Dine Out Without Diving Off Your Diet

Driving off the Cliff
When you start to eat healthily, dining out, which was once a bliss-filled, belt-notch-loosening pleasure, becomes a culinary terror.

Servings are Matterhorn-esque in size. Supertankers of soda abound. Fries come with your order whether you want them or not. Nary a veggie can be seen for miles.

We’re here to help.

But please remember that even with our tips, restaurant dining is almost always going to be less healthy than what you can make at home. That said, here are a few pointers:

1. Make smart choices
Almost every menu contains chicken or fish cooked in a healthy way. Look for words like “grilled,” “broiled,” or “steamed,” and avoid “sautéed” and “fried.”

2. Skip the appetizer
By definition, an appetizer is intended to get your appetite going. But when some appetizers contain more than 1,000 calories, that’s not an appetizer—that’s a full meal and more! If you do want an appetizer, ask your table if they’d be willing to split one of the healthier options like a salad, bruschetta, ceviche, or anything that’s light on sauce and heavy on fruits, veggies, or lean protein.

3. Eat a salad
Greens are also a great option, but not all salads are created equal. Stick with salads that don’t contain mayo (in other words, avoid the tuna and chicken salad), and ask for the dressing on the side. This way you can add your tablespoon or two, instead of having your salad drenched in it.

4. Side dishes in your mouth mean sidecars on your thighs
At many restaurants, the “side” is a baked potato, fries, or coleslaw. What does that equal? Unnecessary calories. If you’d like a side, request the salad (dressing on the side), fruit, or steamed veggies, even if you don’t see them as an option.

5. No bread
Don’t eat the bread. Does it taste good? Sure! But instead of eating something because it’s in front of you, swap those empty calories for something you’d actually enjoy.

6. Eat half
Over time, American portion sizes have enlarged to gargantuan sizes. Restaurants often provide you not with one serving of pasta, but with as many as 4 or more. But if you have a hard time not cleaning your plate—after all, the food does taste good—request that the waiter split your order in half before they bring it to the table. That way you can enjoy your dinner as lunch later in the week.

7. No soda
If bread is bad, soda might be worse. That’s because it’s easy to consume massive amounts of calories fast. And don’t even think about going the “diet” route. Those artificial sweeteners aren’t healthy, and they can lead you to crave more sugary substances. Talk about a lose-lose! If you want something other than water, ask for unsweetened iced tea. It’s calorie free, so you can drink as much as you want!

8. Dessert
Really? Really? Granted, some restaurants use restraint, and focus more on unique flavors than on quantity, but if you’re out with friends at the type of place where the dessert has more calories than your meal, and they insist upon ordering it, suggest the table split it. Then take a single bite and put your spoon down. It’s not about denying yourself, but about making smart choices. If you’re still craving something sweet when you get home, enjoy some yogurt and berries or a piece of fruit.

7 Foods with Healing Powers

Healing Foods
Spending time on my grandparents’ farm taught me the connection between fresh food and good health at an early age. In addition, my grandmother’s pantry was our pharmacy and, over the years, many of the things I was taught by Grandma have been backed by “science.” Here are seven fresh and natural foods with the potential power to heal you physically and mentally.

The Magnificent 7
1. Blueberries
These nutrient-packed berries can help bruises disappear. They are a rich source of flavonoids and a good source of vitamin C, which together improve blood circulation (thus reducing swelling) and help form collagen, the tissue that holds skin together.

2. Lemons
Squeeze two whole lemons into your tea, seltzer, and other beverages or on salads and other food to get your daily requirement of vitamin C. This major antioxidant not only fights heart disease and boosts immunity but it also helps form the collagen we need to heal tendons, ligaments, bones, and blood vessels.

3. Garlic
Two garlic cloves a day may keep what Grandpa called “hardening of the arteries” away. We now call it arteriosclerosis, but the garlic works just the same. In a German study recently presented at an American Heart Association conference in Washington, D.C., it was stated that taking two cloves of garlic a day reduces the formation of arterial plaque by up to 40 percent. And 42 other clinical trials have shown that garlic can improve cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure.

4. Lettuce
If getting to sleep is a problem, a sedative you may not have known about is lettuce, which contains a sleep-inducing substance called lectucarium. Its effects have been compared to the sedative effects of opium, but without the accompanying excitement.

5. Chocolate
Dark chocolate is packed with healthy nutrients, including flavonoids, that are part of a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols that decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation, reduces the risk of blood clots, increases blood flow in arteries, and may lower high blood pressure. In addition, most of us can agree that chocolate improves mood and pleasure. It does that by boosting serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Plus, chocolate contains a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

6. Apples
Give in to temptation when it comes to one of the earth’s healthiest foods. They are a great source of fiber. They’re also a source of the phytochemical quercetin—a compound widely recognized for its ability to fight heart disease and cancer. “Apples are one of the best sources of flavonoids—as long as you leave on the peel,” Kristine Napier, RD, writes in Eat to Heal. “Their complement of phytochemicals helps them fight heart disease, stroke, cancer, infections, inflammation and colitis.” Because of the combination of fiber and fructose, apples help maintain blood sugar levels, which is key in fighting that afternoon blood sugar low. In fact, a successful dieting tip is to crunch into an apple for your afternoon snack—you’ll end up eating a lot less during dinner.

7. Avocados
This tropical fruit wasn’t grown in the United States until the 1830s. It is rich in potassium, beta-carotene, and “good” fat—the same monounsaturated fat that’s found in olive oil and has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Avocados are also a rich source of the essential fatty acid (EFA) omega-9 that helps promote hormone regulation, the transportation of fat through the body, and the breakup of cholesterol. Because avocados are higher in calories than other fruits—two-thirds of an avocado has about 150 calories—you might not want to eat the “alligator pear” at every meal, but you can increase the delicious quotient of your favorite sandwich by adding some slices or making it a fiesta by digging into some guacamole.

8 Great Fibrous Foods

High Fiber Foods
How much fiber should we be eating? If you believe the television commercials that run during the nightly news, we’re not even coming close to getting what we need.
First off, let’s look at why fiber is such a big deal. I used to think of fiber as stringy, ropy stuff, like the threads in celery or cabbage. But fiber has actually become a catchall term for any indigestible material that we consume, not all of which is actually fibrous. Cellulose, the building block of much of the fleshy part of fruits and veggies, is an example of non-fibrous fiber. There is soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and helps stabilize blood sugar by slowing the rate of digestion. There is also insoluble fiber, which, as its name would suggest, does not dissolve in water—although it does attract water in the intestinal tract and, well, without getting too graphic, is responsible for the trains running on time, keeping the mail moving, releasing the payload, etc. Most importantly, more and more studies are linking a high-fiber diet to a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

For optimal health, nutritionists recommend 30 to 38 grams of fiber every day for men and 21 to 25 grams of fiber every day for women. You can find the fiber content of labeled food as a subcategory under carbohydrates. If you’re counting carbs, you can always subtract the amount of fiber from the total number of carbs, because the fiber will only be visiting your body for a little while, unlike the sugars, which, if not burned for fuel, will likely end up stored as fat.

Most studies indicate that Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber, especially with the proliferation of processed foods filled with white flour, which is made only from the fiber-less endosperm of the grain and none of the bran and germ parts that provide the fiber. In fact, if you read labels, it’s pretty rare to find any prepared food that has more than a gram or two of fiber. It can make you despair if you think about having to get to the 21 to 38 grams you need every day. So how can you get your daily dose of fiber without eating yourself into a coma? There are some fiber-rich superfoods that can help get you to your daily recommended allowance, without the coma.

1. Legumes
The humble bean (and also chickpea, lentil, and pea) is chock-full of nutritious fiber. A cup of black beans or lentils contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber—half the daily minimum supply required for a man and more than half the minimum required for a woman. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have 13 grams of fiber. A cup of peas has 9 grams of fiber. The big winner is the cranberry bean with 18 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein. Cranberry beans have a creamy texture and a chestnut-like flavor.

2. Bran
While not as great a source of fiber as beans, they’re still pretty fiber rich, and may not have the unpleasant auditory and olfactory effects associated with excessive bean consumption. A cup of bran flakes has about 7 grams of fiber, and a cup of oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. Substituting whole-wheat products for their traditional white-flour counterparts is an easy way to work some fiber into your diet without much hassle. A cup of whole-wheat spaghetti has over 6 grams of fiber, and whole-wheat bread has about 2 grams of fiber per slice.

3. Prunes
Not just for old people anymore. Grandpa and Grandma knew what they were doing when they were suffering from constipation. A cup of prunes contains 8 grams of fiber, and the prune’s hydrated counterpart, the plum, is also an excellent source of fiber—prunes/plums contain insoluble fiber in the skin and soluble fiber in the pulp. That’s a two-for-one special!

4. Artichokes
One medium artichoke contains 6.5 grams of fiber. One cup of artichoke hearts contains 14 grams of fiber and only 90 calories. I like to get one of those little jars of marinated artichokes (in vinegar, not oil) and treat myself to eating the whole jar as an afternoon snack or hors d’oeuvre before dinner. Tasty and filling, you’ll eat less at dinner and put a serious dent in your daily fiber tally.

5. Brussels sprouts
Yes, they look like the alien heads from Mars Attacks!, but these little powerhouses pack almost 7 grams of fiber into a 1-cup serving and only about 60 calories. Not everyone is enamored with their slightly chalky taste. I recommend a generous spritz of lemon juice and maybe a dash of soy sauce or Tabasco to enhance the flavor. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is delicious too.

6. Asian pear
According to the Micronutrient Center of theLinus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the Asian pear is one of their five fiber-rich superfoods (legumes, bran, prunes, and quinoa are the others). One Asian pear, about 3 inches in diameter, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber, the most of any similarly sized fruit. And because it has a higher water content than its European brethren, it only contains around 100 calories. So you can crunch your way to a cleaner colon.

7. Quinoa
Relatively new to the U.S., quinoa has been a South American staple for over 6,000 years. In a 1-cup serving, the edible seeds of the quinoa plant have 10 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein—in fact, quinoa seeds contain many essential amino acids that are missing from rice, proving to be a good substitute for rice. If you check your local health food store, and even some supermarkets, you can find quinoa plain and as a main ingredient in many cereals, breads, and salads.

8. Nuts
Not just filling, heart-healthy snacks, nuts are great sources of fiber (but highly caloric, so nosh carefully). A quarter-cup of almonds has 4 grams of fiber and about 200 calories. It’s another great snack for between meals. Watch out for the salt content in the hickory-smoked varieties. Also, it’s a good idea to portion out a serving size beforehand, so you don’t absentmindedly munch a thousand or so calories from a big bag.

Seaweed Superfoods

Seaweed
Seaweeds are the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet as they have access to all the nutrients in the ocean. They can contain up to 10 times more calcium than milk and eight times as much as beef. The chemical composition of seaweeds is so close to human blood plasma, that perhaps their greatest benefit is regulating and purifying our blood system. They help to alkalize our blood, neutralizing the over-acid effects of our modern diet and protect us from a wide array of toxic elements in the environment, including heavy metals, pollutants and radiation by-products converting them to harmless salts that the body can eliminate.

But the most remarkable results with seaweeds we see is boosting weight loss and deterring cellulite build-up. The high concentration of natural iodine helps to stimulate the thyroid gland so that food fuels are used before they can be turned into fatty deposits. At the same time, the minerals act like electrolytes to break the chemical bond that seals the fat cells allowing trapped wastes to escape. Both by eating sea vegetables or bathing in them helps reduce cellulite and stimulates lymphatic drainage.

Nori – is best known for the seaweed used to make sushi rolls. You can make your own at home, make sure you use the untoasted nori sheets for maximum nutrient content.

Kelp – kelp is available in powder or capsule form for those who feel awkward eating seaweed. It is also the most common seaweed found along the ocean shores. Due to their thick leaves they are perfect for a hot seaweed bath.

Dulse – a red seaweed, available in flakes. There is no need to cook dulse. It is great to use as seasoning on salads, vegetables and soups.

Arame – consists of brown stringy seaweed. Soak in hot water for 5 minutes and it is ready to use.

Wakame – With a sweet flavor makes a great compliment to sandwiches. Soak for 5 minutes in hot water.

Kombu – Used in Japan for centuries as a mineral rich flavour enhancer. Add a strip of kombu when cooking beans making them more digestible and reducing gas. Add a strip of kombu to your sprouts when soaking them to allow them to soak up the minerals.

11 Tips for Cooking Out Without Pigging Out

Grilling OutIt’s summertime, which means it’s time to fire up the grill and enjoy the great outdoors. It all sounds pretty healthy, until somebody shows up with a bowl of mayonnaise and potatoes, which, without a trace of irony, will be announced as a salad. It’s like calling a stick of butter a nutrition bar. A few side dishes like this, combined with some fatty hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, and ice cream, and bathing-suit season can become caftan season before you know it. But if you only invite the neighbors over for celery sticks and tofu kabobs, you can count on getting the stink-eye from everyone next time you’re out mowing the lawn. The secret to throwing a great barbecue is to find ways to eat healthily without making it seem like last call at fat camp. Fortunately, with so many great foods available during the summer months, it’s easy to plan a menu that will include great-tasting food and let you keep your P90X®, Slim in 6®, or ChaLEAN Extreme® figure. Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning your outdoor culinary excursions, so you can picnic without the pounds, still enjoy good food, and keep yourself and your family and friends healthy.

1. Veg out
The cookout doesn’t need to be a celebration of the weather being so good that the unhealthy foods we used to eat in front of the TV can now be eaten in the backyard. It’s summer! The time of year when all the best fruits and vegetables are at their peak. And grilling vegetables is a great way to get tons of flavor without tons of calories. Delicious on their own or as a complement to another dish, grilled veggies are a must-have for a healthy cookout. Use them in salads, on burgers, or by themselves. Check out what’s fresh at your local farmers’ market. Good veggies for grilling include peppers, asparagus, artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, scallions, and onions. Just brush them with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and you’re serving something healthy that you and your guests can load up on guilt free.

2. Herbal remedies
Only the worst chefs need to rely on fat and salt for seasoning. Now’s the time to stock up on fresh basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, etc. Or even better, grow your own. Oftentimes, a pot of living basil from the nursery costs less than a handful of leaves from your produce section. Use fresh herbs liberally in all of your recipes, and you’ll be replacing fat with flavor.

3. Hold the mayo
Nothing lays waste to the best-laid plans for a healthy barbecue like mayonnaise. A main ingredient in picnic staples like potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw, mayo loads up enough fat and calories that your only hope of weight loss is that the dishes stay out in the sun long enough to cause salmonella poisoning. Try using healthier ingredients, like yogurt or low-fat ricotta cheese, and adding fresh herbs. Instead of mayonnaise, use yogurt and fresh dill in your potato salad. Make a whole-grain pasta salad with cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

4. Don’t be so starchy!
There’s no law that says every picnic “salad” needs to begin with potatoes or pasta. There are plenty of salad recipes out there that are so delicious, no one will miss their starchy, fatty counterparts. How about making that old-time favorite, three-bean salad! Or if you want something a little heartier, lentils mixed with a light vinaigrette, a little onion or garlic, some fresh herbs, and a sprinkling of feta cheese will fill you up and give you enough energy to play more than horseshoes and lawn darts later. Make some simple, fresh vegetable salads. Slice up some tomatoes or cucumbers, and toss them with a bit of vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and onions or garlic, and you have a refreshing side dish that will fill you up without filling you out.

5. Know your cuts of meat
It’s not just a game on Letterman. While of course substituting skinless chicken or fish for your rib eye would be the BEST nutritional decision, we know you’re not made of stone. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a barbecue without the scent of grilled steak or pork in the air. But not all cuts are created equal. For beef, the best rule is to look for cuts with the word loin or round. Other great lean cuts are flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tip, and London broil. With pork, the leanest cuts are the tenderloin and loin chops. With both pork and beef, try to avoid anything involving the ribs (including rib eyes), which have the fattiest cuts of meat. And those baby back ribs will make you look like you’re having the baby. Because of their low fat content, most of the lean cuts will need to be marinated for a couple of hours before grilling. Read on for marinade ideas.

6. Lay off the (store-bought) sauce
One of the main ingredients in most store-bought barbecue and teriyaki sauces is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even the most casual Beachbody reader knows how we feel about HFCS. Instead, bust out those herbs you bought or grew (see tip #2), and make some gourmet marinades and sauces that won’t send your blood sugar into a tailspin. Using ingredients like fresh herbs; citrus juices; olive, sesame, and canola oils; wine; low-sodium soy sauce; and various vinegars, you can liven up your meat dishes and save the sugar for dessert. And when you’re planning your marinades . . .

7. Go global
Since the U.S. is one of the most obese nations in the world, maybe it’s worth checking out what those in slimmer nations are grilling. How about a Cuban marinade for your chicken, or pork with citrus juice and garlic? Or Indian tandoori-style skinless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices like turmeric, curry, or cardamom? Try making your own Japanese teriyaki with sesame oil, ginger, soy sauce, and honey, and skip the corn syrup from the store brands. Try out Greek kabobs, Korean barbecue, or Jamaican jerk-rubbed meat—whatever catches your eye or your taste buds. And throwing a barbecue with an international theme sounds a lot more appetizing than a barbecue where “we’re watching our weight.”

8. Good dogs
Of course, not everyone is going to be keen on vegetables and treats from foreign lands. Kids, for example. So you’re probably going to need some kind of hot dog for these less adventurous eaters. Pretty much anything can end up in a hot dog, but in most cases, hot dogs are tubes full of fatty meat and carcinogenic nitrates—yum! This is where it really pays to read the label. A regular hot dog runs over 200 calories and 18 grams of fat. A turkey frank has half of that. The fat, calorie, and sodium contents of various brands and types of dogs vary wildly, so choose carefully. For the less fussy, there are also several varieties of chicken and turkey sausages with gourmet ingredients that are delicious and low in fat and calories.

9. Better burgers
A friend of mine who is highly phobic of meat-borne illnesses like E. Coli and mad cow disease had the great idea of asking the butcher to grind up a piece of sirloin or top round that she selected from the meat case for hamburgers. This limits your exposure to contaminants, as there’s only one cow involved in the making of a steak, where there could be hundreds involved in a package of ground beef. This also allows you to control the fat content that’s in your hamburger. If you have a decent food processor, you could even grind your meat at home and blend in spices, garlic, or onion to enhance the flavor. If all this talk of cows and contaminants has put you off beef, you might give a turkey burger a try. But again, read the label. Many packages of ground turkey contain ground-up skin and other fatty pieces, resulting in a fat and calorie content not much better than ground beef. Try looking for extra-lean or ground turkey breast. And if you’re worried about the bird flu, it might be worth giving veggie burgers another try. If you haven’t had one in a few years, you may remember them as I do—some sort of reconstituted cardboard patty that smelled like feet. But there have been great strides in veggie burger technology. In fact, there are a couple of brands a vegan friend of mine refuses to eat, because they taste too much like meat. Try a couple of different brands. You may be surprised.

10. Topping it off
When you’re putting together the topping trays for your grilled delights, you can also save a few calories. The traditional lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are great, but skip the cheese, mayonnaise, and corn-syrup–laden ketchup. Instead, try putting some of those grilled veggies you made on your burger or chicken breast. Or add a slice of avocado if you miss the creaminess of melted cheese. Put out a variety of mustards, hot sauces, and salsas, which are low in calories and fat, and don’t usually contain corn syrup. Don’t forget to look for whole-grain buns for your dogs or burgers, or try eating them open-faced or bunless, if you’re trying to cut carbs.

11. Just desserts
Well, you’ve behaved admirably during the rest of the barbecue, so you deserve a little summer treat. Have a little bit of ice cream (although frozen yogurt would be even better, and plain yogurt better yet!), but heap a bunch of fruit on it, instead of a dollop of fudge or a side of pie. After all, what we said about vegetables goes for fruit too. This is the time of year where you can get your hands on the best fruit, at the lowest prices. Indulge in berries, peaches, oranges, melons, and all your favorite seasonal fruits. Make a huge fruit salad, or blend fruit with yogurt and ice for a smoothie. Or for those with ambition and an ice cream maker, try making your own fruit sorbet. You may decide to skip the ice cream after all!

Hopefully, these suggestions will help make your summer barbecue a huge success. And in the worst-case scenario that you end up being forced to partake in your neighbor’s annual Salute to Mayonnaise, you can always use Beachbody’s 3-Day Refresh® to minimize the damage before the next pool party! so you don’t absentmindedly munch a thousand or so calories from a big bag.