time in the kitchen.  But, the results of a recent study may inspire you to get out of the drive-through and focus on creating meals at home that your family will love.

Flickr photo by Sam Howzit

New Research. Old News.

The University of Chicago conducted a survey where, on two separate occasions, 9,000 teens were asked to recall everything they had eaten within the last 24 hours.  The same information was collected on younger children by asking their parents to supply the data.

Out of the 9,000, the number of youth and teens that had eaten take-out from a fast-food restaurant during that 24 hour period was between 24 and 42 percent.  Seven to 18 percent had eaten at a full-service restaurant.

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The Secret To Avoiding Negative Target Fixation

What In The World Is Negative Target Fixation?

Once again Daily Blog Tips provided inspiration for my latest blog post. This isn’t the first time, so no doubt that’s why I subscribe to the tips and faithfully open and read every post. You’re already wondering how what I read at Daily Blog Tips could have anything to do with health, wellness, goal setting, and behavior change.

Today the blog tip was about negative target fixation. Negative target fixation – according to Wikipedia – is “a process by which the brain is focused so intently on an observed object that awareness of other obstacles or hazards can diminish.” In some cases we can become so fixated on the target that we collide with it despite our intent to avoid it.

Have you ever heard of it?  I hadn’t until today. Learning how to correct the natural human inclination to focus on a negative target that we are adamantly trying to avoid can greatly impact our ability to be successful with our goals to adopt healthier habits.

Crash and Burn?  Not So Fast! 

The article in Daily Blog Tips was using the process of negative fixation to explain why many bloggers give up before they have a chance to be truly successful. Often they become so fixated on the traffic they don’t have, the money they aren’t making, and the success of the other bloggers in their niche, they quit blogging before they have a chance to experience success.

I find the very same things to be true of people that are trying to lose or maintain weight, follow a regular exercise program, or establish better eating patterns.  They concentrate so heavily on what they aren’t supposed to do they can’t get focused on what they are.  The chocolate chip ice cream they ate, or the morning they slept in instead of getting up to work on their Couch to 5K program loom large in their mind and overshadow all of the positive things they’ve done. They get discouraged and give up before they have a chance to see any results.

If you are a self-sabotager by way to of negative target fixation, it doesn’t mean you are doomed and will never reach or maintain your goals. But you will have to put an action plan in place to correct the fixation that you have on the negative object that is dominating your attention.

Three Ways You Can Overcome Negative Target Fixation

1.  Do Your Homework – Figure out what negative targets you are fixated on.  Hint: It’s probably something that you hear yourself saying over and over to yourself throughout the day.  Maybe it’s a fear that you’ll overeat at the holidays, drink too much at the company party, or lose your desire to go to the gym this winter.   Once you’ve determined what they are, write them down in a journal.

Now, draw a line through each one and write down what you need to focus on since you’ll no longer be concentrating on what you’re afraid you might do. You might replace the fears listed above with:  Enjoying the holidays without gaining a pound by implementing portion control, having two cocktails at the company party then switching to diet soda, and spending 45 minutes at the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Take some time to visualize what is written down and practice forgetting about the fear that has a line through it. As time goes on, new negative targets may creep in. Keep the journal handy and continue to complete this exercise each time a new negative target makes an appearance.

2.  Switch To Positive Outcome Fixation – Look beyond what you are trying to avoid and go straight to the goal achievement.  Johnathan Wells wrote an excellent article on negative target fixation at his blog, Advanced Life Skills.  He uses the example of a slippery, icy driveway.  If we know that we have to walk across an icy driveway to get to the car all we think about is not falling on the ice.  But, according to Jonathan, “your mind cannot process the thought of not slipping on the ice without visualizing you slipping on the ice.”  Right away you are fixated on a negative target.

The same is true when you decide you’re going to get up early to work out and all you can think about is not being able to get out of bed.  If all you are able to visualize is your hand hitting the snooze and going back to sleep, that’s what you will do.  To avoid falling on the slippery driveway you need to focus on the car instead of the ice.  To avoid hitting the snooze and missing your morning workout the focus needs to be on the workout not on the bed.

You can learn to look away from the negative target.  Ignore it. Look past it.  “When a motorcyclists wants to avoid an obstacle, instead of getting trapped in negative target fixation he needs to look past that obstacle. He needs to focus on where he wants to be, not where he doesn’t want to be.” – Jonathan Wells  

3.  Misery Loves Company – The term negative target fixation was used in World War II fighter bomber training to describe pilots flying into targets during a bombing run. It is also a term that has been used to describe a common issue for mountain bikers and motorcyclists. They have a tendency to drive towards the obstacle they are trying to avoid.  Why?  Because that’s where they are looking.

I remember my driver’s ed teacher in high school telling me about this concept. If you look at the parked car on the curb, you just might hit it!  If you constantly tell yourself that you shouldn’t get the M & Ms out of the vending machine, you might find them in your hand.

Knowing that you have not been exclusively selected to be plagued by this malady will help you understand that, although it is real, it is something that you can overcome if you pay attention to it.

You can train your mind to jump over the obstacle and go straight to visualizing the results. Seeing yourself sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat of the car with the icy driveway behind you, the sun coming up on your 6 a.m. run, or maneuvering your jet bomber swiftly and safely past the targets will get you to your goals in one piece.

It’s natural for us to become fixated on the negative target.  You may have to spend some time and energy learning to re-focus.  Once you’ve developed a new behavior pattern of positive outcome fixation you’ll be amazed at how much easier it will be to reach your goals.

If you liked this article, you might also like:

Is Happiness Within Your Reach?  A book review.

Changing Behavior By Taking The Smallest Possible Step.

How Positive Affirmations Can Get You Unstuck And Moving Again. 

Be Social!  Share!

Burn 33% More Fat! (and 10 more reasons why you should work out before breakfast.)

Is A Workout Before Breakfast Good or Bad?  

At long last we have an answer to an age-old question. Is is okay to exercise on an empty stomach?  The answer is yes.

Dr. Jason Gill recently completed research at Glasgow University that followed ten men through a series of laboratory tests at the university’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences.  The men each made three visits to the institute.  They were given breakfast each time:  On the first visit the men did not do any exercise.  The second time they took a brisk walk before breakfast.  On the third trip they took a brisk walk after breakfast.

Results of the laboratory tests showed that those who did their walk before breakfast used up to 33 percent more fat than those who did their walk after breakfast. Tests revealed they also experienced a bigger drop in the blood fats that raise the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Gill says that while exercise in itself is good, any done before breakfast may be extra beneficial, because it forces the body to rely on its stores of fat for energy.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Gill said, “If you are going to do something, then there is a slight advantage in doing it in a fasted state. But if you find you keel over because you can’t do exercise before you have your slice of toast, then do it afterwards. You are still going to get a huge benefit.”

Rise and Shine.  Your Workout Is Waiting For You.

Rise and shine. Your workout is waiting for you.

Where exercise is concerned, doing something is always better than doing nothing.  And doing something before breakfast is even better.  But burning 33% more fat isn’t the only perk to getting your workout done before the day starts.  Here are ten more: [Read more…]