Calorie Slashing Tips for Labor Day Festivities

Calorie Slashing Tips for Labor Day Festivities

Some people consider Labor Day the end of summer. Cookouts and holiday fare have us observing the close of a season and wishing we’d used some calorie slashing tips for Labor Day festivities.

Officially or unofficially “The End” is subject to opinion and where you live. For Walkingspree, our headquarters happens to be in San Antonio, Texas where it still feels very much like summer and is set to be in the low 90’s this weekend. But despite our warmer climate, the signs of summer coming to an end are similar to our northern neighbors’ signs that don’t include temperature or weather. Public pools close down until next year.  The kids are back to school. College students have all moved back into dorms. We’re getting our families back in to a routine; waving farewell to the less structured, relaxed schedules of summer.

Summer’s end also means that Labor Day weekend is here, and, like most of the nation, we gather with friends and family. Maybe we’re outside grilling. Perhaps we’re tubing down the Guadalupe or Frio Rivers eating lunch out of a big ice chest which is also floating in a tube alongside us. It could be a delicious family buffet is the place to be.

However, you observe Labor Day, It’s a safe bet the rest of the nation is observing Labor Day in a similar manner. It’s also a safe bet we’ll end up consuming much more in calories and fat than we usually do. If you’re watching your weight and monitoring your nutrition intake, this can be a problem. So, we compiled four of the most powerful calorie slashing tips for Labor Day you’ll find.

Calorie Slashing Tips for Labor Day Festivities

1. Case the joint. Be selective. Tactically scan the buffet line first. “Studies show that individuals who are overweight tend to fill their plate as they go through the line,” says shares Marcey Rader, M.Ed, health and wellness expert for Extended Stay America Hotels. “Meanwhile, people at a recommended weight tend to be more strategic and take inventory, decide what they’re going to eat, and then grab a plate.”

In one study, researchers found that with buffet foods, the first foods seen by the diners are the foods most selected. Over 75% of diners selected the first food they saw, and the first three foods a person encountered in the buffet made up 66% of all the foods they put on their plate. And get this: Serving the less healthy foods first led diners to take 31% more total food items than when the less healthy foods weren’t served first.

Strategy: Walk around and decide what you want to eat (and why) before getting in line and reaching for your plate and utensils. Observe what foods are placed at the front as well as the middle and end of the buffet.

2.  Offer to contribute food at a potluck dinner or BBQ. Bring some healthy options so you know for sure you’ll have at least one option for healthier holiday food.

Strategy: Offer to contribute a few burgers or hot dogs and then make sure to choose lean beef burgers, lean all-beef hot dogs or even turkey burgers or turkey hot dogs.

3. Don’t be a creature of habit. Whether you are at a cookout, on the beach eating picnic foods, grilling burgers or hot dogs, stay away from the same old fare you eat at home. Make the day and the meal special. If someone has made their family’s famous recipe for homemade potato salad but there is also a bowl of potato chips sitting out, eat the potato salad. It’s likely to be made with fresh ingredients. It’s unique to the day. The chips are not. Neither are items that are obviously poured from a can or out of a bag from the frozen food aisle.

Strategy: Even if you know you will be selecting food outside your “personal nutrition guidelines,” experts recommend choosing food with fresh, clean ingredients.

4. Slash the calories. BBQ and the food included at BBQ gatherings tends to be higher in calories and fat. You can slash the calories by skipping the hamburger or hotdog bun.

Strategy: If a salad isn’t offered: Put extra lettuce, toppings and veggies on your plate alongside burger patties or hot dogs. Limit your cheeses and remember Tip#3: If it’s not ‘real’ cheese, skip it. You can do without partaking from the can of ‘spray cheese’ or imitation cheese slices.

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Eat Smart! Finding Hidden Food Traps

Eat Smart! Finding Hidden Food Traps

Unless you take time to measure everything you eat, you may be falling into “hidden food traps”.

People don’t realize how much they are eating, according to Brian Wansink, PhD, whose research has focused on perceived consumption vs. actual consumption.

One study Wansink conducted found that something as simple as the shape of a glass increased the serving size. Even though both glasses had the same volume, people poured about 37 percent more liquid in short, wide glasses than in tall, skinny glasses.

“Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat . . . The secret is to change your environment so it works for you rather than against you,” said Wansink during a presentation at the American Psychological Association’s 119th Annual Convention.

So how do you make this work for you? By making these few changes, participants in a Wansink study lost up to two pounds a month.

  • Eat off of salad plates instead of dinner plates
  • Keep healthier food at eye-level in the fridge and cupboards, and keep unhealthy food s out of sight
  • Eat in a dining area and not in front of the TV
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Treadmill Walking 101

Treadmill Walking 101

When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of you may turn to your treadmill to get your steps in. It’s important to have proper technique and safety to get the best out of your treadmill walk.

1. Begin standing with one foot on each side of the treadmill. Step on the treadmill and start at a slow rate of speed and slowly increase the speed. Be sure to know where the red emergency switch is located on most machines.

2. Do not hold onto the side rails or front console. You often see people holding on and leaning back while walking. This is incorrect posture and could be dangerous.

3. Stand up straight, head up, eyes forward, arms swinging in stride with your feet. Stride with your front heel striking close to your body while your back foot remains on the ground longer to give a powerful push-off. This back foot push off is what gives you speed and power, and will help you burn more calories.

Big Screen Treadmill Interval Walking Workout

Interval workouts alternate very fast and slower-paced walking for a great cardiovascular workout and a high calorie burn.

Start your treadmill workout during a favorite tv show or movie. Decide your walking fast pace points in the show and slow pace points in the show. For example, if you’re watching The Biggest Loser, walk at a very fast pace during each part of a challenge on a show, then slow way down during the commercials. If you’re a sports fan, go fast during breakaways on hockey and slow down when the whistle blows. Soap opera fan? Up and down with every kiss, fight or gun shot.

Total time: 47 minutes.

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Easy Ways to Combat Snack Attacks

You know the feeling. You find yourself in front of the vending machine or an open refrigerator door looking for something to eat. You need a snack.

Easy Ways to Combat Snack Attacks

Actually, snacks can be good for you and are an effective weight management tool. If you are satisfied throughout the day you are less likely to over eat at meals or to binge on a midnight ice cream raid.

When choosing your snacks, look for ones that contain about 100-200 calories. Also, choose snacks that will fill in food group gaps, like an apple for a fruit serving, a yogurt for dairy. You get the idea.

Plan your snacks: Make a list and purchase health snacks you enjoy.

Plan your snack time: If you normally scrounge for something to eat at 3 in the afternoon, set your computer or phone alarm for 2:45 p.m. Take a quick 10 minute walk and then enjoy your pre-planned snack.

Keep snacks handy: Put them in your drawer at work, in your purse or glove box in your car. One person I know puts pre-planned snacks in labeled lunch bags, one for each day of the week.

Take your time: Slow down and enjoy your snack. Move away from your desk and never, ever eat while you are watching TV.

Don’t drink your calories: Beware of high calorie beverages like sport’s drinks, soft drinks, and fruit juices. Pick water instead, and if you need a bit of flavor, add a squirt of lemon or lime juice. Adding a teaspoon of sugar (about 15 calories) is a much better choice than a 12 oz. can of Coke (140 calories, about nine teaspoons of sugar!)

Check out the list below, choose the ones you like and spread them out over the next week. Be creative and share your ideas with us on our Facebook page.

Snack Suggestions

Box of raisins
Fruits such as bananas, grapes, or an apple
Cut-up veggies like broccoli, carrots
Dried fruit
Apple sauce
Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts
Fat-Free Microwave Popcorn
Dark chocolate
Peanut butter
Canned soup
Granola bars (check the calories)
Graham crackers
Baked tortilla chips and salsa
Wheat crackers
Animal crackers
Light yogurt
String cheese
Low fat cottage cheese
Instant oatmeal
Cereal and milk
Frozen fruit bars
Chocolate milk (low fat)

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ABC’s of Eating Smart for a Healthy Heart

*This article originally appeared on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

Following a heart-healthy diet can be easy when you know the basics of eating wisely. Johns Hopkins researchers have come up with diet guidelines to protect your heart.


Yes, a Dietitian Eats Chocolate.

“People want something sweet no matter what their diet,” says Johns Hopkins dietitian Christie A. Williams, M.S. “Dark chocolate actually has antioxidants that protect blood vessels, decrease LDL cholesterol and help blood pressure.”

To get the most benefit, Williams chooses bars whose labels show they contain at least 70 percent cocoa. “Sometimes I look for dark chocolate-covered walnuts or almonds because nuts are also good for the heart.”

The only catch, she says, is that dark chocolate has to be part of an isocaloric diet—that’s dietitian-speak for eating about the same total amount of food every day in a healthy amount for your weight and height. In other words, she says, you can indulge as long as you don’t overdo. Some research on the cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate puts that limit at 50 grams a day, or just under 2 ounces. Remember that chocolate has calories in it.

Eating a diet that helps your heart can be boiled down to four words: “Eat like a Mediterranean,” says Johns Hopkins dietitian Christie A. Williams, M.S., R.D.N. The Mediterranean diet—so named because it’s similar to the native diet consumed in places like Greece and Italy—is a low simple-carbohydrate, healthy-fat, lean-protein way of eating, she says.

The Mediterranean diet isn’t a strict diet per se—it’s simply guidelines that provide plenty of choices and variety. “It tastes good, helps you feel full without overeating, and you can get these foods in any season no matter where you live,” Williams says.

Here are the ABCs of this heart-healthy eating plan:

A. Avoid unhealthy fats, and choose healthy fats.

Unsaturated fats should make up most of your fat intake. These include fatty fish (see B, below, for more about fish), olive oil and other vegetable oils, and nuts, such as walnuts.

Limit saturated fats, which come primarily from animal sources (butter, red meat). Choose lean proteins, like chicken without the skin. Opt for 1 percent or skim milk and dairy products, rather than 2 percent or whole milk.

Avoid trans fats altogether. On processed food labels, watch for the words “partially hydrogenated oils” and skip those foods.

B. Buy beans, fish and other lean proteins.

Beans of any kind—white beans, black beans, kidney beans and so on—can be served in many ways, from entrées to salad toppers to side dishes, and they provide important fiber as well as protein.

Fatty fish, like salmon, trout and tuna, contain good-for-you omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, which help lower triglyceride (a type of fat) levels and may modestly lower blood pressure. “A salmon burger is a great way to add variety to your diet,” Williams suggests.

Limit red meat to lean cuts and serve it in side-dish-sized portions. Lean proteins feed your body without providing unhealthy fats—which means thinking beyond steak.

C. Choose carbs carefully.

Carbohydrates are the sugars, fiber and starches in food that give your body energy. But some carbs are better for you than others.

Choose carbs from whole-grain sources (such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread) rather than processed and refined carbs (such as white bread and white rice). Read labels to avoid added sugar, a common source of extra carbs. Johns Hopkins research has shown that people on low simple-carbohydrate diets lose more weight more quickly, especially dangerous belly fat (a risk factor for heart disease), than those who focus only on restricting fats.

D. Drink with deliberation.

“Diet” refers to what you drink as well as what you eat. Many beverages add calories (and extra weight) without much nutritional benefit. Three common culprits:

  • Alcohol. The recommended amount of alcohol is one drink per day for a woman, or two drinks for a man.
  • Soda pop. A typical 12-ounce can of soda has 150 calories and roughly 9 teaspoons of sugar. The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (which will be released in March) call for no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar per day from any source.
  • Juice and other sugary drinks. There’s much more fiber in whole food than juice. Along with soda, fruit juice and other sugary drinks account for much of the excess sugar Americans consume. “I’d rather see you eat an orange for breakfast than drink orange juice,” Williams says.

E. Eat a wide-variety of foods—especially from plants.

A heart-smart diet tends to be a varied one. These standout foods are often under-consumed:

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables. Natural sources of fiber and antioxidants, such as spinach, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, collard greens, arugula and broccoli, also help the body break down homocysteine, an amino acid that’s linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, Williams says.
  • Nuts. “Eating just 5 ounces of nuts per week is linked to decreased cardiovascular disease,” Williams says. Walnuts have more omega-3 fatty acids—which reduce bad cholesterol levels—than other nuts.
  • Soy. Edamame, a soy dish, is a good substitute for animal protein that also reduces total cholesterol levels. Half a cup of shelled edamame provides 8 grams of protein.
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