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January 29, 2015

Mourning cereal

10:49 am - Posted by Gregg

Believe it or not, way back when when I was tipping the scales at 450+-pounds, I would go through a box of cereal in 2-3 days. My “trick” for accomplishing such a feat was to nibble as much cereal as I was pouring into the bowl. Had I bothered to check the suggested serving size, I would have seen that I was eating for 4. Of course, my 60-inch waist sort of made that clear already. Needless to say, I wasn’t paying attention.

To this day, I crave and love breakfast cereal. To the point of obsession. Because of this, there have been times that I’ve considered cutting it out of my diet altogether. But with a bunch of healthy cereal options available today along with the fact that cereal is a fast, convenient and delicious way to have breakfast (one of the most important meals of the day – whether on or off a diet), cereal is something I wanted to learn to live with.

But even when preparing cereal today (at 175-pounds), I still feel the urge to pour cereal into the bowl while also having a ‘cereal appetizer’ while standing at the counter. If I didn’t regulate myself, I could easily go through a third of a box of cereal or more. That’s why I never trust myself to pour cereal freely. Instead, I pour it into a measuring cup before I pour it into my breakfast bowl and add my sliced banana. And for what it’s worth, I measure the 2% milk I use, as well.

This might come as a surprise to some of you reading this. Most people assume that because I’ve kept my 250 pounds of excess weight off for over a decade, that I’ve got this weight thing beat. That’s true in some respects. But part of what keeps the excess weight off is knowing that I’ll never really have it beat and that I can never let my guard down. My daily food intake is something I’m always thinking about, planning for and paying attention to. Not in a mentally unhealthy way, but in a efficient way. Or weigh, as the case may be.

Whenever I reveal to fellow dieters that I must still pay attention to and even sometimes measure my food portions, they often register disappointment – as if they thought that once you take the weight off, you magically never have to think about dieting again. But in truth, this ‘food and health consciousness’ must become a part of ourselves that we never leave behind (even during those times when we decide it’s okay to have ice cream – or whatever – as a treat).

This need to ‘stay on top of what and how much I eat’ is reiterated almost daily for me – usually when I’m preparing breakfast and pouring breakfast cereal. I know that I can’t be trusted. So even though I’ve been “thin” for years and happily fit into my skinny jeans, I still get the measuring cup out and measure the exact amount of cereal necessary for a healthy and low calorie breakfast. It could be argued that, by now, I should know what a ‘cup’ holds. But when it comes to cereal and other ‘tempting foods,’ I know that my mind’s version of a cup full and real life’s version of a cup full are two very different things.

In other words: When it comes to cereal, the measuring cup is my friend.

But none of this has to be bad news. No matter what your most tempting foods are, you can still have them – in moderation and in healthy portions. And with tools like measuring cups, we can ‘eat like a thin person’ and not overdo it to the point of triggering a binge, stuffing ourselves to the point of discomfort or making our skinny clothes feel too tight.

What are your tempting foods? Do you still allow yourself to have them even if on some sort of weight loss program? Or do you try and avoid the foods for the time being? I’d love to hear from you on this topic. We can even discuss over a bowl of cereal. Assuming you’ve got a measuring cup I can borrow.

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January 25, 2015

Raising the bar

3:21 pm - Posted by Gregg

Faithful readers of this blog and my books know that I’m not a fan of meal replacement bars. But what I am a fan of is handy and healthy snack foods that we can have available to keep us away from the vending machines full of over-processed snacks that not only add to our waistline, but also confuse our metabolisms with all sorts of unnecessary ingredients. Thankfully, there are some innovative companies like Mediterra Mediterranean Nutrition that are offering us options that turn the average snack bars (even those that claim to be “healthy”) on their ears… Or on their packages anyway.

Gotta love a selection that includes actual savory flavors as well as sweeter varieties. Created to compliment a Mediterranean Diet, these healthy alternatives to junk food can be used with any eating plan or diet (after all, variety is the spice of life… Or something like that). The pre-packaged portions are great for those of us who still have issues with portion control (that still includes me by the way).

What’s more, it’s fun to get inventive with the savory flavors (which include Sundried Tomato & Basil and Black Olive & Walnuts). For example, both make a great — and healthier — alternative to adding croutons to salads or soups. I love crumbling them onto salads for dinner parties. People think I’ve created some sort of super healthy, super delicious concoction and are usually very impressed. Do I admit I simply took the ingredients out of the “clean label” wrappers and that it involved no work at all? Usually. But only after the compliments have died down!

Mediterra’s website (full of interesting articles for anyone interested in investigating the Mediterranean diet) has a bunch of recipes that use their bars in very unique ways (check out the Traditional Mediterranean Green Bean Salad with Sundried Tomato & Basil Bar recipe, below). This is what I love about these bars. They’re not about meal replacement. They’re about meal — and life — enhancement… With real food. (Crazy concept — at least it seems to be to many of today’s traditional food manufacturers.)

And no, none of this is a paid endorsement. I consider it my duty to share ideas for food products that can contribute to our overall health rather than rob us of it.

Recipe: Traditional Mediterranean Green Bean Salad
(made with with Sundried Tomato & Basil Bar)

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 scallions, trimmed and cut into paper-thin rounds
1 small garlic clove, minced
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (preferably Greek)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Greek honey
2 Mediterra Sundried Tomato-Basil bars, chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preparation:
1. Steam green beans in a steamer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until al dente.
2. Once the beans have cooked, transfer them into a colander, and run cold water over them immediately. Let the green beans drain well.
3. Place the green beans, scallions, garlic and tomatoes in a large serving bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper. Pour onto the salad and toss. Garnish with the broken up Mediterra Tomato-Basil bars and serve.

Serves 4-6

Recipe used by permission. For more recipes utilizing Mediterra bars, click here. For anyone wanting to check out the various flavors of Mediterra bars, you can visit their website or even find them at select Target stores. (If you don’t see them at your local Target, ask for them and other healthy snack alternatives! The more available these types of foods are for purchase, they healthier we’ll all be!)

Photo Source: Mediterra

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January 23, 2015

Own your perfection

1:05 pm - Posted by Gregg

No matter what you think, you are perfect in this moment. Yes, you — you specifically!

And yes, perfection can accomplish change — but change is more likely when the want comes from a positive place of loving yourself. When I was able to finally take off over 250 pounds of excess weight, it was because I was loving myself in the “now.” When I hated myself, I just kept getting bigger and unhealthier. When I started looking in the mirror and seeing myself as a friend (and as terrific in the moment), real change started to occur. So next time you look in the mirror, remember that you are a supermodel. (True story!)

Photo Source: Spark People

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January 22, 2015

Healthy 5-minute dinners

12:54 pm - Posted by Gregg

Although it sometimes feels like it, eating healthy meals isn’t rocket science. Fresh, healthy foods can often be combined quickly — it’s just a matter of knowing what to add to what. To help take away some of the mystery, check out this handy chart from Women’s Health magazine. Here are 7 quick dinners that you can put together in 5-minutes or less. For a few more details on each combination, check out the “What Nutritionists Eat When They Only Have 5 Minutes to Prep a Meal” slideshow by clicking here.

Photo Source: Pulptastic via Women’s Health

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5:53 pm - Posted by Gregg

This drool-worthy Gregg’s Chunky Chili was absolutely one of my go-to meals while I was taking off over 250 pounds of excess weight. And it still is one of my favorites today (yes, I still make it all the time — even during the summer months). Besides being delicious, it’s incredibly healthy and makes for great leftovers. It freezes, thaws and reheats (microwaves!) beautifully. So I always make a huge batch (and it will be easy for you to do the same in order to enjoy this hearty — and health — dish for weeks to come).

Ingredients (in order of appearance)
5 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
3 white onions, peeled & chopped
2 (two) 7 oz. cans of diced green chilies (mild or hot – your choice)
3 tbsp. fresh garlic, chopped (can also used jarred, but without added oil)
4 tbsp. chili powder (more if you dare)
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (more if you dare)
2+ lbs. lowfat ground turkey
1 (one) 6 lb., 6 oz. can (or several cans that equal the same) of ready cut diced tomatoes (in their own juice, no added sodium if available)
4 large bell peppers, chopped

Directions
In a large pot (the bigger the better), add the olive oil and chopped onions. Cover and cook over medium heat for several minutes (until the onions begin to soften).

Next, add the garlic, chili powder and cumin. Mix it up and then add both cans (liquid and all) of the diced green chilies to the diced onion. Cook covered, over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Next, add the ground turkey — making sure to mix all of the meat into the mixture while keeping the turkey from “clumping” together (work to break it up into loose pieces/bits). Continue to cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (and de-clumping the turkey when necessary).

Once the turkey is cooked through, add the canned tomatoes and chopped bell peppers, mix thoroughly, then cover and cook on high heat until the contents reach a boil. As soon as you see that your mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to LOW and cook for about 20 minutes more so all the flavors mix together and blend to perfection.

Makes approximately 18 servings

A Few Helpful Hints
Add a small green salad with carrot shavings and balsamic vinegar along with two to three multigrain crackers to create a complete meal.

After preparing this big batch of chili, I divide it into portion sizes (usually two per storage container) and then, after the containers cool off, stick them in the freezer. After a day or so of thawing (in the fridge) you can zap it in the microwave for a quick, delicious dinner anytime during the week. (You can even store single size portions and take the chili to work for an easy and delicious, microwavable lunch!)

It should be noted that this stuff is so good that you can even serve it to your friends who aren’t on a diet. (Trust me — they’ll never know they’re eating something super healthy.) I’ve even made a big batch of this recipe as a dip for parties and served it with multigrain chips along with sour cream and cheese on the side.

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