Portion Control

5 Fast, Fit and Festive Edible Christmas Trees

blog2 edible christmas trees

Looking for a festive addition to your holiday buffet that offers a tasty alternative to sugar-laden treats? Here are 5 colorful options that are fast, festive and easy on the calories. Presenting: EDIBLE CHRISTMAS TREES!

The kiwi tree comes complete with ornaments – with very little assembly required!

5 Fast, Fit and Festive Christmas Foods

If you want a little more drama, start with a styrofoam cone and some toothpicks to have your tree go vertical. Berries, melons, kiwis – plenty of fruit options to make your own masterpiece!

Fat Fit and Festive Edible Christmas Trees

For those impromptu gatherings, you probably have the ingredients for a vegetable tree in your fridge already. Sliced pepper stems, cauliflower tree lights, broccoli floret greens all make great substitutions for the cucumber/carrot/tomato version shown. While a click on the picture gets you to the site it originated from, I couldn’t find the specific link for this  tree. I suspect you’ll be okay on this one without specific instructions!

Fast Fit and Festive Edible Christmas Tree

Does it get easier than a one-fruit tree that’s naturally decorated in Christmas colors?? Click on the picture for Eating Vibrantly’s suggestion on attaching the “tree trunk.”

Fast Fit and Festive Edible Christmas Trees

These pita trees are a great choice for an appetizer to contribute to the office party or family potluck. You will arrive knowing that no matter what is on the buffet, you have a great choice to snack on. They look artful and the recipe is an easy mix of seasoning, fat-free sour cream and guacamole. This substantive finger-food is a calorie bargain at only 30 per tree!

Fast Fit Festive Edible Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees never tasted so good!

Let Them Eat (Watermelon) Cake!

Let Them Eat (Watermelon) Cake!

Seeing this simple watermelon “cake” in Good Housekeeping magazine last year piqued my interest. Guilt-free cake? Could it be? OK, so it’s not really cake – but it meets all the requirements for a special occasion. Visually pleasing? Check! Delicious? Check! Festive? Absolutely! And – bonus! – it’s GOOD for you! So if you’re looking for something to do with the last of the season’s watermelon crop, throw a party – and let the guests eat cake!

You can keep it simple by coring a cylindrical piece of watermelon, “frosting” with a frozen whipped topping and decorating with fruit.  Voila! Your 10-minute cake is complete – and lovely!

Image courtesy of Good Housekeeping

Image courtesy of Good Housekeeping


If you want to take things up a notch, you can gussy up your cake by patting on sliced almonds or crushed walnuts along the sides of the “frosting” and creating a pattern on top with fresh fruit.

Image courtesy of paleocuppord.com

Image courtesy of paleocuppord.com


Or skip the “frosting” and go right for the heart for a fat-free delight!

Let Them Eat Watermelon Cake!


Watermelon cake is a healthy “sweet” for any age!

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Image courtesy of Pinterest


Get creative – your cake decor options are as limitless as your own imagination!

Image source thrivenutritionandwellness.wordpress.com

Image source thrivenutritionandwellness.wordpress.com


But  just so you know, while I’ve been sold on watermelon “cake,” I am taking a pass on watermelon bread!

Let Them Eat Watermelon Cake!


If you want to see a speedy version of one way to cut up a watermelon for a nicely-shaped cake, check out this brief YouTube video:

Travelin’ Light(er)

Travelin' Light(er)

Just got back from a 16-day road trip. Following my usual post-travel routine, the morning after arriving home I pulled out the bathroom scale, stepped on, breathed deeply, and peered through squinted eyes at the numbers. I’d gained two pounds. HURRAY!!

Okay, weight gain is not a reason for me to celebrate, but considering on one trip I’d gained a pound per day, and many of my vacations have set the progress of my health goals back months, two pounds seems very manageable.

So what was different this time? Though I’m not officially an expert on fitness and nutrition, I think I can safely assume the following factors made the difference.

  •  I shifted my perspective. Previously, I ate my way through trips. In the car. In the hotel. At fast food and chain restaurants and friends’ houses. It was as if eating on vacation didn’t count. (It didn’t – until I got home.) This time, I put the purposes of our journey – to see some amazing sights and visit family and friends – as the focus. Once I mentally established we were not on a culinary expedition, it was easier to modify a few unhealthy travel habits.
  •  I made smart eating choices when possible. At home, my first meal is sometimes the only healthy eating of my day. So when faced with the sugar and empty calorie-laden breakfast offerings in hotels, I opted for plain oatmeal, egg, and fruit. At fast food lunch stops, I looked for salads or grilled chicken in small sizes. On-the-road dinners were similar, or, if we both acknowledged not really being hungry, we supped on the cheese, crackers, nuts and fruits we’d brought with us.
  • I brought along a variety of in-transit entertainment. I admit it. Traditionally, much of my in-car and hotel eating is just something to do rather than hunger-based. This time I packed a car-bag like I might for kids, except the “kid” was me. It included audio books (which the G-man and I picked out together from the local library,) my tablet (books and games,) some magazines, and a few simple crochet projects. And, of course, there were some nibbles: fruit, nuts, Kind bars. The crochet kept my hands busy while listening to stories, and I actually completed a couple items.
  • Finally, I took advantage of natural opportunities to move. Fitness rooms in hotels were sometimes an option, but I think the little bits of movement made a bigger difference. Parking at the far end of rest stops and fast food lots allowed for more walking. As the official loader and un-loader of our vehicle, I engaged in daily bouts of bending, stretching, lifting, pushing, and power walking. (We travel like the Beverly Hillbillies!) We walked some tourist stops; I walked with friends while we visited. It all adds up.

I certainly don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking I was extraordinarily virtuous. Au contraire! Some days were flat-out sedentary. At the homes of friends and family, I ate and enjoyed (too much of) whatever was served. Including desserts. I indulged in the specialties of wineries and breweries and regional restaurants we visited. Instead of elevating the mundane (hotel food) and commonplace (chain restaurants) to vacation-worthy status, I contained the splurging to culinary delights I don’t have access to at home.

It was definitely worth the two pounds!

What’s YOUR favorite Travelin’ Light(er) tip?


Natine at Write-Minded WomanGuest blogger Natine Abreu-Shaw  is a recalibrated woman of the Sandwich Generation, who enjoys writing and occasionally  mines her mind, flexes her fingers, and publishes her pith at Write-MindedWoman.com – when she is able to take a break from  some of her other pet (pun intended!) projects – such as writing as the persona of her fur-kids at their Facebook home Corgi Characters!

Boredom Busters: 5 Guiltless Snack

Boredom Busters - 5 Guilt-Free Snacks

The only thing harder than getting healthier and losing weight is staying healthier and keeping the weight off. I know this because in every adult decade of my life I have lost a significant amount of weight, followed by backsliding into a condition more unfit than when I started. One of the (many!) reasons I haven’t gotten off the roller coaster is I get lazy.

My most recent journey toward a smaller, healthier me has included cutting way back on processed foods, and eating “cleaner.” Frankly, clean eating is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. I’m currently at the point where I’m battling the post-success lazies, so I’m on the lookout for mini-meals and snack ideas that won’t make me feel too guilty about the additives. Here are five of my current go-tos:

5 Guiltless SnacksSweet mini-peppers stuffed with hummus. It takes no more time than pulling out cheese and crackers, provides some crunch, and counts as healthy calories! My current favorite hummus is Sabra’s Lemon Twist, which is 70 calories per two tablespoons. I figure I can go hogwild and eat 2.5 servings for under 200 calories because the peppers are “free”!

On those evenings when I’m not really in the mood for a meal, but know I should have something, I throw together my favorite fruit-and-fiber meal: wine and popcorn. Skinnygirl5 guiltless snacks Lime & Salt popcorn has a nice zing and weighs in at about 150 calories per bag. Factor in another 150 calories for each 5-oz glass of wine. Total prep time: under 3 minutes.

5 Guiltfree SnacksFor crunch, portability, and touch of sweet, Emerald Cocoa Roast and Cinnamon Roast almonds work well for me. One ounce (1/4 cup) provides 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein in 160 calories. Our local Publix offers the 8.5 ounce containers as a buy-one/get-one-free deal every so often, so I stock up. I like the cinnamon ones – chopped up – as an oatmeal topper, or mixed in with honey-sweetened Greek yogurt.

When I started tracking my sugar intake on My Fitness Pal, I was dumfounded at how much I consume! Happily, wine doesn’t count as a sugar, but it seems like almost everything 5 Guiltless Snackselse I like is loaded with it. KIND bars have always been delicious, but high in sugar, so I am happy to see their new Nuts & Spices line. Each bar contains 4 or 5 grams of sugar (compared to the 9-12 grams in their other bars,) so I can get my sweet and crunch all wrapped into one 200 calorie bar. They’re also loaded with healthy nutrients, and are about as “natural” as any processed food can get. I’m crazy over the Maple Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt flavor. In my area, Target offers the best selection of flavors.

5 Guilt-free snacksFinally, my keep-in-the-purse snack is a Health Warrior Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Bar. Its 100 calories include 3 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 1000 mg of Omega-3. It’s 100% vegan, and free of gluten, dairy, and soy — none of which matters to me because I like the taste! The one caveat to this treat is I do find myself tonguing the chia seeds out of my teeth for several minutes afterward. However, it’s worth it. I was introduced to these by a friend, and they’re not available in retail stores where I live, so I purchase them on-line.



Natine at Write-Minded WomanGuest blogger Natine Abreu-Shaw  is a recalibrated woman of the Sandwich Generation, who enjoys writing and occasionally  mines her mind, flexes her fingers, and publishes her pith at Write-MindedWoman.com – when she is able to take a break from  some of her other pet (pun intended!) projects – such as writing as the persona of her fur-kids at their Facebook home Corgi Characters!

Eating Right – the 5 Best Tips We’ve Heard All Year!

Eating Right - the 5 Best Tips We've Hear All Year!


1. Relocation. Crispers are where fresh fruit and vegetable go to wither. It’s magical. How many times have you put a perfectly good grapefruit in a crisper drawer, only to pull out a soggy ball a mere two months later? Or some crisp green celery goes in and limp white strings are what meet you when slide open the drawer? Out of sight, out of mind. Move the fruits and veggies out of the crispers and put them on the top shelf where their cheery colors and wish-it-were-me firmness is the first thing you see when you open the door. Use those drawers to store the treats and pizza makings that shouldn’t be so quick to disappear!

2. Quinoa -it’s not just for dinner any more. Quinoa makes a great breakfast – think “oatmeal substitute.” Cook it as usual, add milk at the end and let simmer until it thickens. Top off with your breakfast “condiments” such as dried fruit, berries, cinnamon, honey, nuts, seeds, coconut or the like for the perfect porridge.

3. Car nosh. When fast food is calling out to you during your drive, you can avoid the lure by grabbing some nuts that you have prepackaged for just such an occasion and tucked into your glove compartment or console. If you like things a little sweet, toss in some dried fruit or fool your palette with some cocoa-dusted almonds – they have no added sugar and the dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants.

4. User friendly. Have those relocated goodies easy to grab on the run. Grapes washed and plucked, celery sliced, cucumbers peeled. Take that see-it-first psychology a step further and freeze some of those grapes on a baking sheet. When frozen toss them into an easy-open freezer bag and place them up front and center in your freezer for an instant sorbet-like sweet treat.

5. Bread spread. How about some seasoned hummus instead of that mayo or as a nutritious add on to your sandwich? Get it pre-made in a variety of flavors or make your own by pureeing chickpeas and stirring in a few ingredients like those set forth in this Real Simple 5-Minute Hummus Recipe.

DIET TIP #254:  Don't rush your food.

DIET TIP #254:
Don’t rush your food.

What’s the best tip you’ve heard this year?


Diet Sabotage

Diet SabotageMany of us were raised with the parental phrases “Clean Your Plate!” and “Don’t waste food – there are children starving in China.” My earliest thought of helping “those less fortunate” may have been my selfless desire to send my broccoli to some of those starving children.

From a health perspective, I realize that ‘cleaning my plate’ is an activity better left to a dishwasher  – and no matter how much food I eat there will still be starving children somewhere. So why, at the end of a meal, am I the only one with no food on my plate?

And then it hit me. I save the best for last. I save the BEST for last! Like it’s a reward for getting through the just-okay stuff. I’m not sure how or why I developed that habit, but I knew it was one I had to break.

So now when I get food, I head right for the tastiest morsel. It still feels weird to scoop out the very center of the dressed baked potato, or to eat the cheesiest piece of pizza first. But doing so ensures there will be food that’s easy to leave on my plate. The dryer edges of the potato and less cheesy pizza slice are not dangerous temptations. But on the flip side, no matter how full I might be, there’s no way I’m leaving he cheesiest anything behind!

My new motto? Eat the best and save the rest for last!  -El

Diet Sabotage


Are We There Yet!?!?!

Alpaca my car CaptureI confess, I absolutely! Positively! Totally! And completely! LOVE road trips. Road tripping has been my path to sanity for as long as I can remember. I know, long hours in the car with kids and fighting and trucks and obnoxious drivers may not sound like a way to keep one’s sanity but it so works for me. To borrow an old cliché, ‘the freedom of the open road’ lifts my spirit and helps clear the cobwebs (I actually worked on this post in my head while traveling home). This week I road tripped some 1500 miles to attend my daughter’s college graduation. The scenery through the Ohio turnpike, down I-77 and across I-40 was spectacular. Spring is glorious! We were on our schedule, not the airlines, could take off our shoes if we wanted to, (but weren’t forced to) and could stop and stretch at any point without stepping over people on our way.

I also was determined to make sure this trip was not going to undo any of the good things I’ve been doing for myself over the course of the last few months. Fast food stops were going to be eliminated and good healthy snacks were going to go into the cooler and ‘goody bag’. It took some convincing for my granddaughter to think this was a good idea but she ended up not missing any of her usual snacks. Below is a list of some of my favorite new road tripping snacks.

Apples – perfect for those intervals when you are feeling a bit tired. Something about the eating of an apple wakes you right up. I didn’t believe it originally but it’s true!

Suckers – I had See’s suckers for the trip. They are block shaped and pretty big so it takes a long time to get through one – which keeps your sweet tooth happy but isn’t all that bad for you considering it’s keeping you from putting other high fat, high calorie items in your mouth that can be eaten quickly.

Sees candyCapture

Water – kind of a catch 22 on this one. I have to confess, water goes through me much more quickly than other drinks. As I noted previously, my love of Diet Pepsi keeps me wanting to have that for a go-to drink and it doesn’t make me have to make a pit stop as often as water. However, water keeps me from having the dreaded travel bloat. I did have a DP while on the road but it was only one while the waters kept flowing (couldn’t resist).

Nuts – got to have salty on a road trip! I can eat an entire page of Wavy Lays like nobody’s business – but again, so much damage in so little time. I put individual amounts of nuts in baggies and snacked without guilt. There are also some great sweet and salty granola bars that do a great job of keeping the salty need away (I’m partial to several Nature Valley varieties).

sweet salty Capture

Grapes and string cheese – not sure why but these just go together for me. It’s one of our family’s go-to combinations when packing lunches for picnics and road trips (along with salami and turkey sandwiches which this time became turkey rollups with one measly little slice of salami so I could still taste it but not subject myself to the fats and salt, etc – surprisingly, it was just as good).

Drive time, one way, is 11 hours give or take 15 minutes or so. That leaves a lot of time for eating so I was pleased that we packed ‘good’ options and saved the truly ‘decadent’ splurges for the celebrations awaiting us at the graduation festivities. I’m doubly glad to know, I can still embrace the road and not add Highway Handles to my already sufficient love handles.

Would love to hear any and all road tripping stories, tips and even travails (YIKES)! Have a good week – M



Friday Five #6

Friday Five at Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get FierceFriday Five is a random assortment of tips, thoughts or ideas. They may be connected, they may not. But they will be brief and leave you either informed, entertained, or with a smile on your face. On a good day we’ll hit all three!

1. There’s a word for that? According to Reader’s Digest,TARTLE” is a Scottish word that is used to describe that hesitation that occurs while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. I’ve been tartling for years and didn’t know what to call it. Oh my gosh, I’m a TARTLER!

2. Your best self-photo. (I loathe the term ‘selfie’ and only use it here to let you know why I’m not using it). Weight Watcher’s Magazine offers these two self-photo tips: (1) Tilt your head down about 30 degrees before the photo is taken – they quoted a study that indicated this angle made the face look thinner than staring straight into the camera. (2) When you smile, touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue to tighten facial muscles.

Courtesy of cafepress.com

Courtesy of cafepress.com

3.  Favorite product. While I do enjoy an occasional soda, my go-to beverage is ‘flavored’ seltzer or sparkling water. No sodium (like club soda) and no artificial sweeteners (like all other diet beverages). If you like club soda with a spritz of lemon or lime, this will probably be right up your alley. Other flavors include black raspberry, peach, orange, grapefruit, berry and coconut. And the fresh colors on the cans make me smile.

Seagram's seltzerLa Croix Sparkling water

4. Best cooking tip. About a year ago I heard Rachel Ray state that whenever one cooks pasta they should scoop a cup of the pasta water out before draining it. It’s the perfect liquid if one needs to thin the sauce just a bit. Now that I’m in the habit of doing that, I even use it to rinse off the pasta if it gets a little clumpy from sitting after it’s drained – it avoids rinsing off more starch with regular water or noodles too slick for sauce to stick to when tossed with oil to de-clump.

5. And speaking of portion control . . .

Friday Five

Portion Control – 5 Products That Make it Easy

Portion Control - 5 Products That Make it Easy One of the easiest diet plans ever is simply to eat less. Brian Wansink, Phd,  head of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, has done research on the benefits of portion control. He states: “In most of our studies, we’ve found people can eat 20% less without noticing . . . and if we make three small 100-calorie changes each day, by the end of the year, we’ll be as much as 30 pounds lighter.”

Are you up for losing about 30 pounds this year in a painless way? Here are 5 products – some probably already in your kitchen – that will make the portion-control goal easier.

1. Mini muffin tins. They can be used for bite-sized brownies and quiche as well as mini muffins. The “muffins” pictured here are actually diminutive portions of my original top-secret-recipe banana bread. Cooking the bread in the little tins left it moist on the inside with a bit of crunch on the outside. Okay – I didn’t do the crunch part on purpose, but it’s a mistake that I will deliberately make again! Bonus: you can have three of your little tasty treats and still not have the calories of one big one – sometimes more does make us feel better!Mini muffin tinMini banana bread

2. Ice cube trays. You’ve probably already heard about freezing left over wine (if that’s not an oxymoron) in trays to later throw into stews and gravies to enhance their flavor. Well, that’s just one of their many uses. Whether left over or taken off the top of the batch, gravy and sauces freeze well in that portion-controlled environment. Pop out only a cube or two to heat up for your reduced portion of pasta or potato. Freeze flavored yogart or smoothies for a bite of something sweet.

Ice cube trays for potion control

3. Small-Batch Baking Cookbook. You may have heard me mention this one before – I love this book. Getting fierce doesn’t have to mean deprivation. But it does mean not setting our selves up for failure. The solution? Indulging the occasional craving with a portion controlled  recipe. Just enough to satisfy the sweet tooth without having the temptation of “the rest of the pie” to deal with!

Small-Batch Baking Cookbook

4. Small scoops. This small version of the spring-loaded scoop is great for filling the mini-muffin tin, making bite-sized cookies, and creating a 3-scoop ice cream sundae that allows you to indulge without sabotaging the great progress you’re making!

Mini scoop for portion control

5. Ziplock snack bags. Have them sitting on the counter when you get home from grocery shopping. Before putting the can of nuts or bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps  away, portion them out into snack bags. Not only will it save you from overeating from the bigger package later, it will help you avoid impulse eating while out by providing a healthy, portioned out option for you to grab on the go. Bonus: Dividing up your own snack foods is a less expensive alternative to all those  grocery store 100 calorie snack packs.

Ziploc snack bag

Eating less has never been easier!

What products do you use to help with portion-control?

Can’t Use Your Mama’s Excuses

Can't Use Your Mama's ExcusesrIn the olden days, when we had to walk across the room to change the TV station and gyms still had butt-belt vibrating machines, losing weight included a lot of skinned chicken and copious amounts of cottage cheese. (“Just add a canned peach or pear, sprinkle with cinnamon and viola – a delicious desert!” Yeah, right.) Making ‘good choices’ was downright boring.

But we have options now that weren’t available back then. Options that are tasty AND convenient. Five great “can’t use your mama’s excuses” products that exist today to help spur us toward our goals are:

1. Frozen vegetables. We have gone way beyond the famous starch trio of corn, peas and carrots. From steamer bags to vegetable medleys that can be tossed with a protein to create a 5-minute stir fry, a variety of already-cleaned vegetables are a freezer walk away.

2. Pre-portioned 100 calorie snacks packs. Having smaller amounts of cookies, chips, and crackers doesn’t turn them into health food. But it does satisfy a craving without risking the temptation and lack of control that can be brought on by opening a package of yummy that won’t have a dent in it even after going back for seconds and thirds.

3. Good-for-you cereal that actually has flavor. Remember when Grape-Nuts was about the only ‘healthy’ option? (Oh-so-crunchy and less-than-delicious!) With numerous cereal companies competing for your breakfast dollar, there’s no excuse for not finding something nutritious and tasty to start your day off with.

4. An unprecedented amount of low-fat salad dressings. Do you realize there was a time when store-bought dressing came in three flavors? And none of them had low-fat versions. Now as you wander down the salad dressing ROW, you’ll find so many options to enhance your salad it can make your head spin. Bonus: many make a flavorful marinade for meats and fish – no gathering of spices or assembly required!

5. Grocery store cheese gone wild. No more deciding between a block of cheddar that will have dried edges before you’re half-way through and a tasteless, plastic-wrapped American “cheese product.” Not only are the good-for-you options mind boggling, many come in on-the-go individual portions. (Helloooooo Babybel LIght!)

We have convenient, tasty, nutrition at our fingertips so we can’t use our mamas’ excuses to derail our get-fierce plans. Heck, we can’t even use our own excuses from 20 years ago when we had more respectful metabolisms. Our fierceness has no limitations!