Check out this month’s ZIED GUIDE free monthly e-newsletter. This month’s issue includes links to some of my recent blog posts for US News and World Report’s Eat + Run blog and caloriecount.com, some great tuna and lasagna recipes, the answer to a Parents magazine reader question and so much more.

Flower Fathead

 

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What’s not to love about this delicious, nutritious twist on lasagna? Yum!

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large zucchinis, sliced about ¼‑inch thick

4 large tomatoes, sliced about ¼‑inch thick

2 medium onions, sliced very thin

1 sprig fresh basil, 6–8 leaves, chopped or thinly sliced Italian seasonings
ground black pepper

8 ounces shredded 2% mozzarella

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2) In a 2½- quart oval bakeware dish (such as Corningware), pour the olive oil (or spray with olive oil cooking spray). Cover the bottom of the dish with sliced zucchini. Then, spread a layer of tomatoes and a layer of onions. Top with half of the sliced basil, Italian seasonings (or other herbs from your garden), and ground pepper.

3) Then add a layer of about half the shredded cheese.

4) Repeat (except for the olive oil).

5) Bake about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Hint: This recipe is especially great for using up end‑of‑summer veggies. An easy way to slice the basil is to roll up several leaves (stem edges inside), and then make thin slices. You end up with very thin strips, called a chiffonade.
Note: This recipe is adapted from Liz Manaster’s From A to Zucchini.

What are your favorite lasagna ingredients?

SOURCE: The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution by Marla Heller, MS, RD.

Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher.

Flower Fathead

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Here are three delicious twists on tuna* you and your family are sure to enjoy.

Change of Pace Tuna Casserole from Don’t Break Your Heart Cookbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

1 (10-ounce) can condensed 98 percent fat-free, reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/2 pound whole wheat rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons chopped pimiento

2 tablespoons trans-free margarine

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 (6-ounce) cans of tuna, drained

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a bowl, blend soup with sour cream until smooth. Add pasta and pimiento; set aside.

3. Melt margarine in a sauté pan and sauté mushrooms, onions, and celery until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Mix vegetables into soup mixture; fold in tuna.

5. Pour tuna mixture into a lightly-greased 11/2-quart baking dish. Top with almonds. Bake, uncovered, about 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Cooking Tip: To make this meal more nutritious, add a 10-ounce (283.5-g) package of thawed, frozen vegetables, such as chopped broccoli or mixed stir-fry vegetables, when you add the pasta to the soup in step 2.

Nutrients per serving: Calories: 335 Total Fat: 11 g Saturated Fat: 3 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 31 mg Sodium: 416 mg Total Carbohydrates: 37 g Dietary Fiber: 7 g Sugars: 5 g Protein: 22 g Iron: 3 mg

 

Provencal Grilled Tuna Salad from Don’t Break Your Heart Cookbook.


4 servings

Ingredients:

4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks, each about 1-inch (2-cm) thick

3 tablespoons white wine or broth

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) dried

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

6 cups salad greens

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup each thinly sliced red and yellow bell peppers

Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions:

1.    Place fish in a glass dish.

2.    To make vinaigrette, combine wine or broth and next 5 ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well.

3.    Pour 2 tablespoons (30 ml) over fish, add garlic, and turn to coat. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes, turning once. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for salad dressing.

4.    Coat grill rack with cooking spray and place on grill to heat 1 minute. Place tuna on grill 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) over heat source. Cover with lid or tent with foil. Cook, turning once, until tuna begins to flake easily when tested with a fork, about 7 minutes. Discard marinade.

5.    Meanwhile, arrange salad greens on 4 plates. Place hot tuna on greens and add cherry tomatoes and peppers.

6.    Shake remaining vinaigrette and drizzle over salads.

Nutrients Per Serving: Calories: 273 Total Fats: 11 g Saturated Fat: 2 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 55 mg Sodium: 158 mg Total Carbohydrates: 8 g Dietary Fiber: 2 g Sugars: 2 g Protein: 36 g Iron: 2 mg

 

Acapulco Tuna Salad from The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 6‑ounces cans tuna, very low sodium

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise or regular mayonnaise made with olive oil

1 medium tomato, diced

½ small sweet onion, diced very finely

1 jalapeño, diced, seeds and spines removed

1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions:

Drain the water from the tuna and mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl.

Nutrients per serving: Calories: 112 Total Fat: 3 g (with EVOO regular mayo) Cholesterol: 40 mg Sodium: 115 mg Total Carbohydrates: 3 g Dietary Fiber: 1 g Protein: 18 g

*According to the FDA, women who are planning to get pregnant, pregnant or nursing and young children can safely eat up to 12 ounces of light tuna or up to 6 ounces of albacore tuna each week.

SOURCES:

Change of Pace Tuna Salad and Provencal Grilled Tuna Salad reposted with permission from Don’t Break Your Heart Cookbook by Shara Aaron, MS, RD and Monica Beardon, RD, LD.

Acapulco Tuna Salad reposted with permission from The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution by Marla Heller, MS, RD.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution from the publisher.

How do you like to eat tuna?

Flower Fathead

 

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In the clever, information-packed new book, The Clean Separation, Kara Landau (The Traveling Dietitian) helps readers who have endured a life-changing event–a break-up or end of a relationship, the loss of a job, or the death of someone close to them–use the power of nutrition to lift their spirits and move them towards the next chapter of their lives. With warmth and positivity, Landau lays out a ‘business plan’ that readers can personalize to help them structure their lives while minimizing stress as they move towards their ‘new normal’. She also utilizes her insights about the eating habits and lifestyle practices of people from around the globe to make real-world recommendations readers can use to optimize their health and well being. Delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts by Susan Irby (The Bikini Chef) round out The Clean Separation to help readers follow the book’s food and nutrient recommendations.

Even if you haven’t recently endured a break up of any kind, you’ll no doubt find this delicious Thai Tasty Chicken Wrap from The Clean Separation a delicious addition to your menu. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

2 cups chicken breast, roughly chopped

Pinch sea salt

Pinch black pepper

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup diced green onion

1/4 cup chopped toasted peanuts

2 Tablespoons chopped
 fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1 Tablespoon honey

1 Tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon thai red curry paste

4 8-inch high fiber flour tortillas

4 leaf lettuce leaves

Directions

1.  Season chopped chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, adding the water, as needed, to prevent drying.

3. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cooked chicken, green onion, peanuts, coriander, and ginger root.

4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, mustard, honey, lime juice, and curry paste. Mix well and then add to chicken mixture.

5. Place wrap onto a flat working surface. Top each with 1 lettuce leaf, spread with 1 1/2 Tablespoons yogurt mixture and top with 1/2 cup chicken mixture. Fold one edge of wrap in towards the center slightly. Fold both side edges over filling.

6. Spray non-stick saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Add wraps and heat until lightly golden. Serve warm or cold as an on-the-go snack.

Tasty Tip:

Make chicken mixture ahead of time for the ultimate go-to snack for mid-week. These wraps are delicious served hot or cold.

Nutritional Analysis:

Serving size: 1 wrap

Calories: 292.5

Fat: 10.4g

Saturated fat: 2.4g

Carbohydrates: 23.7g

Protein: 31.5g

Fiber: 9.7g

Sodium: 355mg

Is there a nutritious, delicious meal you like to cook or eat after a break-up or loss?

Source: The Clean Separation by Australian dietitian Kara Landau (The Traveling Dietitian) with recipe contributions by Susan Irby (The Bikini Chef).

Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of the book.

Flower Fathead

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I’m thrilled to share the story of an inspiring woman who has set a goal to #moveitorloseit for all the right reasons. Check out our interview below to see why my RD colleague and Twitter friend, 37 year-old Alexandra Lautenschlaeger (@alexikscott) from Spartanberg, South Carolina and Frankfurt, Germany is the #moveitorloseit Model of the Month for February: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your fitness goal and why did you decide to tackle it at this point in your life?

My goal was to finally relieve myself of grief from losing my fiancé four years ago from complications with diabetes. I did not treat my body well and gained weight and went on blood pressure medication. As a dietitian, I felt like a failure. In 2011, I started keeping track of my exercise, but that only helped me maintain my weight. Finally I decided that I wanted to take up running to get my body back in shape and shed some weight. I chose a training program on the RunKeeper app to do a sub 65 minute 10K.

Are you planning to run the 10K solo or with others?

I have a “team” on my RunKeeper App, but I found a friend and dietitian who also wanted to do achieve the same goal. We decided our goal this year was to join a running training program. The partnership and the program help me stay accountable. I run solo, but it is nice to know that the App and my friend are great reminders to keep at it and stay focused.

What does your weekly workout routine look like?

According to the App program, I run Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sunday with a long run. Eventually I will do intervals to increase the length of time and speed at which I run.

Have you experienced or do you anticipate any obstacles that will challenge you while training (and how have you/what will you do to overcome them)?

I was laid off from my previous job, which was an hour commute each way. Now that I am in a new job, and while it’s a 45-minute commute, I now have 30 minutes extra to get to the things I need to do and fit fitness into my plan. My new year’s resolution was to be happy and good to myself, so no matter what, I will make this work. There may be times I run slow, but I think, “at least I am doing it no matter how much it hurts.”

How does exercise/fitness/physical activity make you feel? What’s in it for you?

Besides the fact that my training will help me stop gaining weight (and may even help me lose some), it gives me instant gratification and it helps relieves some of the stress under which I have lived for far too long. I have noticed small results already and most of all, am so happy that I am sleeping so much better.

What would you say to inspire others to set a fitness goal or simply become a regular exerciser?

Fitness can become a way of life, but you have to start small. So many people join the gym at the beginning of the New Year and overdo it in the beginning and then fall off the wagon soon after. I am very impatient, so it was a challenge for me to pace myself. We all want results yesterday, so it is important to set a good pace that will allow you to continue. It is not always pretty, but exercising and having a great goal, whatever that is, really does make you feel so much better.

If you’d like to be my #moveitorloseit Model of the Month (or would like to nominate someone who inspires you), email me at elisa@elisazied.com.

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Do you want to eat more fish but don’t know where to begin when it comes to cooking it? Here are four tips from The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook to help you gain fish-cooking confidence:

Grill it. While you can get a special fish basket for the grill, you don’t need one as long as you use the proper technique. First, preheat your grill and make sure the grate is clean and dry. Then oil the grate and your fish. When the fish is done cooking, it will release when gingerly nudged by your spatula. If it does not release from a clean well-oiled grill, then it’s simply not ready! Give it a little more time; the fish will release easily when done.

Saute it. A nonstick skillet will allow you to get a crispy, golden brown sear on your fish. Yes, you’ll still need a spritz of oil, but nothing beats a nonstick skillet when it comes to cooking fish on the stovetop.

Broil it. All you need to do is coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray, place your fish on top, season, and broil. It’s quick easy, and leaves no scent behind. The rule of thumb for cooking fish is 8-10 minutes for every inch of thickness.

Get the right tools. Let’s face it, fish has a different texture from other proteins, which is part of its appeal, but that’s why it may be a bit challenging in the kitchen. I’m not one for unnecessary gadgets, but a fish spatula is a good investment. It’s extra flexible, which means you can really get under

Here’s a delicious recipe to help you put your fish-cooking skills to the test:

Arctic Char with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 (6-ounce) Arctic char fillets

3⁄4 teaspoon coarse salt, divided

1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

4 garlic cloves, halved

3 pints multicolored cherry tomatoes

1⁄4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle fillets with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Add fillets, flesh sides down, to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Place pan in oven; cook at 400° for 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes; sauté 2 minutes or until skins blister, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat. Sprinkle tomato mixture with remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper, basil, and shallots; toss to combine. Serve with fish. Serves 4 (serving size: 1 fillet and about 3⁄4 cup tomato mixture).

Sustainable Choice: If Arctic char is not available, substitute frozen wild Alaskan salmon.

Nutrition info:

CALORIES 380; FAT 20.4g (sat 3.8g, mono 11.7g, poly 3.6g);  PROTEIN 31.4g; CARBOHYDRATE 20g; FIBER 2.9g; CHOLESTEROL 65mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 514mg; CALCIUM 49mg

Source: The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook (Oxmoor House, December, 2012) by Janet Helm, MS, RD and the Editors of Cooking Light Magazine.

What’s your favorite fish? How do you like to prepare/eat it?

 

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The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook: Great Food & Expert Advice That Will Change Your Life (Oxmoor House, 2012) by the Editors of Cooking Light and Janet Helm, RD–my colleague and friend (and the popular creator of nutritionunplugged.com and co-creator of healthyaperture.com), is a real gem. It can be a great asset to anyone who has set New Year’s resolutions to improve the way they cook, shop, eat, and live. Here are three of the many reasons I love it so:

1) It’s gorgeous to look at. The photos of the recipes show you how healthful foods can be appealing. Images of real people, including those who are in need of new habits (eg the “time-pressed professional” and the mom of a “snack-happy family” plus the many experts (including several colleagues and friends) add a lot of warmth and character–and relatability–to the book.

2) It’s a positive, can-do type of food and nutrition cookbook. Unlike books that tell you what not to eat, this book takes a cup half full approach to convey science-based but practical, useable food and nutrition information and cooking advice. It’s broken down into 12 healthy habits–be portion-aware, eat mindfully, and veggie up and more–which makes it easy for readers to use. They can pick and choose the sections they read (and act on!) based on their unique dietary and lifestyle challenges and food preferences. The book incorporates hundreds of practical tips to help you make better food choices when food shopping, improve your cooking techniques, and incorporate more healthful foods into your diet and that of your family. It’s the kind of book that is likely to stay on your kitchen counter rather than collect dust on your bookshelf.

3) Diet? What diet! Unlike many of the food/nutrition/health books you’ll no doubt see stacked up at bookstores and hyped online at this time of year, this one doesn’t have the word “diet” in it–so there’s no risk of insulting anyone when you give them a copy as as a gift!

I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up–way up–for you, your family, and anyone you love who loves food but wants to enjoy it without sabotaging their health.

What habits do you want to improve this new year?

 

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher.

 

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As parents, we’re all overstretched and time crunched–not just during hectic holiday time, but year-round. For many of us–even those who have nutrition degrees!–feeding ourselves and our families in a healthful way sometimes takes a back burner to more pressing things, like going to basketball practice, getting to dance class, or doing something as simple as taking a shower! Fortunately, we don’t have to sacrifice all to get nutritious food on the table–all it takes is a little bit of planning and some help from the pros.

To the rescue is culinary dietitian Michelle Dudash. In her terrific new book, Clean Eating for Busy Families, Dudash helps families whip meal times–and tasty meals–into shape with practical, time-saving ideas. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

EZ: As a mom, what do you see as the biggest challenge parents face when trying to get meals on the table for their families?

MD: I think the biggest challenge parents face when it comes to family meals is trying to fit everything in during the mad early evening rush. The kids need to get picked up or dropped off. Little ones need bathing. Parents want to squeeze in their workout. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared for mealtime by having a stocked pantry and fridge with the staples and simple go-to recipes that produce excellent results with minimal clean up and prep time.

EZ: What do you personally find to be the biggest challenge when feeding your family?

MD: The number one challenge I face is getting dinner on the table at a reasonable time. I try squeezing in a few workouts during the week at the end of the workday, and also pick Scarlet up from school. The smoothest sailing, relaxing nights are those that include meals made in the slow cooker (like my Slow Cooker Beef & Vegetable Tacos), ready to pop into the oven (like my Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Spinach), or the delicious leftovers from the night before (Sizzling Sesame Noodles with Pork, Cabbage & Scallions).

EZ: What advice–or first steps–do you recommend to overextended parents who don’t think they have enough time to prepare healthy meals for their families?

MD: My advice for busy parents is to take three simple steps:

1. Properly stock your kitchen. In the time that you would call in your takeout order, drive in traffic, wait in line and pay, get in and out of your car and back home, you could have prepared a fresh meal at home, provided that you had the needed supplies standing by. My book Clean Eating for Busy Families offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists, breaking grocery shopping down into manageable pieces to provide healthy meals. I also recommend always having a piece of paper stuck to the fridge where family members can jot down things they need from the store. It’s a running list that is ready when you are.

2. Plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal. Planning ahead can be as detailed as writing out a monthly or weekly calendar of dinner menus, or as free-spirited as simply having three fresh proteins and vegetables on hand for the week for dinnertime. So, plan your meals out Saturday, do all of your shopping on Sunday and as soon as you get home, you’ll be ready to get dinner going.

3. Make one-dish or make-ahead whenever possible. One-dish meals that contain a vegetable, protein and starch (complex carbohydrate) are lifesavers..and dish savers! Recipes that you can make ahead in the slow cooker or have ready to just pop in the oven open up space during the mad evening rush.

EZ:Which recipe (or recipes) in your book are your favorites and why?

MD: While I love all of the recipes in the book, my favorites are those that are my husband’s and 3-year-old’s favorites! Scarlet’s favorite recipe is Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip (we call chicken nuggets), which tastes even better than deep-fried versions. She also loves the Scarlet-Approved Lemon Cilantro Edamame Hummus. When I gave her a taste, she said, “I want more” and ate it by the spoonful. She also loves the Turkey, Vegetable & Oat Mini Meatloaves with Marinara Sauce (we call them meatballs, since I cut them up for her). When she tried the Toasted Sesame Salmon Nuggets with Sweet-Savory Scallion Sauce, she thought they were chicken nuggets, so of course, she devoured those.

EZ: How does your daughter like to help you in the kitchen? How can families involve their kids in the cooking/prepping process and what do you think the benefits of involving kids in the kitchen are?

MD: Scarlet absolutely loves to help me in the kitchen. She asks, “Can I help?” I let her break eggs (a bit of a mess), stir ingredients, flip pancakes and quesadillas (with my hand over her hand, being very careful), sprinkling cheese and spreading almond butter on toast. Scarlet is now 3 years old. She is better at stirring and aiming ingredients into the bowl. She wants to be so independent and wants to do everything.

I really think kids can be a great help in the kitchen and can save you time, too. Little ones can wash and spin vegetables and set the table. Scarlet recently set the table for the first time—yes! Older kids can chop, clean up, and cook things. When kids help in the kitchen, they feel empowered and are excited to eat things that they make. They love to be helpful and it builds their confidence.

Where can people find your book?

Visit my website www.michelledudash.com for direct links to online stores where you can purchase now, or find the store nearest you like Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods, and independent book stores.

So what are you waiting for? Dudash’s book makes a great holiday, birthday, or hostess gift–or gift for yourself! Check it out!

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If you’re a modern-day parent like me, you’ve likely fed your kids–and yourself–a fair share of chicken tenders. For a delicious, nutritious twist to this often calorie- and fat-laden staple, culinary dietitian Michelle Dudash has whipped up her own unique version for her delectable–and practical–new cookbook, Clean Eating for Busy Families. These chicken tenders make a great lunch or dinner treat, whether served fresh from the oven or cold–the way I like ‘em best!

I’ll admit it. I love to eat breaded, deep-fried chicken strips dipped in creamy ranch dressing, and on rare occasions, I will order them while out running errands all day. I prepare this recipe at home after a decent lapse since my last fix.

Total Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, 2 to 3 tenders each (with 2 tablespoons  dip)

Ingredients:

For chicken:

½ cup pecans

1/ 3 cup whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil

½ cup panko bread crumbs

1 large egg

1 pound chicken tenders, larger pieces cut in half lengthwise

For dip:

¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup light mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¼ teaspoon dried dill

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1 pinch salt

1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

To make the chicken: Preheat oven to 475°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Whirl pecans, flour, paprika, dry mustard, garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper in a food processor until pecans are ground to a powder, about 30 seconds. Drizzle in the oil with the motor running, blending completely. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish and stir in the panko bread crumbs.

Beat egg in a second shallow dish and add chicken tenders, coating them completely. Transfer each tender to the breading, turning to coat evenly. Arrange chicken on the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and nearly firm, 8 minutes.

To make the dip: Stir all the dip ingredients together in a small bowl.

Enjoy the cooked chicken immediately with the dip.

Recipe note:

Chicken tenders come from the undersides of chicken breasts and are naturally portioned into strips, saving you time in cutting them. If you don’t have chicken tenders, substitute chicken breasts cut into 4 x 1-inch strips.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 418 calories; 20 g total fat; 3 g saturated fat; 34 g Protein; 23 g carbohydrate; 4 g dietary fiber; 120 mg cholesterol.

 

Reprinted with permission from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes with Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love, by Michelle Dudash, RD (Fair Winds Press, December 2012).

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It’s been one year since I took my last sip of Diet Coke (you can read about why I gave it up on Fooducate). I gave up Diet Coke not because I thought it was the devil, but because I was simply drinking too much of the artificially sweet stuff.

Over the first three months, I pretty much went cold turkey. I initially felt the loss in my energy level, especially because (except for chocolate) I had no other source of caffeine in my diet. Although the initial fatigue eventually ended (thankfully!), I realized that what I missed most was the psychological lift—and the happiness—that Diet Coke brought to my life. I sound like a commercial, I know, but that’s really what I missed most. For some, it’s wine, for others it’s a martini or a coffee. For me, it was diet soda. And I know I’m not alone—so many of my friends also have (or had) a thing for Diet Coke or some other diet soda. It’s kind of sad that when we reminisce about our times drinking it, it’s like we’re talking about a dear departed friend.

When people ask me if I feel any different after having given up Diet Coke—and all diet soda, for that matter—my honest answer is NO. If anything, I don’t feel quite as satisfied, especially when I write for hours on end and need a lift or pick-me-up. Call me crazy!

Although I’ve tried several unsweetened teas, I don’t rely on them for my fix, especially because I prefer them with a little artificial sweetener sprinkled in. I don’t think artificial sweeteners are going to kill us, but I rather keep my intake of them low just to play it safe. I do drink Diet Snapple on most days, but I have much less of that than I used to have Diet Coke. I have even gone up to 10 days at a time without any caffeinated beverage when on vacation, though I’ll admit that on my caffeine-free days I definitely feel like I’m missing something.

Here are 4 Stressipes to help you curb or quit your habit once and for all. It won’t be easy–it certainly wasn’t for me–but it can be done if you choose to do it.

1)   Taper your intake. Instead of going cold turkey, make gradual cutbacks in how much you consume. For one week, keep a record of how much and when you have the diet soda and set a goal to gradually decrease each week. This will help you minimize headaches or dips in energy.

2)   Plan your fix. If you don’t want to give diet soda up altogether, try to figure out what time of day it means the most to you and have it then. If you know you like to have it early in the day when your colleagues are enjoying their coffee, that’s the time to enjoy it. Or you may find you rather have it when you’re out with friends at a restaurant or a party. When you do choose to have it, order or buy just enough to get your fix without going overboard. (Having a lot of ice in it can also help you have less but think you’re having more.)

3)   Drink by day. If you know you want at least some diet soda each day, try to have it before mid-day (12-2 pm, for example) so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Having it too close to bedtime can theoretically keep you awake longer or not be able to sleep as soundly (not to mention you may need to wake up to go to the bathroom).

4)   Find alternatives. You may find you can swap the diet soda and feel satisfied with sparkling water with lemon or lime squeezed in, or with some fresh fruit slices or 100 percent fruit juice splashed in. Just be mindful that if you replace diet soda with something caloric (like fruit juice or a laced coffee beverage), you’ll have to cut calories elsewhere to maintain a healthy body weight. There are many tasty brands of unsweetened iced tea that you may like, but you may need to try a few before you find one you like—especially if you rather not use artificial sweeteners or real sugar to boost the flavor.

 (Read more about my thoughts on diet soda right here.)

Have you kicked the can? What strategies worked for you?

 

 

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