Let’s Talk Portion Control

The key for most people to a lot of things like digestion, maintaining or losing weight and fueling your body all depends on portion control. I say most people because before we get into this post, this may not be for you if you have have disordered or restrictive eating in the past. Please consider this before continuing.

Have you ever found yourself eating “healthy” but not losing weight? Did it make you want to give up? Maybe it is your portion sizes. In a land where we get bread before meals, unlimited sodas, bottomless mimosas (a favorite of mine) and huge portions when we eat out, it’s not hard to sometimes understand what a “regular” portion is. We get asked if we want to supersize things when the original portion was probably plenty. We eat chips out of the bag instead of thinking about what the serving size is and figuring out how many services we are actually eating.

The worst things about eating too much is that overfull feeling you get. When I was younger, I used to go to the Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch and eat until my stomach hurt! It was almost a rule you couldn’t leave until you felt that way (actually, it was a rule, I’m not going to kid myself). I can only imagine the thousand of calories I ingested…then had to go back, sit at my desk and try and have a productive afternoon.

I think I finally got good at portion control when I was packing lunches for my daughter to eat at school. Since she has Type 1 Diabetes, it is essential that she knows how many carbs she is eating so she can give herself the appropriate amount of insulin. Every morning, I pack her lunch and snacks and include a little note with all of the carbs counts for the day.

Packaged foods or single serving items are easy but I have a scale to measure grams or fruits and vegetables. I also use it for chips and other snacks out of a bag (I used to count out 28 veggie sticks or 30 grapes before that scale, so it is a lifesaver!) Almost every type of food has a code you type in so it tells you exactly the nutritional value for that particular serving size. You can get this scale on Amazon. This is great if you are counting your macros as well.

Another way to keep track of your portion sizes and your macros is to use a program like Ultimate Portion Fix. You have several different sized containers representing veggies, carbs, proteins, fruit, healthy fats along with nuts and dressings. Based on a formula, you figure out how many containers or each you can eat each day based on your weight, activity level and goals. This is extremely helpful when preparing your own food at home and something that I have personally used in the past. It also helps to keep eating fruit and veggies in the front of your mind because you have to get your containers in. Alcohol is allowed and counts as one of your carb containers.

The benefits I see from managing my portion sizes really boil down to the fact I feel satisfied but not overly full and bloated when I am balancing my macros with healthy portion sizes. Note the key word satisfied and not hungry. Now obsessively measuring your food when you are NOT eating in a balanced way is not what I am advocating. I am not suggesting you count out 10 almonds to eat for lunch. There is a big difference between restricting your portion sizes and managing your portion sizes. Please take this advice in a healthy and balanced way.

Do you have a problem managing your portion sizes and how does it make you feel? Comment below.

My Favorite: Breakfast

Here’s another routine breakfast for me…

My omelet is two pasture raised eggs, one vegetarian sausage and a pinch of cheddar cheese. I bought this egg cooker from Amazon, which is amazing. While my omelet is cooking, I steam my zucchini and season with salt and pepper. For my carb, today I ate half of a Killer Davie’s Bloomin’ Berry bagel but I also add sprouted wheat bread or a veggie muffin. Depending on how hungry I am, I may add some grapes or berries as well. I often eat those right after my workout so they are sort of a pre-breakfast and then eat this breakfast 30 minutes after that.

I’m actually surprised at how much I am enjoying zucchini for breakfast. I used to add steamed spinach but never loved that as part of my breakfast. If I am ever not very hungry, I may add spinach or broccoli to the omelet to get those macros in!

Why Do Carbs Get Such A Bad Rap?

Carbs are almost a dirty word in todays society. There are just about as many no or low carb diets as there are carbs themselves! Whether you did Atkins or South Beach decades ago or you are keto now, some people swear by the no-carb life.

I was watching the Netflix show Down to Earth with Zac Efron. While they were eating pasta in Italy, Zac mentioned that when he was filing the movie Baywatch, he didn’t eat any carbs. The carb-filled diet of the centenarians in the town they were visiting was the opposite of what any trainer had told him. His diet made a lot of news at the time but he also said it made him crazy and even depressed. I know competitors in fitness competitions carb cycle in the weeks before to enhance their physique. I have never thought of a no or low carb diet to be sustainable long-term.

Zac during Baywatch (L) and Zac during Down to Earth (R)

The problem with cutting out all carbs is that some carbs are good for you. Following a balanced macronutrient diet, like I do, carbs can account for 50% of your diet! (I am usually between 40-50% each day). Carbs provide you with glucose for fuel and fiber for digestion. They also help to keep you full and satisfied so you aren’t tempted to over-eat on unhealthy foods.

We also try and watch carbs in our house because we have two people with Type 1 Diabetes, which is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Insulin is needed to break down glucose into fuel. Type 1 Diabetes has no known cause or cure. Although people with Type 1 Diabetes can eat whatever they want, they must inject insulin to “cover” the amount of carbs they eat or drink.

How do you choose which carbs to eat? In our house, we know that most cereals or refined/processed carbs are going to spike blood sugar levels. Same with fruit juices or sugary sodas. I look at these types of carbs as empty calories. I prefer whole grain bread to white bread. There are low-carb or vegetable pastas, even cauliflower rice (although we eat plenty of brown rice).

Some people avoid fruits because they contained carbs. I avoid fruit juice because it only has the carbs but the fiber has been stripped away. We eat a lot of berries, apples and pineapple. Also good are melons and oranges.

In reality, there are many ways to reduce bad carbs still eating the foods you love. Using some of the carb substitutes mentioned above is one way. If you season your cauliflower rice correctly, you can make it tasty, I promise! I have a spiralizer to make zucchini pasta, although there are plenty of options at the grocery store. Even a burger or sandwich can be lower carb by removing the top bun or piece of bread or putting it over a salad. I promise you, as I write earlier, a taco over a salad is still delicious!

For those of you using the Ultimate Portion Fix container list, I usually have whole grain toast as one of my containers. Other popular carbs are sweet potato, black or kidney beans, lentils, brown or wild rice and quinoa. Of course, when you have a glass of wine or beer, that counts as a yellow container, so plan accordingly!

Also, check out this article from the My Fitness Pal blog about the top myths about carbs.

Don’t forget to check out some of my recipes that are filled with good carbs, including cheesecake! Keep checking back for more delicious recipes and let me know if there’s a particular food you would like to see a healthy carb version of!

Recipe: Pineapple Chicken Skewers

A great summer grilling recipe that comes in just over 200 calories per serving and has tons of flavor!

Cut 1lb of raw chicken breast into 1 inch pieces. Put it in a reusable bag or container with 1/4 reduced sodium soy sauce, 2 tsp. of sesame oil and 2 tsp. of grated fresh ginger and shake to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I don’t always have ginger on hand so it’s not essential to the recipe. I also usually end up making more than 1 pound of chicken, which is completely fine. Just adjust the amount of sauces (i.e.) 2 pounds of chicken should have 1/2 cup soy sauce and 4 tsp. of sesame oil. Don’t forget to cut a few more vegetables as well.

Cut up 1-2 bell peppers and 1/2 a red onion into kabob size pieces. Take those pieces, your chicken and a can of pineapple chunks and alternate them on to a bamboo skewer until there are two of each of the ingredients on each skewer. (I actually fit three of each ingredient but when you are factoring portion size, calculate 2 skewers with 2 ingredients each for the portion size.) Throw those on the grill and you are good to go.

Each serving is 214 calories, 5 grams of fat, 12 carbs and 26 grams of protein. For Ultimate Portion Fix, the container counts are 1/2 green, 1/2 purple, 1 red and 1/2 spoon. You can add some brown rice for 1 yellow if desired.

Happy Grilling!

Recipe – Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

This was a fun and easy recipe that really hit it out of the park! The whole family loved them.

SERVES: 24 (1 ball each) Prep Time: 20 min.

1 cup all-natural smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3⁄4 cup coconut flour
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
Hot water
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, 62% cocoa or higher, chopped
2 tsp. extra-virgin organic coconut oil, unrefined

  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine peanut butter, cornstarch, coconut flour, and maple syrup in a medium bowl; blend well with a spatula until mixture forms a uniform dough.
  3. Using clean hands, shape dough into twenty-four 1-inch balls; place a toothpick in the center of each ball. Place on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Fill small saucepan with 2 inches of water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low.
  5. Place a heat-proof mixing bowl over saucepan. Add chocolate and oil. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just melted. Make sure water does not splash into the bowl.
  6. Remove balls from refrigerator. Hold a ball by the toothpick and dip into chocolate, swirling to completely coat. Return to baking sheet. Repeat with each ball. (For any uncoated areas, coat carefully with a spoon dipped into chocolate.)
  7. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until chocolate has hardened.

Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

TIPS:
• You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave. Place morsels and oil in microwave-safe container. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds; stir. Microwave for an additional 30 to 45 seconds or until just melted. Do not overcook.
• To prevent the balls from sticking to your hands when you roll them, lightly coat your hands with nonstick cooking spray.

NUTRITIONALINFORMATION(perserving):Calories:134 TotalFat:9g SaturatedFat:4g Cholesterol:0mg Sodium:57mg Carbohydrates:12g Fiber:2g Sugars:8g Protein:4g

Containers: 1 yellow and 1 spoon per serving

I did not chop the chocolate chips, just melted them by stirring frequently over heat. I also recommend a little more than 20 minutes to harden the peanut butter as the toothpicks weren’t in there solid enough to swirl in the chocolate without the help of a spatula. I would also recommend taking the toothpicks out after the chocolate is on and before you put them back in the fridge.

Happy snacking!

Meal Planning – Vacation Style

On Sundays (and sometimes Mondays), I meal plan for the week. This week, my husband and I are on vacation so I will be planning on lunches for him as well but I plan on incorporating leftovers and treats. Stay tuned for some new recipes I’m trying out, including peanut butter cups!

I know a lot of people are intimidated by meal planning but I promise, you don’t need to be. You already do a little bit of meal planning when you buy your groceries, whether or not you mapped it out in advance. It only takes a few minutes to plan out the week. You can get started by planning out the first few days and then expanding to the week from there. You don’t have to cook it all at once and I often switch things around during the week if we have a lot of leftovers or feel like getting takeout one night.

I start my meal plan by writing down different ideas I have for things I want to cook that week. Then, I fit them into a day that makes sense at the time. I also know which meals will give us a lot of leftovers and will skip a night of cooking. I also cook things that work for everyone’s tastes at that time. So where I may eat something over a salad, my Husband may eat that same thing with a wrap or bun.

Since this is a vacation week, I want to make sure we’ve got plenty of food for lunches and snack as well. Since I have extra time because of vacation, I’m going to be cooking every night and saving the leftovers for lunches. It’s also my Husband’s birthday on Friday so we are planning a fantastic night of takeout along with cake and celebration!

Of course, this vacation week is different than years past since we will be at home all week. Normally this week of the summer is spent at the beach but I still meal plan when we are away. We know when we are going to splurge at the breakfast buffet, when we are going to eat away from the hotel (and where) and when we are going to grab a quick something from the beach cafe. Traveling to somewhere you haven’t been before can be a little trickier but you can always have a flexible plan and check out the menu before you dine.

Happy meal planning and have an awesome week!

Let’s Talk Cocktails – Taco Tuesday Edition

I love a margarita as much as the next person but a regular margarita can be 200-300 calories and more than 30 carbs per drink. These are empty calories with no nutritional value and the sugar would probably give you a stomachache!

So what are the options? There’s the famous Skinny Girl margarita, which started by just adding a lot of lime juice to some tequila. This may not be for everyone. Looking at some “light” margarita mixes, most still have at least 200 calories and a high amount of sugar. I basically gave up thinking about margaritas by the pool.

That is until I found the light margarita mix by Master of Mixes. This is a very tasty mix and is actually light! It has 10 calories (yes, 10!) for a 4 ounce pour and only 2 carbs with no added sugars. When I mix mine with an ounce of Casamigos tequila, the entire drink comes in under 80 calories! This is also a great mix for those watching carbs, including people with diabetes.

While you shouldn’t over-indulge, this is a great mix to have a tasty cocktail or two. So enjoy your (healthy) tacos with a great margarita this Taco Tuesday without any extra sugar and without all those empty calories!

My Favorite Cookbook (or 2)

I like to do home workouts using Beachbody on Demand (BOD) fitness programs but what most people don’t know is there is a cooking show in the BOD lineup called Fixate. They also have 2 cookbooks, Fixate and Fixate 2. There are recipes for everything from breakfast, lunch & dinner to snacks, cocktails and even holiday favorites. If you are vegetarian or vegan, there is plenty in there for you and a lot of the recipes are gluten-free, if that is important to you. They even have spice and dressing recipes!

I love these cookbooks not just because they are full of yummy recipes but because they breakdown two measurements that make my life easier: nutritional information, especially carbs, and container counts.

Nutritional information: I cook for two people with Type 1 Diabetes so knowing how many carbs are in foods is essential. Most mainstream cookbooks don’t have this information (love you, Chrissy Teigen!) so I don’t use those books as often. Most “diet” cookbooks have a breakdown but the foods are often boring and bland. All of the Fixate recipes have the nutritional information broken down so if you are counting carbs, calories or macros (more on macros to come), it’s perfect!

Container counts: I can hear you saying what the heck are container counts? Well, you may have heard of a fitness program called 21 Day Fix. This goes hand-in-hand with the Portion Fix way of healthy eating, which is what I follow most days. The containers make it easy not only to measure the portion sizes of what you are eating but to balance your macronutrients. The Fixate cookbooks spell out the container counts and balance for you.

I promise to do a whole post on macronutrients and the containers in the future. Another nice thing about counting macros using the container system is you can Google any recipe and add “Fixate” to it and you will likely come up with a bunch of recipes someone already invented, with the container counts already figured out!

I will be trying out some new recipes as well as sharing some of the family favorites. For now, I will leave you with the donuts we made last weekend. These are only 226 calories per donut with 32 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber! Compare that with a Dunkin Donut which is 360 calories, 41 carbs and 1 gram of fiber. These were super easy to make and so delicious!

If you want to purchase either Fixate or Fixate 2 from Amazon, please use my affiliate links. The containers are also available on Amazon.