Posts for the ‘Health’ Category

Layering for Winter Workouts

By Shannon Jones, Take Control Health Coach

Clothing can make all the difference in a fun and safe winter outdoor experience. Whether you’re going for a walk, running, skiing, or snowshoeing, dressing for the cold is essential to maintain your exercise regime throughout the winter.

The best way to dress for cold weather workouts is to incorporate layers. When it comes to layering, remember the acronym BITE: Base, Insulation, Top Layer and Extremities.

Base Layer

Start with a base layer — this is the layer that goes against your skin. You want a material that will “wick” sweat away from the body. Examples are wool, polyester, and polypropylene. Cotton is one of the worst fabrics to use for a base layer because it will stay wet and you’ll get cold. Staying dry is essential to comfort and warmth during winter fitness.

Insulation Layer

Next is the insulation layer. This is the layer that keeps out cold and keeps in warmth. Fleece is the perfect insulation layer. You’ll want to base your insulation layer choice on the type of activity you are doing. If you are walking, you’ll want a warm insulation layer, if you’re skiing you’ll want something lighter. A lightweight down jacket can work well for many activities.

Top Layer

Follow the insulation layer with your top layer. The top layer is to provide protection from moisture like rain or snow. Jackets, pullovers, and shells are considered top layers. Water resistant or water proof but breathable fabric is an excellent choice. These fabrics can be expensive, but they are worth it in the long run. Fabrics such as polyester blends help trap heat and prevent evaporation. These fabrics keep you warm and dry.


Finally, don’t forget your extremities. Exercising pulls blood away from your extremities and toward your core, so it is important to properly cover your head, hands and feet. Wear hats and mittens or gloves to help with this. Technical fabrics will be your friend in this category as well. Look for performance gear that will keep you warm but breathe so you don’t sweat. For your feet, look for socks made from a wool blend are thin but can keep toes dry and toasty even in the coldest weather. Make sure your boots are not too tight – they need a little air to retain warmth.

Winter is here, so find a winter activity you enjoy, and start living a healthier life. But don’t forget to dress for it!


The Season of Eating

By Laura Del Guerra, RD, CDE, Take Control Health Coach

We just celebrated Thanksgiving, and for me that signals the start of what I refer to as “The Season of Eating.” From Thanksgiving clear through Easter there is at least one big eating opportunity each month: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, the Super Bowl, Valentines, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter.

These events are potential landmines that can derail the most dedicated from following through on their healthy lifestyle. Having spent my career in the field of nutrition, I have had years of hearing the aftermath of how pre-planned goals and expectations often fall short of reality.

Many of us have an idea about what we will be doing on these holidays, where we will be, with whom, and the foods most likely to be served. Where people get stuck is when we just roll with the expectation that the day will unwind as it always has, and we are powerless to change anything. Then disappointment hits because our expectation was that we would have somehow handled the day differently.

Here are some tips for managing your expectations during the Season of Eating:

  • When setting a plan for the day (or weekend) think about how you handle the big dinner. Knowing how you typically handle the day and then making a goal based on modifying your typical holiday behavior will help you achieve the goal. Some people are most successful at handling the holiday season by doing just this type of thing.
  • Some of my family’s best holiday celebrations have taken us off the beaten path food-wise, exercise-wise or both. We changed to a fresh turkey years ago (a huge improvement), homemade cranberries, and often times, an after dinner game of lightning. I’m always game to try something new with the knowledge that it’s going to be great: either a great success or a great disaster! But either way, a fun family story may come from it.
  • When reflecting on how you navigated the event, don’t compare this celebration to every other day of the year; compare it to last year’s celebration. What did you do last year in terms of your lifestyle, and in what ways is this year different? Chances are you’ll see plenty of differences. Maybe you re-worked your favorite holiday dish so it contains less calories or fat (but still tastes great), or maybe you had a slice of pie, but it was a smaller slice than usual. Did you sign up for a Turkey Trot or some other fun physical activity? Did you show up for dinner with a different recipe that reflects your commitment to a healthier life?
  • Your health coach is here to serve as your guide as you change your lifestyle. Your meetings this time of year should focus on your usual holiday patterns.

Let us know how it goes. Don’t let one mistake snowball. If you get off the rails, get back on the next day. We’re here to keep you going on your journey!

Planes, Trains, and Healthy Travel Food

By Take Control Staff

Eating healthy when traveling can be difficult for everyone. There are often unknowns and last minute changes, and we end up making poor choices based on limited options or being in a rush. The best way to avoid those pitfalls is to plan ahead. Planning your travel food can keep you from eating junk food, save you money, and will make travel more convenient.

We’ve put together some ideas to bring along, whether you’re in planes, trains, or automobiles.

Bring Along 

  • Water: Bring an empty water bottle on flights– after you pass security you’re free to fill it up at a drinking fountain or vendor in the terminal. Bring a full water bottle for car rides, trains, etc.
  • Fruit – anything that travels well: apples, bananas, grapes, or dried fruit
  • Pre-made sandwiches
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Seeds and nuts – add a little crunch to your snack
  • Pre-popped popcorn – cook it before you leave and have it ready to eat on the plane
  • Yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Any kind of nut butter – peanut butter, almond butter, etc. You can pre pack it in a smaller container or it buy single serving containers.
  • Pita chips and hummus
  • Pre-cut veggies
  • Energy bars – our health coaches like Lara Bar
  • Naturally sweetened sodas, like LaCroix
  • A cooler if you’re driving, to carry your healthy food
  • Towels or hand wipes to clean up


  • Review your itinerary before you leave, and find out if you have time to eat between flights
  • If you don’t have time to eat between flights, pack some of the bring along items above
  • If you have time to eat in the airport, check the airport web site beforehand and see what restaurant options are there. Check the restaurant menu if it’s posted to plan which healthy items they serve. Look for salads, grilled sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep healthy snacks in your carry-on in case your flights change and you don’t have time to eat.

Convenience Stores

  • Check the coolers in the back of the store for yogurt, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, raw carrots and hummus, and vegetable juice.
  • Look for fruit cups, a package of unsalted/ low salt nuts or sunflower seeds, string cheese, jerky, air-popped popcorn, soy crisps, individual box of whole-grain cereal, any fresh fruit or veggies.

Fast Food

Sometimes you get stuck. Look for:

  • Salads, but be careful with the dressing
  • Calorie listings – many fast food places now list calories on the menu – look for items that are 500 calories or less
  • Skip the soda, order water instead
  • If you’re at Subway, get 6” rather than 12” and look for their calorie listings. Use more vegetables and less spreads for toppings
  • Starbucks – they seem to be everywhere, and they have bistro boxes and wraps that are under 500 calories

What are your favorite tricks for healthy eating when you travel? Share in the comments below.

Managing Holiday Stress

By Shannon Jones, Take Control Health Coach

Some people are delighted and excited about the holiday season, and some feel pressure and a bit of dread with the work to be done to prepare for the holidays. Wherever you fall on the scale, most of us are susceptible to holiday stress. Here are some practical strategies that can help keep you from being overwhelmed this season:

  • Be Realistic. Keep expectations for the season realistic, set goals that are reasonable. Before beginning a task, make a list and prioritize the important activities.
  • Say No. Recognize your own limitations, and don’t over-do it. There is no need to be at every social gathering or to create the perfect social event. Choose activities that enhance your holidays and say no to those that do not.
  • Learn to Delegate the Holiday Chores. It is not necessary to try to do everything by yourself. Ask for help from others.
  • Don’t Overspend. Know your budget and stay within your spending limit. Budgeting and respecting your financial limitations will reduce stress in the long run. Challenge yourself to think of creative gifts that cost less – it can be a rewarding challenge!
  • Plan Down Time. Take a time out. After completing a holiday task, take time to relax and make sure to get enough rest.
  • Remember To Eat Healthy And Drink Plenty Of Water. Don’t skip meals. Often we end up eating poorly through the holidays, and in order to save calories, we sometimes forgo the food that nourishes us. Be mindful during this time of year and allow yourself some holiday treats. Maintaining a healthy diet will help support your immune system, reduce fatigue, and fight illness.
  • Maintain Some Sort Of Exercise Routine. Try to find some time to be physically active each day. Just 10 minutes can get the heart pumping and help relieve some stress. Schedule your exercise early in the day. During the holidays our days get busy with extra to-dos and social events later in the day.
  • Do What You Love. Identify the particular parts you love about the holidays and include those in your plans. Be sure to take care of yourself!

World Diabetes Day – Why Checking Your Blood Sugar is So Important

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN

November 14th is World Diabetes Day  – a campaign that draws awareness to the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. The number of people with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980. Prevalence is increasing worldwide, due in part to increases in the number of people who are overweight, and in a widespread lack of physical activity.

If you’re one of the many people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may begin a process of checking blood sugars. If this is the case, your doctor may go over a lot of information, including why you should check your blood sugar, and how often. This can be overwhelming, leading to forgetting what was said. Consider bringing someone with you to the appointment, or take notes.

Checking and understanding your blood sugar level is especially important for understanding what is happening in your body. Your blood sugar levels tell you how certain foods affect your blood sugar, how well your diabetes is being managed, if there is a problem, and whether or not your current treatment is working. This simple task of checking blood sugar provides a lot of valuable information, which is why it is so important.

Poorly managed diabetes can lead to problems with your feet, hands, kidneys and eyes. Uncontrolled diabetes also increases your risk for heart disease. This is why the one action of checking your blood sugar can help provide you with the information to manage your diabetes successfully.

Here are five tips to follow to develop good habits with checking blood sugar levels and maintaining good diabetes self-care:

  1. Talk to a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) – they are a great resource for answering questions, teaching you how to check blood sugars, and helping navigate the overall diabetes care process. All hospitals and clinics have CDE’s on staff, as does Take Control.
  1. Create a Habit. Set alarms, place sticky notes, whatever you need to do to remember to check your blood sugar. Some people only need to check 1-2 times daily, while others may need to it check more often, such as 4-6 times per day. Whatever your doctor recommends will be based on your medications, and overall care plan. Regardless of how often you check, remember to make it a priority.
  1. Track Your Numbers. Keep a notebook, spreadsheet, app, or other form of tracking accessible to track your numbers. People who are diligent about tracking are able to modify their approach with diet and lifestyle, as well as medication if needed to ensure good control.
  1. Use Good Procedure. Rotate your testing sites and use good technique. Instead of poking the same finger in the same spot, use different fingers. Line up on the side of the finger versus the fingertip – there are less nerve endings in the side, which causes discomfort. Rotate the site to prevent less development of scar tissue, which can occur from frequent pokes in the same spot. By using the right technique you can lessen the pain and fear of checking blood sugar levels.
  1. Build a Supportive Network. Include your doctor, CDE, family, and whomever else can help you stay accountable and on track. Having diabetes is not easy, but having people to support you makes the challenges easier.

In the end, choose the methods that work for you, and you will find more success overall. If you are unsure about whether or not you should be checking your blood sugar level at all, then discuss it with your doctor. They will be able to re-evaluate your needs and help you make adjustments to your care plan as needed.



The Great American Smokeout

By Julie Walker, Take Control Staff

Are you ready to quit smoking or using tobacco? November 16th is the Great American Smokeout, and we encourage you to use that date to make a plan to quit. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. Quitting smoking has immediate short and long term benefits at any age.

Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help. Programs like ours, along with counseling or medications, can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully.

Within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body begins to recover. From as early as 20 minutes, to up to 15 years later, your body heals. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops, your circulation improves and lung function increases, coughing and shortness of breath decreases. Your risk of heart disease and heart attack drops significantly. Your cancer risk decreases.

Right away, you’ll notice that food tastes better, your sense of smell returns to normal, your breath, hair, and clothes smell better, your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing, and activities leave you less out of breath. Long term, you’ll also see improvements in how you look, including premature wrinkling of your skin, gum disease, and tooth loss.

You know the benefits of quitting, so now how do you do it?

  1. Decide to quit, and make a plan. Set a date. Decide how you want to quit – will you use go cold turkey, gradual withdrawal, nicotine replacement, prescription drugs, and/or try some alternative therapies such as hypnosis, acupuncture, etc.
  1. Prepare for your quit day. Mark the date on your calendar, tell family and friends and set up a support system, get rid of cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and work. Stock up on gum, carrots, hard candy, or other oral substitutes. Practice saying “no thank you, I don’t smoke.” Ask family and friends who still smoke not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out. If you plan to use prescription drugs, pick them up before your quit date. Think about any past attempts to quit, and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Make a list of things you can do to stay busy.
  1. On your quit day. Do not smoke, not even one puff. Stay busy, use your list to go walking, hiking, activities, hobbies – things that don’t trigger you. Drink lots of water. If they are part of your plan, start using nicotine replacement or prescriptions. Attend a stop-smoking class, or follow your self-help plan. Avoid situations where the temptation or risk to smoke is strong, including avoiding people who smoke. Drink less alcohol, or completely avoid it. Think about how you can change your routine – use a different route to work, drink tea instead of coffee, eat meals in different places, or eat different foods.
  1. Fight the urge. Be prepared to feel the urge to smoke, it will pass whether you smoke or not. Use the 4 D’s to help fight the urge: DELAY for 10 minutes. Repeat if needed. DEEP BREATHE – close your eyes, slowly breathe in through your nose and out your mouth. Picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. DRINK WATER – slowly, sip by sip. DO SOMETHING ELSE – some activities trigger cravings, do something that doesn’t. Get up and move around.
  1. Celebrate small victories. Post about it on social media, and your friends will encourage you. Reward yourself with something you enjoy. Use an app such as Smoke Free to calculate how much money you’ve saved so far. Set a goal to reward yourself with something after you’ve saved a certain amount of money. Schedule a wellness exam to have medical results showing your health improvements in blood pressure and heart rate. Be kind to yourself and admire your strength.

We hope you choose this year to quit – let us know if we can help!



How to Healthfully Navigate Back-to-Back Holidays

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, and Katie Delaney, RD, Take Control Health Coaches

The holiday season is fast approaching, which may lead to overindulging on holiday treats, and challenge your health-related goals. Instead of veering off course, we challenge you to implement some or all of the 10 tips below to navigate the season a little easier, and stay on track.

Tip #1: Don’t deprive yourself with impossible restrictions around holiday foods. Instead be smart and focus on fueling your body with good foods through the holiday season while still allowing some of your favorites. Swearing off foods usually spells disaster, so instead, make a list of the foods you look forward to every season and plan for them.

Tip #2: Come prepared. While we all have traditional dishes we make, try adding in a few healthier side dishes to bring to a party or at your home. That way you can embrace tradition and your health goals in a great way that all your friends and family can enjoy as well.

Tip #3: Beat temptation by eating a protein-rich snack prior to a party. Focus on filling up your plate with fruits and vegetables, and analyze the rest of the options. This goes back to not depriving yourself, but finding balance. If you find one of the foods on your favorites list, go for it! Then enjoy some healthier options to help you stay on track.

Tip #4: Set realistic weight goals. If you set monthly weight loss goals, consider setting a goal of simply maintaining your current weight during the holiday season. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment for the majority of us. Or, try reducing your weekly or monthly weight loss goal to help you feel on track without setting yourself up for failure. We all want to meet our goals, but we also want to acknowledge the ebb and flow of life, which helps us create healthy and sustainable change.

Tip #5: Find fun and unique ways to stay active through the winter months. For example, use things in your environment like chairs, soup cans, or other household items to create a home gym for cold, snowy days. Focus on 10 minutes a day to keep your habit going.

Tip #6: Celebrate yourself and what you have accomplished each month, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Holiday season often brings stress, fatigue and “winter blues.” Make sure you hydrate, rest, and practice stress management to keep yourself healthy through the cold season.

Tip #7: Don’t skip meals. If you find yourself saving up for a big holiday meal by skipping all other meals for the day, you will likely overeat in the end. Instead, focus on eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours during the day, like a usual day.

Tip #8: Be cautious with liquid calories. From eggnog, hot chocolate, to your favorite rum toddy, holiday beverage treats should be thought of as just that, a treat. Do not deny yourself, however, be mindful, even though it is liquid, it still has calories. If you are going to fill up on a holiday drink, cut back on holiday desserts.

Tip #9: Take the focus off food. Instead of making cookies and other holiday treats, plan to make or create holiday crafts with family and friends. Or how about volunteering at a local organization to help them prepare holiday gifts for those in need? Some families like to create holiday memories with family skiing or sledding, ice skating, or other active events.

Tip #10: Practice healthy holiday cooking and treats. Prepare your favorite holiday dishes with these healthy suggestions:

  • Pumpkin: not only for carving, but a great option to use as a substitute for fat when baking or cooking. Use canned or pie pumpkins, not field pumpkins. Save the pumpkin seeds and roast for a nice snack.
  • Baked apples: instead of the usual chocolate treats, try baking some apple slices.
  • Gravy redux: refrigerate gravy until hard, and skim off the fat. This could save you up to 56 grams of fat per cup!
  • Turkey: remove the skin to save about 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving.
  • Green bean casserole: use fresh beans or frozen (not canned) and add chunks of potato instead of cream soup, top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
  • Mashed potatoes: use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic and garlic powder along with parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
  • Quick Holiday Nog: four bananas, 1 ½ cups skim milk or soymilk, 1 ½ cups plain nonfat yogurt (could use Greek), ¼ teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth, top with nutmeg.
  • Desserts: Make crustless pies, substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Intuitive Eating

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Have you heard of intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is essentially what we learn as babies and children: eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are full. It’s listening to your body’s internal cues, and knowing what to feed your body.

Intuitive eating is an important part of leading a balanced lifestyle. Being able to eat what your body needs, and not too much or too little, is a huge accomplishment. Learning to do this after dieting is hard, but not impossible.

Anyone can try intuitive eating, as long as you understand that it may take time to learn your body’s signals. It isn’t eat anything, in large quantities until sick. It is allowing yourself to live without food rules, and focused on eating to feel your best. It is trusting your instincts, without rules, restrictions, or guidelines to tell you what you can or can’t eat. For many of us this is a foreign concept, and somewhat scary. We have learned so many food rules over our lives, and we’ve learned to restrict our eating.

If intuitive eating is something you wish to try, here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Practice asking yourself what you are hungry for. By thinking more about your food choices, you start to see what you truly want. Sometimes that may be a salad, and sometimes that may be a cookie. With intuitive eating, both of those things fit and are included in a balanced lifestyle.
  1. Practice recognizing fullness. Set the timer, or work to extend your meal for at least 20 minutes. Focus on eating and enjoying the meal you have in front of you. Turn off distractions like the TV, and put away your phone. By focusing on your meal, you can truly tune into hunger and fullness more easily.
  1. Practice eating a food you don’t normally allow yourself to eat. Work on having a healthier relationship with whatever food that is. For a lot of people it’s a carbohydrate like bread. When we demonize a food, we make it more tempting, and feel guilty if we eat it. By finding ways to incorporate food you enjoy in a healthy way, you will end up eating less. When it is no longer a food you have to give up, you are no longer obsessed with it. It simply exists as part of your life.
  1. Be patient. Just like any skill or habit, we have to repeatedly work at it.

If you think you may be ready to try intuitive eating, mention it to your health coach, or check out the resources available at  It’s a tool that can help you work toward creating a healthier relationship with food.

Why to Connect with a Personal Trainer

By Laura Del Guerra, RD, CDE, Take Control Health Coach

A few years ago, I found myself struggling to follow through on my intentions to eat right and exercise regularly. I was promising myself “You’ll start next week.” Then next week would come and I would continue down the same road. I weighed more than I wanted to, was out of shape, and had signed up for a week long kayaking school that I was truly unprepared for.

Realizing changing on my own would not be possible, I called the gym where I had an unused membership, and inquired about hiring a personal trainer. I will be the first to admit, this was FAR outside my comfort zone. First, I was intimidated by the idea of going to a gym, and second, I was afraid to somewhat publicly reveal my physical vulnerabilities. However, I faced my fears and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I started working with a personal trainer twice a week, and over the course of the year, the change was fairly dramatic. The first thing I noticed is how much better I moved through space. I was more flexible, my balance improved, sitting and standing were easy. I went from minimal exercise, to doing something every day and looking forward to it! I put a ton of miles on my mountain bike, hiking shoes, paddle board, and kayak.

Not only did I achieve many personal goals over time, I gained a new perspective on going to a gym and working with a trainer. I sat down with my trainer, Cole, to interview him about the benefits and misconceptions about working with a trainer.

When is a good time to hire a personal trainer?

There are several ‘good’ times:

  • When the goals you have set aren’t being attained
  • If you are using the gym and have no idea what to do for an exercise routine
  • If you just joined the gym but are not going
  • You are already fit but want to know what to do to get to the next level of fitness

What should I expect at my first meeting with a trainer?

This is a time to get to meet and begin to form a relationship. You will be asked to fill out a health history. This will provide your trainer with information on injuries, smoking history, any chronic health conditions and other important medical information. Be prepared to discuss your goals. What do you want out of this relationship? What has kept you from achieving your physical activity goals in the past? You will also do several assessments including flexibility, aerobic testing, core strength, and mobility testing.

As a trainer how do you decide which exercises will be right?

I look at what my client’s goal is. For example, Laura’s goal was to be a competent whitewater kayaker, so our focus was increasing core strength, shoulder mobility, and back strength. In addition, we focused on overall mobility, as this is something that decreases with age.

What do you tell people who say: “I don’t like gyms because everyone is so judgmental.”

Many people are not comfortable in gyms. I work to take these people into a place that is out of the way and less populated than the main part of the gym. Over time we slowly move out to more populated areas. During these times, I train them on how to safely use different pieces of equipment. I also work to ensure I do not push someone past their level of fitness.

How do you respond when people ask you if they can do the same exercises at home without a personal trainer?

This is a very individualized question and depends the person’s individual preference and needs. The answer is a question of how much do I want to rely on my trainer. Overall, the biggest thing is that people continue to exercise when they are not with their personal trainer. For some clients a training session once a week is adequate and they have a plan for exercise on other days of the week. For clients who travel extensively, for example, we build their routine around hotel gyms. And finally, some people rely heavily on their trainers meeting with them several times a week and do not want to think about exercise outside the gym.

Are all Personal Trainers the same? How do I choose one?

Trainers are as individual as the people they train. Every trainer has a different style. Because you’ll be spending time regularly with this individual, it is important that first and foremost you like your trainer. If not, you won’t be motivated to go to the gym and meeting your goals will be much harder. If you’re compatible, the next thing to look at is the trainer’s background. Ask the gym what they require of the trainers they hire. What education do they have? Do they hold a college degree? If so, in what field? What type of certifications do they hold? Not all certifications are equal. Look for trainers who are certified and hold credentials from ACSM, NSCA, and NASM. All of these things will help you pick the trainer best suited for you.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Personal Trainers?

Personal trainers are notoriously misinterpreted, especially regarding education and training. However, once you start looking into their background, you’ll typically find they know more than you think they would. Many don’t realize trainers are certified nationally or that continuing education is a requirement.

So if you’ve been thinking about working with a trainer, I highly encourage you to do so. It has been a life-changing experience for me, to finally achieve some physical goals that eluded me for years. Not only that, but I’ve acquired a new perspective about going to a gym, and I’m no longer afraid! Feel free to contact me or your health coach directly if you’d like more information about how a personal trainer could work for you.


Lighten Up Your Comfort Foods This Winter

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Fall and winter are wonderful seasons, and cooler weather brings out our craving for comfort foods. But comfort foods can be heavy, and combined with our tendency to be less active, the danger arises for winter weight gain.

Instead of giving up your favorite comfort foods, try modifying your traditional recipes to reduce the calories. It’s a great way to still enjoy your favorite foods without risking weight gain. Make some slight alterations to lighten it up and try something new.

Try these six tips to lighten up your current recipes:

  1. Cook broth-based soup instead of cream-based soup. Or substitute broth for part of the cream in certain recipes.
  1. Use pureed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. This works great on dishes like Shepard’s pie.
  1. Substitute skim or 1% milk in place of whole milk or cream.
  1. Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Great for Mexican dishes, like enchiladas, or tacos. It adds more protein and less fat to the dish.
  1. Add extra veggies to soup and other dishes. Pureed cauliflower in potato soup; diced zucchini, carrots, peppers in chili; add green beans to your stew.
  1. Try pureed veggies to thicken soups instead of heavy cream. Pureed cauliflower in place of heavy cream is one way to thicken a soup and keep it lighter, but still feel hearty.

In you’re not interested in changing your recipe, then simply focus on portion size. Pair your classic dishes with a plate of raw veggies, or start your meals with a side salad. By being mindful of portion size, you can achieve your health goals. Serving size for a casserole or combination dish should be around 1 cup to start. If you are still hungry after having one serving plus veggies, then go back for ½ cup or less. By taking your time, you can really assess your hunger and prevent overeating.

Another way to enjoy comfort foods in the winter is to add one new recipe a month, or every other week, to create more options and ideas. There are a ton of great recipes out there that are both lighter, and comforting.

In addition to altering your old recipes, and trying new recipes, make a commitment to move more! We often let colder weather keep us from being active, so make a plan to stay active. This will help combat winter or holiday weight gain.

Need some meal inspiration or lighter recipes? This article from Cooking Light has some great ideas.