Posts Tagged ‘goals’

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!

Cauliflower: The Vegetable Hater’s Vegetable

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

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

For those of you who don’t like vegetables, consider giving cauliflower a chance. Cauliflower can take on the flavor of anything you pair it with, and it can be used in ways where you don’t even know it’s there. Cauliflower is a great source of nutrients, including vitamin C, K, thiamine, fiber, folate, and potassium. Besides the nutrition value, cauliflower adds volume to your meal, which helps you feel full longer. And, it is low in calories.

Cauliflower is trending popular right now, particularly with people who are trying to find ways to lower carbohydrates, increase vegetables, or find healthier alternatives to their favorite recipes. But if you haven’t tried cauliflower besides the usual steamed method, you might be in for a big surprise with what this versatile vegetable can do.

Below are some really great alternatives to preparing cauliflower that may be a great addition to your weekly menu.

  • Riced Cauliflower. This is probably one of my favorite ways to use cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and put it through your food processor. Different blades make different shapes. If you don’t have a food processor, you can also put the florets into a durable plastic bag and pound it with a mallet. Cook any way you normally cook rice: steam it, boil it, stir-fry it, etc. It takes less time to cook than real rice. Riced cauliflower has a similar texture to real rice, and honestly doesn’t feel like you are missing out. It works great for taco bowls, stir-fry, or fried rice! You can even add riced cauliflower to your oatmeal for added fiber, volume, and veggies with your meal.
  • Mashed Cauliflower. A great alternative to our typical heavy mashed potatoes. Steam the cauliflower with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Once cooked, place in the food processor or blender to create a smooth consistency. Add roasted garlic if that’s how you love your mashed potatoes.
  • Roasted Cauliflower Florets or Cauliflower Steak. Roasting cauliflower creates a different flavor, because it caramelizes. It’s a big improvement from plain old steamed cauliflower. Check out All for a great recipe for roasted cauliflower steaks.
  • In a Smoothie or Soup. You may be thinking, a smoothie? Gross. But honestly, you don’t notice half the things you put in a smoothie when it is paired with sweet fruits and other ingredients like peanut butter. Plus, it adds extra fiber and veggies to your diet without a lot of work. Cook cauliflower the usual ways – steam, boil, microwave, and then add it to a food processor or blender to puree it. You can add pureed cauliflower to soup recipes – for example, add it to a potato soup recipe for thicker, heartier soup.

If you still aren’t convinced about eating cauliflower, then try half and half. Half regular rice and half cauliflower rice. Or half regular mashed potatoes and half mashed cauliflower next time. It makes for an easy compromise, while still adding great nutrients to your dish!

Do you have a favorite cauliflower recipe? Share it in the comments below.

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.


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.


September Start-Over Strategies

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN

Do you feel like you fell off track? Well, you are not alone. Many of us go through phases of motivation, from feeling on track, to unmotivated and completely off track. So how do you start-over?

First, let’s not think of it as starting over so much as it is re-evaluating where we are going. Every time we fall off track, we can learn something from it. So we are always moving forward in some way, by learning something new, or with progress toward our goals. It’s a much more positive way to look at things. The more positive you are, the more likely you are to keep yourself moving forward.

However, if you do find yourself in a place where you are “starting over” then here are a few ideas to help you get back on track.


Write new goals. Choose 2-3 things that you can realistically achieve in the next 4 weeks. Make it a SMART goal: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed

Example: I will go to the gym 3 times per week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for 30 minutes at a time.

Partner Up

Connect with a friend, family member, co-worker, or gym member — a workout buddy or accountability partner can create new motivation to tackle your goals and stay on track. Plus, it can be more fun with a friend!

Go Shopping

Buy yourself a new workout outfit or water bottle to track your water intake. Sometimes making ourselves a priority by doing something nice can reinvigorate our motivation and reason why. And when you feel good, you are more motivated to stick with it.


Clutter can cause a lot of stress and distraction. When you take some time to declutter your office, bedroom, or workout space, it can bring you a sense of relief and calmness. Reduced stress makes it easier to tackle a new task or goal.


Be intentional with your week. Start each week by writing your intentions, what you want to accomplish as a whole. Not just your specific goals, but thinking about your personal and professional needs as well.


Be realistic and patient. Don’t expect results 24 hours after you start. With patience you will see results, and you don’t have to be perfect to achieve them. The moment you stop expecting perfection, will be the moment you see the biggest change in your journey.

Use any one of these ideas, and you can find yourself back on track, and in a positive place moving forward. The biggest challenge will be taking the first steps. But ultimately, whatever start-over strategy you choose will be up to you. Just remember that you are capable, and it is never too late to make a change or get started.


Remodeling the Tailgate

By Take Control Staff

Fall is in the air, and for a lot of people, that means football season. With football comes tailgate parties, and the food served at these parties is often the type that doesn’t fit will with your health goals. We’ve put together three suggestions to help stay on track with your goals. These “3 P’s” will show you how to both take part in the fun and still maintain your healthy goals.


If you’re hosting the party, look at your usual menu beforehand. Can you substitute wild game for beef? Grilled chicken for fried? If chips are a mainstay, try swapping the usual suspects for baked versions or vegetable chips. Take advantage of serving local produce widely available in the fall: apples, cantaloupe, and tons of veggies are available, often times fresh from your own garden. Cut up fruit and vegetables ahead of time so you don’t get rushed and settle for less healthy foods.


If you’re attending a party that someone else is hosting, eat a healthy meal before you go. If it’s a potluck, bring a healthy dish that fits your goals. Try the recipes below, or ask your health coach for some great suggestions. You can prepare and bring healthy finger foods to share. Fill up on healthy finger foods to help reduce portions on less healthier items. If you’re hosting, keep in mind that table placement plays a big role in how much we consume. Put fruits and vegetables front and center (and refill often) to increase their consumption. Place higher calorie foods in a more difficult location to naturally curb intake. (Few people want to reach around 5 people to get the Cheetos!) Early fall games can be particularly hot, so be sure to have plenty of liquids on hand, like water, iced tea, or diet soda.


Don’t “save” all of your calories for the game. Start your day off right with a nutritious, filling breakfast. If you are a guest at a tailgate party, step back from the food and look over everything before filling your plate. This will help you to decide what foods you really want to have. Take only those you will enjoy the most, filling your plate just one time. Try half portions or sharing with a friend or family members. Balance is the key. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. All foods can fit into your nutrition plan if you make sensible choices all day long. For tips on how to reduce alcohol consumption, check out our prior post 10 Ways to Reduce Your Alcohol Intake


Boneless Buffalo Wings

Spicy Blue Cheese Dip

  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream                 • 2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar           • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whisk sour cream, blue cheese, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wings & Vegetables

  • 3 Tbsp. nonfat buttermilk, (see Tip)            • 3 Tbsp. hot sauce divided
  • 3 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar, divided       • 2 Lbs. chicken tenders
  • 6 Tbsp. whole-wheat flour                          • 6 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper                             • 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 2 cups carrot sticks                                     • 2 cups celery sticks

Whisk buttermilk, 2 tbsp. hot sauce, and 2 tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl until combined. Add chicken; toss to coat. Transfer to refrigerator and marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish. Whisk remaining 1 tbsp. hot sauce and 1 tbsp. vinegar in a small bowl; set aside. Remove chicken from marinade and roll in flour mixture until evenly coated. (Discard remaining marinade and flour mixture.) Sprinkle both sides of chicken with 1/2 tsp. cayenne. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half chicken, placing each piece in a little oil. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter. Repeat with remaining 1 tbsp. oil and chicken, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Transfer to the platter. Drizzle the chicken with the reserved hot sauce mixture. Serve with carrots, celery and Spicy Blue Cheese Dip.

 Nutrition- Serving-2 “wings”, 1/2 cup vegetables & 2 tbsp. dip = 256 Calories; 10 g Fat; 4 g Sat; 4 g Mono; 83 mg Cholesterol; 12 g Carbohydrates; 31 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 353 mg Sodium; 248 mg Potassium   (1 Carbohydrate Serving Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 1/2 lean meat)

*Tip-No buttermilk? Make “sour milk”: mix 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk.

Easy No-Cook Lunches, AKA the “Adult Lunchable”

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

Packing a lunch is a great way to stay on track with your health goals. Sometimes it’s hard to get ideas for what to pack. Some office environments have limited kitchen resources, or you have limited time to cook.

Try no-cook lunches, or what I like to call “Adult Lunchables.” These are also referred to as Bento Box lunches. You’ve likely seen pre-made kid’s Lunchables at the supermarket – boxes of crackers, cheese, meat, etc. This is a healthy twist on that idea. The varieties are endless — you can pack anything you like, from the classic crackers, meat, and cheese, to more complex combinations with wraps or salads.

Adult Lunchables are both easy to put together, and easy to eat. Preparation is fairly simple — keep some go-to options on hand. I’ve put together some ideas in categories. If you pick an item from each category, it will help you create a balanced meal. The goal is to make it simple, but add variety without overwhelming ourselves.

For example, I put together a lunch with the following: 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries, 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, and 1 cup of raw veggies. That combination includes protein from the yogurt, carbohydrates from the berries and veggies, and fat from the peanut butter. You can certainly add or subtract items and amounts to make sure you eat enough calories for your body.



  • Greek yogurt – ½ to 1 cup
  • Cottage cheese – ½ to 1 cup
  • Hard boiled eggs – 1 to 2 eggs
  • Canned Tuna or Chicken: one tin or pouch
  • Deli slices: 3 ounces, look for nitrate and nitrite-free options
  • Leftover grilled chicken or other protein: 3-4 ounces
  • Edamame: 1 cup
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup


  • Whole grain crackers: for example Triscuits (6-8 crackers) or a single serving based on the box of crackers you choose
  • Whole wheat tortilla: 8 inch in diameter, or look for high fiber options
  • Whole wheat pita
  • Serving of fruit: apple, banana, grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes), berries (1 cup of any variety), kiwi, orange, 2 cuties or mandarin oranges
  • Unlimited vegetables: carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers, salad greens


  • Individually portioned nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, or keep a tablespoon with your designated jar and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Servings of nuts: pistachios (40 nuts), almonds (23 almonds), cashews (16-18 nuts)
  • Avocado: ¼ to ½ of fruit
  • String cheese, or 1 ounce of cheese
  • Guacamole: 2 tablespoons
  • Olives: 10-12 small to medium sized olives of any variety.
  • Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Salad dressing: 1-2 tablespoons
  • Hummus: 1-2 tablespoons

Below is a sample week with some combinations I put together to create a balanced lunch. This may also give you some ideas to build your own “Lunchable:”

6-8 Triscuits
3 ounces of deli slices
1 string cheese or sliced cheese
1 cup berries
Carrot sticks
1-2 tablespoon hummus

1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon almond butter
Cucumber slices
2 tbsp. hummus

Whole wheat tortilla
Lettuce or other salad green
Sliced cucumber, bell peppers, onion
½ of a ripe avocado
1 tbsp. hummus
Small apple or orange

Whole grain crackers
Chicken salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
¼ of an avocado
Celery and carrot sticks
Serving of grapes

Whole Wheat Pita
Tuna salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
Sliced cucumbers
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter

Two hardboiled eggs
Grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes)
String cheese
1 cup Veggies sticks
2 tablespoons hummus

If you want something complex, especially with the summer weather, then prep ahead a veggie-rich pasta salad with healthy fats like avocado. You can also prep fresh fruits salads at the beginning of the week to accompany your lunch and save time.

For additional ideas and inspiration check out 25 Healthy and Photo-Worthy Bento Box Lunch Ideas from

What great lunches did you put together? Let us know in the comments below.


Sneaking In Veggies

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

Many people don’t love vegetables. Of course we’d love it if everyone wanted to eat vegetables, but it’s hard to change your lifestyle for the long term if you’re doing things you don’t like. As health coaches and dietitians, we often encounter clients who are afraid that we are going to tell them they have to eat vegetables. We try to help people make small changes that are sustainable, and that don’t feel like punishment. There is no reason to force yourself to eat food you hate for a short while – because in the long term, you’ll just give up on the journey.

In order to help you find long-term solutions that you can stick with, we’ve put together some ideas to sneak vegetables into your meals, in ways that may work for you.

  • Smoothies. Add spinach, kale, zucchini, cucumber, beets, or any other vegetable to your smoothie. Pair with fruit, and you’ll have a hard time noticing the vegetables. A good combination is banana, berries, and spinach. For more smoothie recipes, check out our previous post “How to Build a Better Smoothie”.
  • Oatmeal. Add shredded zucchini or carrots to oatmeal. Zucchini works well because it is very mild in flavor and hard to notice. It also adds a lot of volume to food for little calories. Try shredded zucchini or carrots, walnuts, and cinnamon. Cauliflower crumbles is another option for volume and extra fiber.
  • Sauces. Add pureed vegetables to sauces, and you’ll never know they’re in there. For example, here is a great recipe on Food Network where butternut squash is added to macaroni and cheese.  You can add pureed squash, beets, or peppers to spaghetti sauce. Pureed cauliflower in a light Alfredo sauce works well. Add shredded vegetables for even more substance. Since these sauces already have strong flavor, you don’t notice the vegetables but still get the benefit.
  • Roasting. Sometimes something as simple as cooking vegetables a new way changes how you feel about them. Roasting vegetables is a fantastic way to start. Roasted vegetables taste quite a bit different from raw or steamed. This article from has great information about how to roast vegetables, including a chart of roasting times.
  • Mashed or “Riced”. One of the new crazes in cooking is mashing and ricing vegetables. Cauliflower is a favorite for ricing. Cut a head of cauliflower into small pieces and run it through your food processor. Then just heat it on the stop in a wok or frying pan. When you add sauces and seasonings, it closely mimics white rice. You can also add riced cauliflower to mashed potatoes – it creates more volume, and reduces the overall calories. Mashed sweet potatoes are delicious, and as mentioned above, mashed butternut squash can be added to macaroni and cheese, or other dishes.
  • Soup. Adding vegetables to soups is a great way to increase your vegetable intake. You can keep frozen vegetables in the freezer and add to canned or homemade soups when you heat them. Using vegetables in soups can completely change the taste of the vegetables. As they cook, they take on the flavor of the seasonings in the soup. Butternut squash soup with Indian spices is a great example. Mushroom soup, tomato soup, cauliflower soup – there is a soup for almost every vegetable. Vegetable soup combines many. Find some recipes that sound great and make a batch for lunches during the work week.
  • Seasonings and Spices. Experiment with different seasonings and spices to give your vegetables a new twist. Try citrus, such as lemon, orange or lime zest. Here is a great chart from for suggestions for each vegetable. Spices, herbs, and seasonings can make a huge difference in how vegetables taste.
  • Give it Another Chance. Be open to trying vegetables that you haven’t had since you were a kid. Taste buds change over time, in fact we lose taste buds, so our taste preferences also change. Things that once tasted bitter or bad may now taste great. When you give vegetables a second chance, you can discover more options, or you can confirm that you still in fact do not enjoy that vegetable.
  • Be Adventurous. Challenge yourself to try new vegetables. When you’re in the grocery store, buy something you haven’t had before. Look up a recipe or preparation method, and give it a try. You might be surprised by the options and foods you may not have known you liked.

In the end, stick with vegetables you enjoy, make them your staples. But keep these ideas in mind as a way to expand your vegetable intake. Your good health is not defined by how much kale you eat! Make good choices, but make sure they are choices that work for the long term to help you reach your health and wellness goals.

IN CONTROL — Person of the Month: Marlena S.

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

Marlena was persistent despite a lot of things that were thrown her way. She was always positive, and had a great mindset. Marlena didn’t let the tough times bring her down, instead she pushed past them.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? After age 30, I developed thyroid-related health issues that caused severe weight gain. Nothing I did to lose weight worked. This went on for over six years. Then a co-worker told me how successful she had been with Take Control, and encouraged me to at least look into it. Trust me, I was not convinced. Because no matter what success story I heard from someone else, if I tried it, it didn’t work. And we all know how depressing and discouraging that can be. After I found out there was no cost to me to join Take Control, I realized I had nothing to lose, and at least I could say I tried again.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Even though I am generally a very positive person, severe weight gain takes an emotional toll. The excessive weight affected me physically, emotionally, mentally, and even socially. I stayed away from people because I didn’t want to be seen. I wanted to make changes because I wanted to feel healthy, more energetic, and happy. I wanted to get in better shape, increase my energy level, and enjoy the things I used to, like hiking, fishing, cliff diving, rock climbing, and camping. Things I used to do, but had literally become breath taking. I have two teenage boys, and I wanted to be able to go have fun with them again without being in pain afterward.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started?  The biggest challenges were severe health issues that resulted in multiple surgeries. Being a single mom of two teenage boys has been challenging, because I don’t want to burden them with my health issues. My biggest accomplishments were staying positive, disassociating from a lot of the toxic people who were in my life, and meeting a lot of new, wonderful people. I have lost a lot of weight. I went from a size 22-24 pant size to a 14. I can now go hiking, walking, climbing, and hunting; and I hang out with my kids and friends. I am not nearly as depressed as I was. I am much more energetic and happy. I feel like I look like my normal self again.

What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? My biggest obstacle was staying positive — not just for myself, but for my children as well. I had a hard time making myself exercise. So I set appointments on my calendar to walk until it became a habit. I struggled with accepting things I couldn’t control. I overcame that by coping with things that were out of my control, and focusing on changing the things that I could control. I like to laugh, play, and spend time with the people I love. I want to be a good example for others who are going through difficulties.

What did you do to stay motivated?  The phone calls from Alicia kept me motivated. I know at times she may not have been sure of exactly what to say, but she always came up with something encouraging despite the situation. She was always very punctual and easy to talk to, and had suggestions to help me stay on track. I used a web site to keep track of my wellness plan, and used the additional education resources. I found that the more involved I became with different activities, the more motivated I became. The additional benefits really motivated me as well.

 What have you gained through this process? I have gained a friend, self-confidence, and self-worth. Take Control has helped me to not only set feasible goals, but also follow through with completing them. Which has helped me in all aspects of life.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? I can see my toes without having to squat! I feel better, my skin is clearer, and I can find nice clothes to wear at any store. I am more active and ready to just go, it is no longer this long debate with myself about the pros and cons. I don’t look in the mirror and nitpick about my clothes and how they fit, or if I’m fat. I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was when I was a teenager.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? My advice is that no matter what you have tried that has failed, never give up. You are the only one who can really make a difference. You have to take the first step to start the process, and you will not regret it. If it is easy, then you may be doing it wrong, or it isn’t worth doing. When it is hard to do, it is usually working, it is worth doing, and you will see results. Follow the instructions and suggestions, set up reminders and calendars so you don’t forget to do the things you want. Remember that there is no such thing as fast changes. I have been in the program for a year, and I am still working on it. My favorite quote is: “Live like you’ll die tomorrow, act like you’ll live forever.” Have fun, don’t judge others, and treat others the way you want to be treated. (Not the way they treat you.) Life can be short, so make sure you let the good people in your life know how much they mean to you, and let the bad ones go. Remember only you can change you, and you cannot change others. Don’t worry about what other people think of you, they don’t know what you are going through. If anything, feel sorry for them and treat them with love and kindness. Misery loves company, and there is usually a hidden reason behind their actions. Don’t expect people to make a difference in your life, work to make a difference in theirs.


  • Weight loss of 63 lbs., and has continued to lose weight since completing the program
  • Besides weight loss, she is a great example of being persistent and never giving up
  • Maintained a positive attitude
  • Disassociated from toxic people
  • Dropped five pant sizes
  • Can now do activities she previously could not
  • Decrease in bouts of depression
  • Much more energetic and happy



IN CONTROL – Person of the Month: Bill S.

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Bill was smart with how he used the Take Control program. He saw it as an opportunity — a vehicle to get him moving in the right direction — despite his challenges with back pain. Rather than focusing on the numbers, he really had his heart set on the ability to get out and hunt.

Bill worked diligently at his own pace. He recognized that he needed to begin farther back than he’d hoped, but he didn’t beat himself up about it. He just recognized it, worked at it, and gradually saw improvement.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? I honestly joined on a bit of a whim. Shortly after my first health screening in 2015, I got a friendly phone call from Take Control folks telling me that I qualified for the program and asking me whether I wanted to participate. At that moment my answer could have gone either way, but the friendly voice and no-downside approach influenced me to say, “sure, why not.” I’m very glad I did.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Years of “driving a desk for a living” and a series of painful lower back injuries had left me in neglectful shape. High cholesterol runs in the family, and I knew on some level that it was something that I would eventually have to watch. My 2015 health screening revealed my total cholesterol to be at a scary 290. I was well on my way to heart-attack territory, and I was only 35. That was one of those wake-up calls that concentrates the mind. I began thinking about the many things that I liked doing and still wanted to accomplish in life. At the top of the list was home ownership (and all the physical demands that entails), backpacking, fishing, and hunting trips. My wife and I were even discussing becoming parents, and the thought of not being there to raise my (at the time) hypothetical kid was sobering, as well.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started? What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? The biggest challenge of getting started was simply getting started. Inertia is a very real thing, and deep-worn physical and mental ruts are tough to break. Beyond that, my always present, usually mild, occasionally debilitating back pain made it hard to progress in any real exercise program. My back was in such bad shape at times that even mild physical activity could send me to the local urgent care, writhing in pain and in need of medication to function on even a basic level. At the beginning of the program, setbacks were the norm, and this reoccurring injury made it feel like I was never going to be able to progress. This project felt like fighting a war on multiple fronts, and setbacks in one area would cause setbacks in another. “Exercise” presented itself as a goal, a solution, an obstacle, and something that could actually harm me from time to time, if that makes any sense. In any case, I felt stuck. Cole, my Take Control coach at the time, helped me realized that I needed to start WAY back at the beginning — physical therapy — in order to push the reset button. Slowly, painfully began the non-linear process of repairing my lower back so that I could begin very mild exercise and gradually progress from there. Progress was slow and arduous at times, but I eventually began to win back mobility, strength, endurance and confidence.

What did you do to stay motivated? There were definitely times that I wanted to give up — especially at the beginning. It’s a rotten feeling to know that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, following all the experts’ advice, seeing tiny bits of progress, and then having everything fall apart and the lower back pain return. And when it did, I had to stop everything, literally lay on the floor, put my feet up on a chair or couch, and stare at the ceiling for hours or days on end. During that downtime, I would often pass the hours listening to hunting and fishing podcasts and videos. I started to get really excited and motivated about the 2016 hunting season, and I even dared to dream about roaming the mountains on foot looking for deer and elk — one of those unmet life goals I had often thought about in the preceding years. This was a ridiculous dream at the time for someone who, on those really bad days, needed help putting on my own socks. But I can be forgetful and stubborn, and those qualities kept me dreaming, and, unlikely though it was, I set my sights on getting well enough to hunt in 2016. I doubled down on my motivation and recommitted to doing everything the physical therapist and doctor told me to do. I had to recommit a few more times after that, too, but each ensuing setback was gradually less severe and shorter in duration. I began to bounce back quicker and develop some resiliency, which served as verifiable positive reinforcement. I was beginning to reclaim bits of my life and all of the sudden, extended hikes in the backcountry didn’t seem to be such a distant dream. During this time, an interesting thing happened. I actually stopped thinking altogether about my cholesterol or any typical training metrics one might set for improvement. I just simply thought about getting myself in good enough shape to get out in the mountains again, under my own weight, and be able to carry a pack. Everything that happened next followed from that mindset.

What have you gained through this process? No sane person would have voted me the most likely person to notch an elk tag in 2016, but in November I did just that. It wasn’t easy and it involved months of training in the gym, weeks of scouting in the mountains, and long days of hiking a lot of miles over steep terrain. But eventually sweat, hard work, determination, and a dash of luck coalesced into the opportunity I had been imagining for months. Getting the animal out was a slow process that took numerous trips over two days, but I packed every last bit out on my own back using my own two legs. That’s an accomplishment I’ll remember forever and a memory made sweeter by knowing what I had to first go through before showing up for opening day. A freezer full of elk meat is a very nice fringe benefit, but what I really gained through this was a better understanding of my body’s own resiliency and awareness of my ability to simply decide to change course. Inertia, after all, works both ways — it may be tough to get started and establish a routine, but keeping things going is relatively easy by comparison.

And the hypothetical kid my wife and I had been talking about earlier? She’s not so hypothetical now. My baby girl will be born in March, 2017. I swelled with pride at Christmas this year, as my wife and I ate Montana bull elk, knowing my unborn daughter was receiving the nutritional gift of the elk through my hard work and persistence. I’ve given her a father who is in better shape, and who (thanks to exercise, lean meat, and a statin), now has a cholesterol number that is down to a less outrageous 180. I’m nowhere near as good as I’ll be, but I’m a lot better than I was. My family deserves that and so do I.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? I’m still the same lazy, stubborn, flawed person that allowed my physical health to slowly deteriorate. But thanks to Cole, Kelly, and others at Take Control, I’ve identified some life hacks that allow me to recognize those challenges and work around them. One of the biggest differences is that I say “yes” more often to invitations to do things that involve physical exertion. As recently as a year ago, I would regularly turn down invitations to go skiing, for fear that my back would suddenly go out. Now, my back episodes are much fewer, less severe, more manageable, and less frightening. The resiliency I’ve built has increased my confidence to venture further out from my comfort zone, which has, in turn, created opportunities for larger successes, which again increases confidence. I’m in a positive feedback loop now that reinforces my commitment to exercising, eating well, and taking care of myself.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? The main advice I have is simply to follow that old Nike tagline — just do it. No matter your starting point, just accept it, and begin as slowly and thoughtfully as your situation allows. And when you don’t feel like keeping up with your commitment, do it anyway. Eventually the changes become part of your daily routine, and from there everything gets easier. It’s probably also worth pointing out that, for me, it was far more effective to focus on a genuine aspirational motivator (“bring home elk”) that complemented my fitness goals rather than to obsess about abstract obligations like “lower my cholesterol” or “lose some weight.” In my case, those secondary benefits manifested as happy byproducts, not ends unto themselves, so consider talking with your Take Control coach about identifying your own fun, meaningful, big-picture goal.

The best part of his accomplishment was hearing the pride in his voice as he told me about his hunting trip. He recognized the consistent effort he invested in his goal and was incredibly proud and grateful to have been able to accomplish it. It’s the ultimate goal as a health coach to have someone prove to themselves that the CAN achieve the goal and to know the FEEL the pride in that achievement. Was one of my favorite coaching calls with him – I could not have been happier for him.


  • Reduced total cholesterol by 119 points
  • Decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol by 111 points
  • Maintained HDL (good) cholesterol levels
  • Reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 points and diastolic blood pressure by 20 points
  • Reduced back problems
  • Accomplished major goal of harvesting and hauling a Bull Elk on his own
  • Is expecting his first child as a healthier man
  • Now accepts friend’s invitations for physical activities