Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Ten Low-Calorie Success Stories
In This Chapter
� Checking out inspiring stories
� Gathering helpful hints
The men and women who contributed the “before and after” stories in this chapter have all battled the bulge. Some have lost weight for the first time in their lives, while others have traveled this road several times finally figuring out that cutting calories and getting more exercise is the key to losing weight. Read their stories as inspirational advice on how you too can begin to control your weight instead of letting your weight control you.
Finally Fitting into My Genes
My unique relationship with food started at a young age. In my family, food was the center of all celebrations, the healing of all wounds, and, before I knew it, one of my best friends. My family was nothing but loving to me, but they never realized that their own food habits might have a negative effect on me in the long run. A good grade got me an ice cream cone; a bad grade got me the same. My mother would bring me bags of potato chips to eat in bed and then at other times scold me for eating snacks that were “meant for my brother.” I was confused. Unfortunately, she was too. She could see bad food patterns developing, but she didn’t know what to do because she and my father were both struggling with their own weight problems.
I was always a social kid and had a large circle of friends and endless activi- ties to keep me busy. But even then, nothing satisfied me the way food did. It was around the time I turned 8 that I can remember the horror of being called “fatty” or “big butt.” I would go home in tears, only to be comforted by cookies. Eating sweets made me feel better. I didn’t know any other way.
One vivid memory from adolescence is that of not being able to pull my cheerleading skirt up over my thighs. My mother had one custom-made for me, but the other girls just pointed out that mine was different. I went home in tears. At this point, my mother saw what my weight was doing to me and because she’d struggled with it her entire life, attempted to help me in the only way she knew how, by introducing me to fad diets. We ate grapefruits three times a day. We cut out carbohydrates. We took pills that did unthink- able things to our bowels. We joined a weight-loss program and celebrated the move by going out for ice cream sundaes! None of it taught me anything about my behaviors or how I let my emotions dictate what I would eat.
By the time I got to college, my weight had ballooned to 225 pounds. Although people always tried to tell me I “carried my weight well,” 5-feet-7 isn’t tall enough to carry 225 pounds. I had let myself go, I knew it, and that’s when I became completely introverted. I went to class, went home, and slept as much as I could. I refused to face the outside world. Around the same time, my mother made the decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery. Not only was the surgery a success in helping her lose more than 100 pounds, but it also somehow changed her psychological approach to food. My one-time food buddy had turned into a normal eater! I didn’t quite know how to handle it. I felt very alone and that’s when I hit rock bottom. I knew that if I didn’t put a stop to my overeating, it would be the end of me in more ways than one.
As a result, I joined a weight-loss program. It wasn’t the first time I’d joined, but I made a promise to myself it would be the last. It took a lot of patience and it was never easy. It took two years for 60 pounds to come off. Along the way there have been bumps in the road and setbacks I hadn’t anticipated. I went off the program at times. Some weeks I skipped meetings. But I never quit. I knew I couldn’t turn back. I would never again go back to being the miserable person I was at 225 pounds.
These days, I don’t restrict what I eat. If I want a candy bar, I have one. I may choose a smaller one, or one with fewer calories or less fat, but I won’t tell myself “I can’t have this” because that type of deprivation only leads to trouble. I’m still working to take off another 30 pounds, which will get me to my weight goal, but I’ve decided not to set a date for that goal. I take my food plan one day at a time, and when I have extra stress in my life, I take it one meal at a time. I draw on all the support I can, including friends, program meetings, published literature, and online research.
At this point, I accept that focusing on weight control will always be part of my life. I know at times I may put on a few pounds, even while I’m still trying to lose. I know I’ll work them off because I’m determined never to go back to the person I was before. I just won’t let it happen. Being that person wasn’t much fun, so I’m determined to stick to the happier “new” me. — Amanda K.
I never gained the infamous “freshman 15” when I first went to college. It was my junior year that did me in. French was one of my majors, so I decided to take an opportunity to live in France for six months that year. I weighed about 125 pounds before I left, and thanks to a diet that included a few too many freshly baked baguettes and pain au chocolat, came back tipping the scales at 145. Within a few months, I got my weight back down to 125 just by eating less food.
A couple of years later, as a graduation present to myself, I went back to France for another extended stay. I brought those same 20 extra pounds back home to the States with me six months later. Again, I simply started watching how much I ate. I wasn’t going to deprive myself of the types of foods I’d come to love, so I simply ate less of them. I lost the weight again and have kept it off for 20 years.
I use the same strategy to maintain weight as I did to lose it. Either I share a high-calorie dish or yummy dessert, or I simply take two or three bites and leave the rest. I don’t see it as a loss of money; I see it as a loss of excess calories. I’m spending the same amount of money, regardless of how much I eat.
— Lori T.
For the past 25 years, I’ve been battling the weight war, always struggling with an extra 10 or 15 pounds. I have tried almost every diet available and purchased every diet “solution” advertised — pills, lotions, teas, fad foods, you name it — in hope of shedding those unwanted pounds. I even tried giving up all forms of chocolate (my favorite food group), but that was an unacceptable and, in the end, unsuccessful strategy. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the only thing that really works and of course it’s something I’ve known deep down for a long time.
After all these years of reading health magazines and newspaper articles about the importance of exercise and good nutrition, it finally sunk in. If you want to lose weight the right and safe way, the only way is by becoming aware of how many calories you consume and, if necessary, cutting back and/or burning off any excess with a good workout. With the help of an article I found in a fitness magazine, I calculated the number of calories I needed to consume each day to maintain my weight. From there I figured out how many calories I should consume to shed a few pounds. I started counting calories every day, factored in how many calories I worked off at the gym, and lost weight.
I still count calories, and if I overindulge one day, I take those calories away from another day during the week. I weigh myself only once a week. Most importantly, I no longer worry or feel guilty when I eat more than I should because I know the formula for getting myself back on track. — Stacey J.
I think I overeat for three reasons: I love food, I’m an anxious person and eating calms me down, and if I don’t set a goal or have a strong reason for losing weight, I find it hard to restrain myself. Over the past 30 years, I’ve lost and regained the same 20 to 40 pounds, and then some. At 6-foot-1, I would be pretty happy if I could maintain my weight around 200 pounds, as long as a lot of that was muscle.
About 15 years ago, just before my wedding, I decided it was time to lose weight again. I went from 251 pounds to 187 pounds in eight months, with the help of a commercial weight-loss program and a rigorous exercise routine. About five years ago, I was back up to 245 pounds, so I rejoined the program, added weight training to my exercise routine, and was down to 210 six months later.
The combination of regular workouts and a structured diet plan works for me every time I stick to them, and stops working when I slack off. These days, I’m back up to 230 pounds, but I finally see the pattern and I know what I have to do. I’m getting back into it and I trust that I’ll lose the weight again, but the going is slow because I now have an infant son who needs my attention and takes up all of my spare time. I know that women often have a hard time losing their baby weight, but I’m here to tell you that men gain baby weight too, and have just as much trouble finding the time to work it off!
— Peter S.
I don’t have a lifetime history of dieting or trying to lose weight; I’ve been at a healthy weight most of my life. But about ten years ago, I started gaining for no apparent reason. I wasn’t doing anything different. I wasn’t eating any more than usual or exercising any less. But before I knew it, I was carrying 140 pounds on my 5-foot-2-inch frame and feeling very uncomfortable. Even though I only had 10 pounds to lose, and I lost it within a few weeks by cut- ting back on the amount of calories I consumed, I had trouble keeping it off. My biggest problem was (and still is) trying to resist the treats and sweets my coworkers bring into the office on a regular basis. At my job, there always seems to be some reason to stop working and have a celebration.
Now I never let my weight creep up by more than 4 pounds. If I let it get that far, I start getting strict again with my diet. I eat half a sandwich for lunch rather than a whole one and I eat plenty of big salads with just a teaspoon of olive oil for dressing. I eat fruit at least three times a day. I also make sure I
eat something every two and a half hours so I don’t get hungry, even if it’s just a cucumber. For lunch, I bring calorie-controlled packaged entrees to the office and heat them up in the microwave oven. And I leave room in my calorie budget for office parties!
As long as I don’t let it go any further than 4 pounds, and I stick to a strict plan, I can lose those 4 pounds within a week or two. The secret is to never let it get out of hand. — Sophie M.
As a food writer and restaurant reviewer with a weekly newspaper column, I eat lunch and dinner out at least several times a week. To be fair to the restaurant I’m reviewing, I have to go back two or three times to try a good sampling of menu offerings. In addition to the food I eat at restaurants, I attend press events introducing new food products, go on local and international trips sponsored by food associations, and encounter packages of food that routinely arrive on my desk from companies that want me to review their products. A dream job, right? Yes, in many ways, that’s true, but it does have its dark side.
I knew when I took this job that I was committing dietary suicide. But I love food and couldn’t resist the opportunity. I told myself I would just do it for a year. Six years later, I was 40 pounds heavier, up from a perfect size 8 to a tight size 14, always feeling bloated and miserable, and still writing restaurant reviews. I knew I had to do something, but losing weight isn’t easy when you eat for a living. Sure, I could cut back on snacking and eat a little less when I went out, but I knew my only real hope was to start exercising as well.
What actually got me to the gym was an invitation to go on a Mediterranean cruise. You know the joke about cruises: You board as a passenger and dis- embark as cargo. I knew that if I was going to be sailing and eating for almost two weeks, and starting off at a 40-pound disadvantage, I had to take some preventive measures. Over the course of several weeks, by exercising regularly, canceling my daily midafternoon vending machine visits, foregoing the breadbasket when I went out to eat, and taking “sampling bites” of the food I was reviewing, I managed to lose 12 pounds.
The best part of the story, though, was that I went on that cruise and came home another 8 pounds lighter! When you’re hiking steep walkways on a volcanic island, visiting ruins that you can only see by foot, and climbing end- less steps to get to a medieval mountaintop town, you don’t need an elliptical trainer. Even though, at the end of the day, all roads led back to a cruise ship that offered 1,001 ways to sabotage my diet, I was able to enjoy it because I had done my exercise, and then some. — Cindy K.
By the end of my pregnancy, I had gained nearly 60 pounds. I started at around 130 and ended up close to 190. The baby was two and a half weeks overdue and I was retaining fluid, so with the birth I instantly lost 35 of those pounds. With breastfeeding and a hectic work schedule, I lost another 5 pounds without trying. The remaining 20 stayed right where they were for the next five years.
The first step I took was to add some exercise to my daily routine. I never had a good time to go to a gym, so I started walking, instead of riding, as often as I could. Eventually I added a yoga class every week, and then two or three a week. I started feeling fitter and more flexible, but still had only lost a few of those 20 pounds.
Even though I was very conscientious about my daughter’s nutrition, I was just too busy, and too often too tired to prepare healthful meals for myself. I would fill up on high-calorie snacks throughout the day and sweet stuff late at night. I finally joined a weight-loss program, which forced me to look at what I was eating, how much, and when.
The program made me aware of portion control and now I’m less likely to overeat. I never feel deprived because now that I’m paying attention to what I eat, I always seem to have room for a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate at the end of the day. I eat better overall because I’ve become fussier about the quality of the food I eat. I don’t want to waste any calories!
One of the most effective tools the program uses is a weekly weigh-in. Sometimes it reminds me that calories from those cookies I sneak in at mid- night when I’m not even hungry start to add up. At other times it’s a comfort to know that I’m progressing toward my goal. It has taken me more than a year to lose 15 pounds, and I still have 2 pounds to go to reach my goal weight. It’s a slow process but I’m confident that by taking this route, I’ll be able to keep those extra pounds off for good. — Juliette K.
For years, decades even, I ate whatever I wanted and never gained weight. Even in my late thirties, I was still able to eat large volumes of food — pretty much whatever and whenever I wanted. If I gained a few pounds, I just had to watch it for a week or two and my weight would go back down.
That all seemed to change overnight. I hit my forties and I started feeling thick and heavy. One day I was trying on clothes in a department store that has those 3-way mirrors that show you what you look like from behind. Need I say more? It had been years since I’d seen my backside, and let me tell you, it was a horrifying sight. All I saw when I looked in that mirror was baggy, ripply skin hanging from my thighs, arms that wobbled when I lifted them, and a stomach with accordion folds.
I immediately put myself on a diet and lost about 18 pounds over the course of three months. I didn’t go on a lowfat diet, a low-glycemic diet, a high protein diet, a low-carbohydrate diet (bite your tongue!), or any theme diet at all, for that matter. I lost the weight the old-fashioned way, by counting calories. I carried a lined pad with me wherever I went and wrote down everything I ate with the approximate number of calories. When I got to 1,400 calories, I stopped eating for the day. (It only took one day to realize I had to spread those calories out or I wouldn’t be able to eat for the rest of the day after lunch!)
A low-calorie diet was the only type of diet I could live with, because it allowed me to eat all types of food. As it turns out, that’s the only type of weight-loss diet that really works for anyone, at any age. I should know. I wrote this book! — Susan M.
Years ago, I joined a commercial weight-loss program and it helped me lose weight. Recently when I decided to lose 10 pounds more, I figured I could use what I had learned from the program and just do it myself. At the same time, my friend and fellow teacher came into my office and she, too, wanted to shed some pounds. We made it our new year’s resolution to lose weight together and support each other along the way.
We first went to the school nurse’s office and borrowed her scale for a weigh- in. We decided on a weekly weigh-in in the privacy of our own homes — where we could take our clothes off and weigh a pound less! I dug up some old material from the program and we started our calorie-controlled diets.
We found out that a local sandwich shop would deliver customized lowfat submarine sandwiches to us at school for lunch Monday through Friday. We used our lunch hour to discuss food and to help each other plan ahead when one of us was going to a party or out to eat at a restaurant. We helped each other stay motivated and reminded each other that being thinner was much more appealing than eating an extra couple of meatballs.
One day, months later, my friend came to work and showed me that her pants were very loose. I had lost some weight, too. We knew we couldn’t have gotten that far without each other’s support. We felt so good about it that we decided to keep going even after we both reached our goal weights. Two and a half years later, I have lost 25 pounds, am down two sizes, bought a whole new wardrobe, and finally threw out my “fat” clothes. My friend lost close to 20 pounds, got pregnant, and gave birth to a healthy baby.
To maintain my weight, I eat pretty much the same thing everyday for break- fast, lunch, and snacks, and always have a light dinner, except on Saturday nights, when I go out to eat. That’s when I eat whatever I want, practice a little portion control, and thoroughly enjoy myself. — Nancy B.
When I got out of the service, I was extremely fit. In a sense, I had no choice — the Army worked us out and fed us well so that we would be in the best possible shape. I’m a good-size man and, at the time, I weighed 182 pounds.
As I moved up in the business world, I found that along with a fair share of promotions and success came more sedentary office positions, too many social and professional functions, and not enough time to be active. Next thing I knew, I was tipping the scales at 240 pounds.
I was living in New York at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and watched the towers fall from my Brooklyn home. It had a profound affect on me. I was scheduled to have prostate surgery the following day, and of course it was delayed for a month while everyone in the city was trying to figure out how to get their lives back on track again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but while I was waiting to have the surgery, I started to become depressed. Before the delay, I had been worried about having the surgery, and now I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to have it in time to treat my condition. Although I had my surgery in time and, like most New Yorkers, had started to recover from the events of 9/11, I was still feeling rather morose and apathetic. I began to eat more and more as a way of distracting myself from these feelings and, probably, in an attempt to feel some pleasure.
I may have gotten back on track sooner, but the following summer I fell and broke four ribs. It was a long time before I could move freely again. I kept eating and kept gaining weight. I noticed signs that my weight was starting to affect my health. I found myself gasping for breath one night as I walked from one airport terminal to the next. I went to my doctor, who immediately sent me to a pulmonary specialist. He found I wasn’t getting enough air into my lungs and sent me home with a tank of oxygen. I was also diagnosed with sleep apnea. At that point I weighed 343 pounds, and I was scared.
Eight months and many low-cal meals later, I’m down to 272 pounds. I’m still working on my weight, but I know I’ll get to my goal of 220 because I’m com- mitted to improving my health. I eat less and at regular times. I’ve stopped relying on will power; now I rely on “want power.” I want this more than any- thing else right now. I’ve joined a commercial weight-loss program because I need and believe in the structure of a good diet plan and the help and guidance of counselors who have struggled with weight issues themselves and come out as winners. — Mike C.
Fitting In Snacks and Desserts: Planning healthy snacks and desserts, Enjoying savory bites and Tasting sweet treats.
Fitting In Snacks and Desserts
In This Chapter
� Planning healthy snacks and desserts
� Enjoying savory bites
� Tasting sweet treats
When you’re counting every calorie in an attempt to lose weight, you may think snacks and desserts are something you’ll never see again in this lifetime. Not so! For most dieters, sweet and salty treats are an important part of losing weight and often serve as motivators when you use your snack calories for favorite comfort foods and other special treats. I, myself, live for the moment when I know that I’ve eaten enough healthy stuff to justify the (heaping) tablespoon or two of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream I plan into my diet most days.
You don’t need to torture yourself about forbidden foods because no foods are forbidden on this diet. True, the foods you may think of as forbidden — cookies, candies, chips, dips, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream — are quite limited on a calorie-controlled weight-loss plan. They have to be. But if you can control the amount you eat, then don’t feel guilty. This diet doesn’t prohibit you from sampling these yummy treats.
The healthiest sweet stuff usually includes some type of fruit, and the healthiest savory snacks are usually made with some type of vegetable matter. If you choose healthier treats most of the time to use for your snack calories, then, as a registered dietitian, I can say without reservation, “Go right ahead and enjoy the cookies, candies, crackers, chips, dips, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream you eat (in moderation) from time to time.”
In this chapter, I provide some 100-calorie snack and dessert recipes that are healthful, easy to prepare, and fun to eat. I also throw in a list of 50-calorie snacks for those of you who want to break your 100-calorie snack allowance into two extra mini-snacks.
Being Smart about Munching between Meals
If you like to snack but think you have to sneak your snacks or, at the very least, feel guilty about eating them, think again. A well-planned snack can help because it
� Provides energy
� Keeps your blood sugar steady throughout the day
� Fills nutritional gaps in your diet
� Facilitates weight loss by preventing you from getting too hungry and overeating at your next meal For many low-calorie dieters, a snack eaten sometime between lunch and dinner is the most important “meal” of the day because it staves off the hunger and fatigue that often accompanies afternoon slump, which is the energy gap that many people suffer toward the end of the workday. An after- noon snack fills that gap and helps tide you over until dinner.
In the following sections, I give you a few tips and tricks for eating snacks and desserts without wrecking your low-calorie plan.
Adding variety to snacks and desserts
To get the most out of your snack calories, think of snacks (and desserts, for that matter) as mini-meals, and balance them the way you would balance a small meal, with a little bit of protein, a little bit of carbohydrate, and maybe a little fat. Balancing snacks and desserts serves the same purpose as balancing the rest of your diet. When you eat different types of foods together, your body metabolizes them at different rates, which means a steadier and longer- lasting supply of energy. Your snacks and desserts will do a better job of tiding you over until your next meal.
For example, instead of eating 100 calories worth of saltine crackers (6 or 7 crackers), have three crackers, half an ounce of reduced-fat cheese, and a few apple or orange slices. This type of snack can compensate for nutrients that may be low or missing in your regular meals. In this example, you’re getting calcium, protein, and a little fat from the cheese, different types of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals from the fruit and crackers, and sustained energy from the combination of all three foods.
A sweeter way to balance a snack and add some fun is to treat yourself to a chocolate drop or mini-chocolate bar, served with a couple of fresh strawberries and a half cup of skim milk. This snack is loaded with vitamin C and calcium, and provides other nutrients along with a chocolate bonus. Just remember: Don’t get carried away. Only one piece of chocolate!
These two examples show how eating between meals can become a healthful, guilt-free habit that doesn’t have to affect your weight, or your blood sugar, in a negative way.
Grazing throughout the day
Research over the past few decades has shown that, for some people, grazing, or eating small meals and snacks throughout the day instead of three larger meals, can help with weight control and other health issues. More frequent eating may help
� Lower your blood cholesterol
� Control your moods
� Keep your blood sugar steady
� Give you more control over your appetite
Grazing works for low-calorie dieters as long as you aren’t random. You still need a low-cal plan (see Chapter 6 to start with a four-week plan), and you need to stick to your calorie limit if you’re serious about losing weight. The only difference between grazing and eating three square meals a day is that you’re breaking the same number of calories up into smaller meals to be eaten more often.
For many people, however, snacking or grazing is detrimental to their diet. If you’re the type of person who isn’t satisfied with small portions of your favorite foods or for whom a few bites of food easily leads to a binge, then you probably need to avoid frequent snacking, at least for now. You may even have to forego all snacks and desserts until you feel in better control of your eating habits. If that’s the case, take your snack and dessert calories (and the foods that provide those calories) and add them to your regular meals. For instance, rather than having a baked apple at 3 p.m. to hold you over until dinner, add it to your breakfast menu or have it with dinner, rather than later in the evening.
All the low-cal snacks and desserts in the world can’t help you lose weight if you overdo it. You have to be able to stop eating when you’ve used up your calorie allotment. Your body plays a funny trick on you when you eat too much, too often. If you start feeding yourself six or eight times a day, you’ll start to feel hungry at those same times every day. That’s okay if you’re simply dividing an appropriate number of daily calories into that many small meals and snacks. But if you feed that hunger with excess food, then snacking becomes just another bad habit that can lead to weight gain.
Sampling 100-Calorie Snacks
The following sections provide recipes and ideas for quick-to-fix snacks, both savory and sweet. You can eat some of them in the here and now, while you can make others ahead of time for your scheduled snack or if you need to appease a snack attack that comes out of the blue. (Yes, it happens, and yes, give in to it! Better to give in to a craving and allow yourself 100 extra calories worth of satisfaction than to end up bingeing later in the day because you denied yourself a small treat earlier.)
Treating yourself to sweet snacks
The sweet snacks in this section and the desserts later in this chapter are certainly interchangeable. They all contain approximately 100 calories in a single serving. The only difference is that the desserts are just slightly more sophisticated, and perhaps more suitable for serving to company.
If your friends are like mine, they’ll welcome the make-it-yourself oozy cookie snack made with marshmallow creme and chocolate syrup (Just a Little S’More) in this section just as readily as the more elegant chilled dessert cup of orange sections in sweet and spicy syrup (Oranges in Spicy Syrup) you can find in the section “Making the most of fruit,” later in this chapter.
This recipe isn’t unlike the semifrozen, slurpable drink snacks you may have enjoyed as a kid at your local convenience store. This one is a little healthier, though, because it contains real fruit, instead of just fruit-flavored sugar syrup, and it fits nicely into your 100-calorie snack slot.
Combine the frozen watermelon cubes, limeade concentrate, sugar, and mint, if using, in the container of a blender or food processor. Process with on/off motions until smooth. Serve immediately.
Tip: Put any leftover mixture back in the freezer before it thaws and freeze for up to a month. To serve at another time, take the mixture out of the freezer for 10 minutes before reprocessing.
Just a Little S’More
I include this recipe because dieters deserve to have as much fun as everyone else.
A take-off on the traditional campfire s’mores, this sweet treat weighs in under 100 calories — if you can eat just one! The recipe is written to yield only one serving. I don’t recommend it for anyone who can’t keep ingredients like marshmallow creme in the house, for fear of eating the entire jarful during a midnight binge.
Spread the marshmallow creme onto one of the graham cracker rectangles. Drizzle the creme with the chocolate syrup. Top with the remaining graham cracker rectangle. Enjoy!
Tip: Sometimes when I make one, I put it on a plate and pop it in the microwave oven for 5 seconds just to warm it slightly.
Savoring salty snacks
If you have a salt tooth, rather than a sweet tooth, then you go more for chips, pretzels, and other savory foods when the urge to snack strikes. The recipes in this section are all designed to allow you to eat not just one, but several, and still stick to your 100-calorie snack limit.
Garlicky Herb Pita Chips
You can’t eat just one, but you don’t have to, because they’re less than 20 calories apiece. Feel free to eat five or six for a full snack.
1 Preheat the oven to 300.
2 Split each pita bread so that you have 16 rounds. Place the rounds, rough side up, on your work surface.
3 Stir together the egg whites, olive oil, garlic, basil, and salt in a small bowl. Brush some of this egg-white mixture over the rough side of each pita round. With a pizza cutter or a knife, cut each pita in 4 equal wedges. Gently cut or pry each wedge apart. You’ll have 64 wedges. Place the wedges, coated side up, on baking sheets.
4 Bake the chips, in batches if necessary, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges are toasted and the egg-white topping is set. Remove the baking sheets to wire racks. Allow the chips to cool completely before serving.
My friend Laurie Mozian, who is also a registered dietitian, shared the basis of this recipe with me years ago. Her version called for spooning the finely chopped vegetable mixture onto rye-crisp crackers or melba toast. You can do that, if you like (keeping it to two or three crackers). But personally, the way I write it is a great way to sneak a few potato chips into your diet.
1 Combine the tomato, cucumber, green onion, and dressing in a small bowl.
2 Spoon a generous tablespoonful of the salad onto each potato chip just before eating.
You can serve any of the snacks in this section as party food. If you’re invited to someone else’s party and you’re worried about what you’ll eat when you get there, you can offer to bring a tray of low-cal snacks and then position yourself close to that tray so that you’re not tempted to reach for any of the higher-calorie foods provided by your host.
Bean and Cheese Nachos
To serve these nachos at a party, simply double, triple, or quadruple the recipe. Even nondieters scarf them up!
1 Preheat the oven to 450.
2 Spread the tortillas evenly with the beans. Top with salsa. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired, then the shredded cheese.
3 Bake the nachos for 8 minutes or until the tortillas are crisp and lightly browned around the edges and the cheese has melted.
4 Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut each tortilla into eight nachos.
This recipe makes about 16 servings if you’re planning to use it for a party. For an everyday 100-calorie snack, or as party fare, have 3 tablespoons of dip with a cup of assorted raw vegetable dippers.
1 Combine the spinach, cheese, dill, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Whirl for 30 seconds, just to combine, scraping down the side of the container with a spatula, as necessary.
2 Add 1⁄2 cup of the yogurt to the food processor. Whirl until almost smooth. Stir in the remaining yogurt until well mixed. (Don’t process the remaining yogurt, or the mixture will be too thin.)
3 Turn the dip into a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
50 snacks worth 50 calories
With 50-calorie snacks, you get to snack more often. You can always double the quantity on any of these snacks to get your full 100 at once, but dividing snacks up into 50-calorie portions can help you bank calories for later on in the day, when you may start feeling desperate for a bite to eat.
� 25 small thin pretzel sticks
� 20 tiny fish-shaped crackers
� 20 mini marshmallows
� 15 pistachio nuts
� 15 grapes
� 10 dry roasted peanuts
� 8 tiny bear-shaped graham cookies
� 5 dried apricot halves
� 5 almonds
� 5 cashews
� 5 walnut halves
� 4 saltine crackers
� 4 baked tortilla chips with 1 tablespoon salsa
� 3 dill pickles
� 3 mini rice cakes
� 2 brazil nuts
� 2 small chocolate drops
� 2 dried dates
� 2 graham cracker squares
� 2 saltines with 1 teaspoon peanut butter
� 2 vanilla wafer cookies
� 2 cups light microwave popcorn
� 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
� 2 tablespoons dried cherries
� And a partridge in a pear tree (oops, wrong list; keep reading for more great snacks)
� 1 peach
� 1 plum
� 1 flavored rice cake
� 1 mini sesame breadstick
� 1 mini box (1⁄2 ounce) raisins
� 1 cup puffed cereal
� 1 cup raw baby carrots
� 1 cup sweet red pepper strips
� 1 cup tomato juice
� 1 cup whole strawberries
� 1 ounce lowfat deli meat
� 1⁄2 apple
� 1⁄2 grapefruit sprinkled with 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar or other sweetener, if you like
� 1⁄2 small banana
� 1⁄2 cup chicken noodle soup
� 1⁄2 cup fresh blueberries
� 1⁄2 cup fresh cherries
� 1⁄2 cup fresh pineapple
� 1⁄2 cup light or juice-packed fruit cocktail
� 1⁄2 cup orange sections
� 1⁄2 cup cranberry juice
� 1⁄2 cup skim milk
� 1⁄2 slice light bread toast with 2 teaspoons fruit spread
� 1⁄3 cup unsweetened applesauce
� 1⁄4 avocado
Dishing Up 100-Calorie Desserts
Dessert eaters will probably want to use their snack calories for an after- dinner sweet. Believing you can find a satisfying dessert for 100 calories or less may sound impossible, but I include six recipes in the following sections.
Making the most of fruit
Nutritionists recommend fresh fruit as the dessert of choice, because it’s sweet, easy, packed with nutrients, and comparatively low in calories. What could be bad? Nothing, but if you’ve ever been on a restricted diet, you know that eating the same foods, the same way, over and over again, no matter how delicious they are, can get boring. And boring spells nothing but trouble for dieters! The following are several recipes that feature fresh fruit in fun and tasty ways.
Cannoli Creme Topping
If you’ve ever had an Italian cannoli pastry, you can appreciate the flavor of this creamy, sweetened ricotta cheese mixture. This recipe uses it as a topping for fresh fruit that’s especially good with a 1⁄2 cup of sliced strawberries or a mixture of strawberries, blue- berries, and raspberries.
Combine the cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Whirl for a minute or until very smooth, scraping down the side of the container as necessary. Stir in the chocolate chips and orange rind, if using. Refrigerate the topping for up to a week.
The following recipe features refreshing oranges cut into sections. To cut orange sections, use a small, sharp knife to remove the rind from the orange in a circular fashion, running the knife under the rind and around the fruit (see Figure 15-1). Be sure to cut through the membrane that holds the sections intact. After you have removed the rind, cut down alongside the membrane on both sides of each section to release the sections.
Oranges in Spicy Syrup
This recipe makes four servings as a stand-alone 100-calorie dessert, but you can also use less of this mixture as a topping for a small scoop of light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
1 Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and cloves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
2 Add the orange sections to the saucepan. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Pour the oranges and syrup into a bowl and let the mixture stand for at least 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.
Vary It! You can also try this recipe with grapefruit.
Most low-cal fruit desserts and snacks (including the following recipe for a Raspberry Baked Apple) double as healthful breakfast foods because they’re not high in added sugars.
Raspberry Baked Apple
You can bake this apple the traditional way — in the regular oven — but it will take longer. Substitute any flavor fruit spread you like, and if you’re having a light-eating day, and can spare another 25 calories, mix the fruit spread with a tablespoon of fat-free granola or other plain, nugget-shaped cereal or a teaspoon of finely chopped nuts before filling the apple.
1 Peel the apple halfway down from the top. Cut out the core almost to the bottom, leaving a 1-inch opening at the top (see Figure 15-2). Place the apple in a microwave-safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water to the dish.
2 Cook the apple in the microwave for 3 minutes or until tender. (If you don’t have a rotating tray in the oven, turn the apple once halfway through cooking time for more even cooking.)
3 Spoon the fruit spread into the opening in the top of the apple. Microwave for 30 seconds or until the filling is bubbly.
Tip: The best way to eat a baked apple is to halve it first, allow the filling to flow out, and then cut the apple into bite-size pieces.
Chocolate-Frosted Frozen Banana
This recipe is a great low-cal treat to keep on hand in the freezer for when only some- thing chocolate will satisfy your sweet tooth! (You can find additional chocolate recipes in the next section.) You can use the chocolate to coat strawberries and other fruits too, if you like. That way, you still get a taste of chocolate while having a healthy serving of fruit.
1 Cut the banana in half lengthwise, and then cut each long half in half crosswise to make four equal pieces. Place the banana pieces on a plate and freeze for an hour or two or until just solid.
2 Combine the chocolate square and milk in a ramekin or small cup. Microwave for 45 seconds. Remove the ramekin from the microwave and stir the chocolate mixture with a spoon until it is smooth and spreadable. Spoon or brush the chocolate along the length of the frozen banana pieces. Return the bananas to the freezer for 1 hour or until the chocolate frosting is frozen solid.
3 Wrap each banana separately in freezer paper and keep frozen until ready to eat. To serve, remove the banana pieces from the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Place them on dessert plates and carefully cut them into thin slices. Serve the bananas semifrozen.
Tip: If you can’t wait for the banana to freeze, simply take your share, cut it into thin slices, and spread it with a little of the chocolate frosting while it’s still warm.
Satisfying your sweet tooth with chocolate
Chocoholics, rejoice! There’s room in a low-calorie diet for your favorite food group. In this section you find two recipes that can satisfy your craving with- out pushing you over your calorie limit.
If you can’t eat just one of these sweet, crispy drops but you can stop at five or six, then this chocolate cookie is for you! They also make great giveaways for friends who are watching their weight.
1 Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil.
2 In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cocoa. Set aside.
3 In a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Add the cocoa and sugar mixture, 1 table- spoon at a time, beating until blended after each addition, until the egg whites are stiff and glossy (see Figure 15-3 to find out what stiff peaks look like). Drop the batter by measuring tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.
4 Bake the meringues for 90 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and allow the cookies to cool completely in the oven. (This step takes several hours.) Remove the cookies from the baking sheets with a spatula. Store the meringues in a tightly covered container for up to a few days.
Vary It! These cookies are even more fabulous if you substitute an equal amount of chocolate extract for the vanilla. If you can’t find chocolate extract in your supermarket, check in specialty food shops and baking supply stores.
When you need a quick chocolate fix, remember that chocolate syrup has only 13 to 20 calories in a teaspoon. (The calorie range is due to variations among brands. Check the labels on different brands in your supermarket if you want to find the one with the fewest calories.) You can satisfy your need with a drizzle of syrup on fresh strawberries or a couple of banana slices or even a small wedge of angel food cake. Just be aware of how much syrup you’re pouring, however, because by the time you’re up to 2 tablespoons, you’ve topped 100 calories, just from the syrup alone.
Chocolate Bread Pudding
This recipe uses classic calorie-cutting techniques such as using skim milk instead of whole milk and light bread in place of regular bread, and replacing some egg yolks with egg whites to lighten up a traditional dessert.
1 Preheat the oven to 325.
2 Coat a 1-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the bread slices into small cubes. Place the cubes in the baking dish.
3 In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and cocoa powder until well mixed. Stir in the egg yolk and milk until blended.
4 In a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whites into the cocoa mixture until almost blended. Be careful not to overmix or you may deflate the beaten whites. Pour this mixture over the bread cubes.
5 Place the baking dish in a larger baking pan. Carefully add enough boiling water to the larger pan to come 1 inch up the side of the baking dish.
6 Bake the bread pudding for 35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Serve warm.
Ten Benefits of Following a Low-Calorie Diet: Reaping the physical rewards of a low-calorie lifestyle and Staying healthier and extending your life.
Ten Benefits of Following a Low-Calorie Diet
In This Chapter
� Reaping the physical rewards of a low-calorie lifestyle
� Staying healthier and extending your life
The big payback for following a low-calorie diet and losing weight comes from the many ways you’ll improve your health and your overall quality of life as you lose weight. These benefits, which I cover in this chapter, can help reduce your risk of developing medical problems now and in the future, and you may even live longer simply because you’ve chosen to live better.
Looking Good, Feeling Great
I sometimes grow impatient when I read advice suggesting that overweight people need to be comfortable with themselves at any size. I agree with the advice, but it’s often militant, not always realistic, and sometimes gives the wrong message. Yes, you must love and care about yourself. Yes, you’re a worthwhile person at any size. But if you’re not physically and mentally comfortable being overweight, then it doesn’t make sense to stay that way. Losing weight may not solve all your problems, but most people I know who have lost weight in the past say they feel better about themselves when they’re thinner. Hundreds of people I’ve spoken with say they want to lose weight to look better and improve the quality of their lifestyles as well as their health. Very few say it’s for the sake of their health alone.
You can be “fat and fit,” especially if you get plenty of exercise. However, if you’re still extremely unhappy when you look in the mirror, then you’re car- rying around a lot of psychological weight in addition to extra body weight. Wanting to look good is never a negative unless you have unrealistic ideas about how much you want to weigh or what your life is going to be like after you lose weight. If your weight-loss goals are unrealistic, the result could be a painful, lifelong struggle. But if all you want is to get to a comfortable weight
Looking good is a legitimate benefit of weight loss when it comes to improved self-esteem and a positive body image. A trickle-down effect is working here: When you feel good about yourself, you’re more likely to take care of your health because you know you’re worth it. How do I know this? Well, not many scientific studies have been conducted on the power of positive thinking, but experts do know that poor body image is associated with low self-esteem and low self-esteem is associated with unhealthy behaviors such as abusing alcohol and drugs, avoiding professional help, and overeating.
Boosting Your Energy
The more extra weight you carry on your body, the more energy you use up performing even the simplest tasks. If, for instance, you’re 40 pounds out of your healthy weight range, you may as well be wearing a 40-pound backpack. If you can identify with this example, you know that everyday activities, such as walking down the street or doing housework, could be much easier if you took off that backpack.
Although many people assume that energy levels naturally decline as you age, fitness studies have shown that the better you control your body fat, build up your endurance, and develop muscle over the years, the less of a decline you’ll see. That’s why, even though the mere thought of more exer- cise might exhaust you, getting active can give you more energy in the long run. I give you the full scoop on working out and getting active in Chapter 8.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, more than 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing for up to a full minute while they sleep. Being overweight is a risk factor for developing sleep apnea and even though the condition is more commonly found in men older than 40, it can affect anyone. (If you want to know all you need to know about sleep apnea and other potential sleeping problems, check out Sleep Disorders For Dummies by Max Hirshkowitz, MD, and Patricia Smith [Wiley].)
If you have apnea, your brain wakes you up with each episode to resume breathing, but your sleep quality suffers as a result of these constant awaken- ings. You may not even know that you have sleep apnea, but you (or your sleeping partner) may recognize some of the symptoms, such as loud snoring and constantly feeling tired throughout the day. Sleep apnea can also cause other medical conditions such as high blood pressure (see “Lowering Your Blood Pressure,” later in this chapter), headaches, and impotency.
Saving Your Back
Losing weight can help reduce the load on your lower back and extremities, which in turn can help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis and possibly even prevent joint problems. Medical experts also say that being overweight is a cause of osteoarthritis in the hips, knees, and lower back because the extra pressure from excess weight wears away the cartilage that would normally protect these areas. Excess weight in your abdomen puts extra stress on your back muscles. The healthiest solution is to lose weight and work with a physical therapist, or a trainer who is familiar with joint and back problems, to strengthen your abdominal muscles.
Lowering Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force at which your heart beats to drive blood to your arteries and through your circulatory system. Your blood pressure rises as your heart beats and falls when your heart rests between beats, and that’s what’s being measured when you get a blood pressure reading. When your pressure reads above the normal range, you have high blood pressure.
Often described as “the silent killer,” high blood pressure can cause heart dis- ease, stroke, and kidney failure — all killer diseases. The silent part comes from the fact that you can develop high blood pressure without experiencing any symptoms. So you may have it and not even know it until it leads to a more critical health problem.
As your weight increases, so does your blood pressure. If you’re overweight, just losing a few pounds by eating less and moving more can help prevent high blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, losing weight can help bring it back into a normal range.
If you’re overweight, the way to help prevent and lower high blood pressure is to eat less, exercise more, and lose weight. If you’re overweight and take blood pressure–lowering medication, you may be able to reduce your dose or even eliminate the need for medication by losing excess weight.
If you’re curious to know more about dealing with high blood pressure, check out High Blood Pressure For Dummies by Alan L. Rubin, MD (Wiley).
Reducing your weight by a mere 10 percent can lower your risk of developing heart disease. Many factors play into the development of heart disease, includ- ing high cholesterol that may be related to your diet, physical inactivity, and being overweight. You can control these factors by eating fewer calories, eating healthier foods, and exercising more. Losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol, which is the form of cholesterol responsible for clogged arteries, and raise your HDL cholesterol, which is the form of cholesterol that is beneficial to your heart because it carries excess dietary fat out of your body. (If you want more information about cholesterol, look for Controlling Cholesterol For Dummies by Carol Ann Rinzler and Martin W. Graf, MD [Wiley].)
Even with normal cholesterol levels, you may be at risk of developing heart disease if you’re one of 55 million people with metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X. This syndrome isn’t a disease in and of itself, but rather a col- lection of risk factors. If you have at least three of the following risk factors, you may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome:
� High blood pressure
� High blood glucose (sugar) levels
� High blood triglyceride (fat) levels
� Low blood levels of protective HDL cholesterol
� Insulin resistance
� A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women, 40 in men
The best known treatment for slowing down or reversing the risk factors of metabolic syndrome is to lose weight. Research has shown that a diet providing between 1,100 and 1,950 calories a day can reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Overweight people are twice as likely to develop non-insulin dependent dia- betes than people who are at a healthy weight. Another scary fact: About one-fourth of overweight adults older than 45 are prediabetic, a term given to the condition people develop before they get diabetes. Among those people who are prediabetic, almost 95 percent have high cholesterol and more than half have high blood pressure. Scariest fact of all: Approximately 6.5 million people are walking around with undiagnosed diabetes so they’re not even included in the statistics. If you’re one of them, you’re at high risk of developing chronic conditions related to diabetes, such as heart disease and kidney disease.
Cutting calories, balancing your meals, and increasing the amount of exercise you do on a regular basis can reduce your risk of developing diabetes. If you already have diabetes and you’re overweight, losing weight can help control your blood sugar levels and decrease your need for medication. Ask your physician if eating less and exercising more can help you.
If you want more information about diabetes, check out Diabetes For Dummies, 2nd edition, by Alan L. Rubin, MD (Wiley).
In a study of more than 900,000 adults published in the New England Journal of Medicine, being overweight was associated with higher rates of death due to cancer of the esophagus, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidney, and also higher death rates from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma, in both men and women. Heavier men were more likely to die from stomach and prostate cancers; heavier women were more likely to die from cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, and ovary. From this study, researchers concluded that 14 percent of all deaths from cancer in women and 20 percent of all deaths in men were linked to being overweight and obesity.
Cancer experts list weight loss among their suggestions for preventing cancer because they believe that being overweight and inactive produces changes in the body that encourage cancer cells to thrive and grow. But cancerous conditions also develop in people who aren’t overweight, so medical experts don’t know if that higher risk is actually due to excess weight or if it’s due to eating a high-calorie or high-fat diet.
Some evidence also suggests that if you’re overweight, you may get less effective treatment for cancer. Preliminary studies have indicated that heavier women may need more chemotherapy to treat breast cancer than thinner women, but they may not get it because doctors are afraid of administering higher, more toxic levels of the drugs. The side effects of chemotherapy drugs can include damage to the heart and other organs, and the growth of cancer at other sites, so doctors may undertreat their heavier patients.
Being overweight during pregnancy can pose serious problems for both you and your baby. Some studies show that labor takes longer for overweight and obese women. The longer the labor, the increased chance the baby will have to be delivered by Caesarean section.
Overweight pregnant women are at higher risk of developing medical complications, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia (any of several medical conditions associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy), and gestational diabetes. These conditions usually clear up after delivery, but after they occur, they’re more likely to develop again later in life. If you require surgery during pregnancy or delivery, your risk of complications increases with increased weight.
Some studies have also shown that women who are obese when they become pregnant have a higher risk of delivering an infant who is stillborn or dies shortly after birth. Women who are simply overweight, however, appear to have the same risk as those of normal weight. (For definitions of “overweight” and “obese,” flip to Chapter 2.)
Check out Chapter 10 for more info about pregnancy and weight loss.
Scientific evidence has shown that the maximum lifespan for humans is about 125 years, although few people actually hang around that long. But in the hope of living to their ripest old age, a small but devoted group of people who belong to the Calorie Restriction Society are trying to prove that eating less can help you live longer. Science hasn’t been able to prove it in humans yet, but animal studies seem to support the theory that fewer calories can mean a longer life, at least for mice, monkeys, and fruit flies.
Calorie restriction for the purpose of living longer isn’t the same as following a low-calorie diet to lose weight, and the concept is too new for most health professions to condone it. My advice to anyone who hopes to live longer by restricting calories is to follow a nutritionally balanced, reduced-calorie diet plan just like the one in this book. If cutting calories turns out to add years to your life, those years will be more enjoyable if you’ve remained healthy by supplying your body with all the nutrients it needs.
Sitting Down to Delicious Dinners: Making light of dinner, Putting poultry on the table, Cooking up meaty meals, Serving seafood and Adding vegetarian foods to your dinner.
Sitting Down to Delicious Dinners
In This Chapter
� Making light of dinner
� Putting poultry on the table
� Cooking up meaty meals
� Serving seafood
� Adding vegetarian foods to your dinner
The one meal of the day that you can, and should, sit down and enjoy is dinner. Unlike breakfast, which is sometimes a hurried affair, and lunch, which is usually part of the workday or nib- bled in between household errands, dinner can take place at home in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. Sitting down and relaxing when you’re on a low-calorie diet is important, because it encourages you to sit calmly, be mindful, and enjoy your- self while you eat.
In this chapter, I discuss the benefits of planning your dinners and making time to enjoy them. I also provide you with a variety of delicious low-calorie dinner recipes you can try.
Keeping Supper Simple and Enjoyable
The less you have to worry about what to eat for dinner (and how long you have to eat it) on a day- to-day basis, the easier sticking to your low-calorie
diet will be. That’s why you need to have a simple system in place that includes some advance meal planning for you and anyone who eats with you and a goal to enjoy your dinner at a reasonable pace.
The following are some ways you can be sure you have low-calorie dinners on hand when you’re ready to eat:
� Be prepared. Have a stock of low-calorie convenience foods such as canned soups and packaged salad mixes in your cupboards and fridge for those nights when you don’t feeling like cooking.
� Keep the basics stocked. Keep staples such as dry pasta, rice, bottled tomato sauces, light bread, lean meats, eggs, and low-fat dairy products on hand at all times so that you always have the fixings for at least one full meal.
� Plan ahead. When preparing the specific recipes in this chapter, plan your meal schedule and include the suggested side dishes (or the equiv- alent) on your shopping list.
� Cook on weekends. Review your menus for the upcoming week and do as much advance preparation as you can over the weekend when you have more time.
When you prepare a recipe that makes, say, four servings, sticking to that size serving is important. Otherwise you run the risk of adding unwanted calories to your meal. As soon as you prepare the dish, divide it up evenly and put your portion on your plate. If you’re eating alone, wrap up the remainders and put them in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible after cooking so you’re not tempted to go back for more.
Freeze or refrigerate leftovers in single-serving size containers that can go directly into a microwave oven. That way, you have homemade convenience foods on hand that fit right into your low-calorie diet plan for another dinner or a ready-to-go lunch.
Feeding the rest of the family
The recipes and menu ideas in this chapter have been developed to be as bal- anced, nutritious, and tasty as possible for the amount of calories they provide. Except for the controlled calorie limits, they’re no different than anything else you can feed your family. So you don’t have to cook separate food for yourself just because you’re limiting your calories to 300, unless you want to.
Family members who aren’t following this low-calorie plan and who want or need more food for dinner can obviously choose to eat larger portions or expand the meal with other foods.
Preparing Pleasing Poultry Dishes
Poultry has made a name for itself as one of the best low-cal, high-protein food choices for anyone who is trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Because chicken and turkey are pretty much interchangeable, you can use either one in any of the recipes in this section.
Chicken and turkey parts prepared in a microwave oven cook quickly and turn out moist and tender, just like poultry that has been steamed or stewed. To cook plain poultry, place four even-size pieces (4 to 6 ounces each) in a microwave-safe container. If you prefer, brush the poultry lightly with olive oil or gravy before cooking. Cover the container and cook at full power for 8 minutes. Let it stand for 5 minutes before uncovering. Insert a fork or knife tip into the flesh to be sure juices run clear. Clear juices let you know the poultry is fully cooked.
Fixing quick chicken dinners
When surveyed, home cooks say they serve chicken for dinner more often than any other meat. That makes sense for dieters, too, because chicken is a lean source of high-quality animal protein. Chicken’s neutral flavor also makes it easy to incorporate into the tasty, globally-influenced recipes included in this section.
Skillet Chicken Parmesan
This classic dish is prepared in a not-so-classic low-cal style, which simply means measuring ingredients carefully and omitting the initial breading and frying of the chicken breasts.
1 Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound to 1⁄4-inch thick- ness with a meat mallet or the bottom of a small heavy saucepan (see Figure 14-1).
2 Coat a large nonstick skillet with vegetable cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.
3 Add the chicken to the skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is lightly browned on the bottom. Turn the chicken over. Add the marinara sauce to the skillet. Cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer or until the chicken is just opaque in the center.
4 Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses evenly over the chicken breasts. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve hot.
Tip: You can substitute a serving of chicken and sauce with 1⁄2 cup cooked spaghetti and 1⁄2 cup steamed broccoli for any 300-calorie meal in the basic menu plans in Chapter 6.
Poached Chicken Breasts with Spinach-Basil Sauce
This dish is an example of true low-calorie fare because it uses both low-calorie ingredients and a low-calorie cooking technique. When you prepare this type of main dish for a 300-calorie meal, you end up with 100 calories to “spend” on the side dish of your choice. This dish is also delicious cold so you can take leftovers for lunch the next day or make it ahead to serve as a cool summer supper.
1 Place the chicken breast halves in a large skillet with enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the chicken for 10 minutes or until just cooked through.
2 Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in the spinach and basil and cook until wilted. Turn the mixture into a wire mesh strainer and press lightly with a spoon to drain any excess liquid.
3 Combine the spinach mixture with the yogurt, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor or blender. Whirl for 1 minute or until smoothly puréed, scraping down the side of the container with a rubber spatula, as necessary.
4 Divide the spinach sauce evenly among four serving plates. Cut the chicken breasts into thick slices and arrange on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with shredded basil, if you like.
This dish is simple and fun for a casual party, as well as a quick and easy everyday meal. The peanut sauce alone, which is good on just about any meat or vegetable you can think of, contributes 25 calories per tablespoon.
1 Place the chicken breasts in a medium-size deep skillet and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Drain the chicken and cut into bite-size chunks.
2 Meanwhile, combine the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Stir until blended. Slowly stir in the 1 cup of water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Simmer, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Set aside to thicken and cool slightly.
3 Divide the chicken chunks, carrots, celery, pepper, green beans, and snow peas among four serving plates. Divide the sauce among four small cups or bowls and place them in the center of the serving plates. Serve with toothpicks or utensils for dipping the chicken.
The following recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs. You may think that making these crumbs is a difficult task, but it’s not! Just place slices of light bread in a food processor and pulse with an on/off motion until fine crumbs are formed. When you’re measuring the crumbs, pack them loosely into the measuring cup.
Chicken Breasts with Honey-Mustard Crumb Coating
This recipe is for people who prefer “chicken on the bone” to the boneless cutlets used so often in low-calorie poultry recipes.
1 Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the honey mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl.
2 Arrange the chicken breasts on the foil-lined sheet. Brush the mustard mixture evenly over each breast. Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, pressing lightly so the crumbs stick. Drizzle with olive oil.
3 Bake the chicken for 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust is crisp and the breasts are just cooked through.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs with Rice
Jerk is a Caribbean style of barbecue that adds unforgettable flavor to a simple chicken dish. In this recipe, the chicken and vegetables are skewered and broiled indoors. You can also cook them on an outdoor grill.
1 Soak 16 wooden skewers in a pan of warm water for at least 10 minutes to prevent them from burning. You don’t need to prepare metal skewers.
2 Combine the vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic, allspice, ginger, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the marinade to a small bowl and set aside.
3 Add the chicken cubes to the large bowl of marinade and stir to coat. Set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes.
4 Preheat the broiler or grill.
5 Alternately thread the onion, pepper, and pineapple pieces onto 8 skewers. Thread the marinated chicken cubes onto the remaining 8 skewers. Discard the chicken marinade.
6 Grill or broil skewers 4 to 6 inches from heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender-crisp, turning once during cooking time and brushing vegetables with reserved 2 tablespoons of marinade. Serve 1 chicken skewer and 1 vegetable skewer over each 1⁄2 cup of hot cooked rice.
Putting a new twist on turkey
You’d never know that not too long ago, fresh turkey was used mostly for hol- iday foods and rarely served at regular everyday meals. Now you can buy as many different cuts of turkey in the supermarket as you can chicken, and ground turkey and turkey often substitute for beef or pork in classic dishes such as the stuffed peppers in this section. Even better, you can also buy pre- cooked fresh turkey almost everywhere to use on sandwiches and in recipes that call for cooked or leftover turkey, such as the open-face turkey sandwich recipe in this section.
Hot Turkey Sandwiches
An open-face sandwich on a single slice of bread is one great way to enjoy your favorite flavors by cutting back on the amount of food you eat, rather than eliminating “added” calorie foods like gravy from your diet altogether. Serve this recipe with steamed green beans or a tossed green salad drizzled with 1 or 2 teaspoons of light dressing.
1 Combine the broth and the mushrooms in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in the gravy, tarragon, and mustard. Mix well. Add turkey slices and simmer until hot.
2 Place a slice of toast on each serving plate. Top with turkey and gravy.
Roasted Red Peppers Stuffed with Turkey Sausage and Rice
These are old-fashioned stuffed peppers updated to include lower calorie ingredients such as reduced-fat cheese and lean turkey sausages. Each filled pepper is a 300-calorie meal in itself.
1 Preheat the broiler. Arrange the peppers, cut side down, on a broiler pan.
2 Broil the peppers 4 inches from the heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they just start to blacken in spots but are still firm. Transfer the peppers, cut side up, to a 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
3 Preheat the oven to 375.
4 In a large nonstick skillet, cook the loose sausage over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until just cooked through, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the rice, cheese, and Italian seasoning. Divide the rice mixture evenly among the pepper halves, packing the mixture into the peppers with a spoon. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
5 Bake the peppers for 20 minutes or until tender.
6 Meanwhile, heat the marinara sauce in the same nonstick skillet, scraping up any browned bits of sausage with a wooden spoon. Spoon a little of the sauce over the peppers halfway through baking time. Serve the remaining sauce with the peppers.
Making the Most of Meat
Meat is great source or protein and hard-to-get minerals such as iron and zinc, but it can also be high in calories, especially when you choose fattier cuts or eat too much of it. That’s especially true if a lot of your meat is coming from fast-food restaurants. But the meat you cook at home doesn’t have to be a diet-buster or a health hazard. The following are two great ways to enjoy meat without overdoing it:
� Treat meat more like a condiment than a main dish. In other words, use very small amounts of meat to flavor foods like soups, stews, rice dishes, pastas, and casseroles dishes, such as lasagna.
� Cut back on portion sizes. You probably do the same thing with all your other favorite foods when you’re trying to get to or stay at a healthy weight. So if you’re a meat-and-potato type, you can continue to enjoy those foods on a low-calorie diet by choosing leaner cuts and eating less meat (and fewer potatoes) overall.
Beefing up your meals
This section includes two easy, beefy recipes that are guaranteed to please dieters and nondieters alike. One is a recipe for kabobs marinated in sweet, teriyaki-style marinade, and the other is a classic steak-and-potatoes combo.
A wonderful, calorie-free way to flavor meats is with dry spice rubs that you simply rub onto the meat with your hands before cooking. A spice rub is simply a combination of herbs and/or spices rubbed over the surface of lightly oiled meat before it’s cooked. This combination is especially good for beef or lamb. To make a spice rub, combine 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 tea- spoons crushed rosemary, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper,
1⁄2 teaspoon ground red pepper, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Use about 1 tablespoon per pound of meat, and allow the rubbed meat to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before cooking so the seasoning mix has a chance to permeate the meat.
Asian Beef Kabobs
A simple soy-sauce–based marinade that you can also use for poultry and fish flavors this recipe. To round the menu out to a 300-calorie meal, serve with 1⁄2 cup ramen noodles and a cucumber and radish salad drizzled with rice wine vinegar or another flavored vinegar and a pinch of salt.
1 Combine the sugar, sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a medium-size bowl. Measure out and reserve 1 tablespoon of the marinade. Add the beef to the bowl with the remaining marinade and stir to coat. Marinate the beef in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
2 Soak 8 bamboo skewers in water for 10 minutes to prevent them from burning under the broiler. (If you’re using metal skewers, this step is unnecessary.)
3 Preheat the broiler. Line the broiler pan with foil for easier cleaning. Remove the beef from the marinade and discard the marinade. Alternately thread the beef, weaving back and forth, and green onion pieces onto skewers. Arrange the skewers on the broiler pan.
4 Broil the kabobs about 3 inches from the heat for 3 minutes. Turn the skewers and broil another 2 to 3 minutes or until desired doneness, basting the meat once with the reserved marinade.
Grilled Steak with Blue Cheese–Mashed Potatoes
Flank steak is a perfect cut for outdoor cooking on a grill. All you need to round out the meal is a tossed green salad drizzled with a teaspoon or two of light dressing.
1 Preheat the broiler. Line the broiler pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup. Place the steak on the broiler pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2 Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with lightly salted water to cover. Heat the water to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain, reserving some of the water. Add the remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mash the potatoes with an electric mixer or potato masher until smooth, adding some reserved cooking liquid if the mixture is too thick.
3 Meanwhile, broil steak 4 inches from the heat for 3 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Remove the steak from the broiler pan and let stand 5 minutes before slicing on the diagonal (see Figure 14-2).
Picking pork and ham
Thanks to changes in agricultural systems and animal feeding, the pork you buy in the supermarket is actually about 30 percent leaner these days than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Those changes mean ounce for ounce, pork is also lower in calories. That’s great news for dieters who want to include a variety of meat products in their diets. The recipes in this section make delicious use of lean loin pork chops, today’s lower-fat ham, and Canadian-style bacon, which is a precooked, lowfat ham product that’s packaged in individual slices just perfect for anyone who’s counting calories.
Cranberry Pork Chops
The flavor of pork marries well with almost any fruit. In this recipe, canned cranberry sauce adds fruity flavor and sweetness to a savory sauce. Serve these tasty chops with a cupful of steamed green beans or broccoli on the side.
1 Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove the chops from the skillet and set aside on a warm covered plate.
2 Add the onions and carrots to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Return the chops to the skillet and add the broth. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, until the pork is cooked through- out. (Cooking time depends on the thickness of the chops.) Remove the chops from the skillet to a covered platter to keep warm.
3 Add the cranberry sauce and vinegar to the skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until the cranberry sauce is melted and heated through. Return the chops to the skillet and cook just until the pork is heated throughout. Transfer the chops to serving plates. Spoon any remaining sauce over the chops.
Risotto with Ham and Peas
Creamy, hearty risotto is a slow-cooked Italian rice dish that’s especially satisfying to eat when you’re on a low-calorie diet. By gradually adding liquid to the rice and stirring constantly as it cooks, you release a starch that creates a very creamy rice mixture. It’s best to make risotto with Arborio rice, which you can find in the rice section of most large supermarkets or specialty food shops. Serve with sliced tomatoes, drizzled with just a teaspoon or two of light dressing.
1 Heat the oil in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute longer. Stir in rice.
2 Add 1⁄2 cup of the chicken broth and stir often for about 2 minutes or until the broth is absorbed. Add all but 1⁄2 cup of the remaining broth, 1⁄2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed.
3 Stir in the peas, ham, salt, pepper, and remaining 1⁄2 cup broth. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes or until the rice is tender and somewhat creamy. Remove the rice from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
A combination of apple butter and honey mustard elevates the everyday status of humble ham steaks to company-worthy fare. As part of a 300-calorie meal, serve the ham with 1⁄2 cup corn kernels, 1⁄2 cup creamed spinach, and a small (2-inch) square of cornbread. This menu also makes a great low-calorie holiday meal.
1 Preheat the broiler. Lightly score the ham steak with a sharp knife. Cut into four equal pieces and place, scored side-up, on a foil-lined broiler rack.
2 In a small bowl, stir together fruit spread and mustard. Spread evenly over ham steaks.
3 Broil steaks 4 inches from the heat for 3 minutes or until just browned. Be careful not to burn the glaze.
Fishing for Seafood Dinners
Many fish recipes call for cod because it’s not only lean and low in calories, but it’s also often readily available wherever seafood is sold. Flounder, sole, and snapper are among the fish that are equally low in calories and fat. Because of their mild flavor, you can substitute them in most recipes that call for cod. Shellfish such as shrimp and crab are even lower in calories, but if you’re watching your dietary cholesterol, you may want to limit the amount of shrimp you include in your diet. Two of the following recipes use oven- frying and steaming, two low-calorie cooking techniques that work particu- larly well with seafood.
Cod Stew Provencal
Fennel seed is the “secret” ingredient that gives this soup such a special flavor. If fresh fennel is available, you can use it as a substitute for the celery (see Figure 14-3 to find out what fresh fennel looks like). You can also substitute tilapia if cod is unavailable. To bring this dish up to 300 calories, serve with four saltine crackers or a small breadstick on the side.
1 Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add celery, and sauté 1 more minute. Add potato and sauté, stirring often, 5 minutes longer.
2 Add the tomatoes with their juice, clam juice, and fennel seeds to the pan. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
3 Add the cod. Partially cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the fish, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the cod is opaque. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Oven “Fried” Fish Fillets
When you bite into these fillets with their crispy coating, you’ll think you’re eating fried fish. To round out a 300-calorie menu, serve the fish with a small ear of corn and a tossed green salad with light dressing.
1 Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2 Brush the fish fillets with mayonnaise. Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, and paprika in a shallow dish. Dredge the coated fillets in the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the fil- lets on the prepared baking sheet.
3 Bake the fish for 8 minutes or until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily when a fork is inserted in fillet’s center. Serve with lemon wedges.
Pasta with Tuna, Olives, and Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes make this a pasta dish that’s delicious year-round. A small breadstick on the side brings this dish up to 300 calories.
1 Cook the pasta following package directions. Drain well.
2 Meanwhile, combine the tuna, tomatoes, olives, parsley, and oil in a large bowl. Add drained pasta and gently toss. Add lemon juice or vinegar, if you prefer, and toss again. Serve hot.
Vary It! You can substitute 1⁄2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes. If the sun-dried tomatoes come packed in oil, eliminate the olive oil in the recipe.
If you don’t own a steamer, refer to Chapter 5 for tips on constructing your own from basic pots, pans, and utensils you may already have in your kitchen. In Chapter 5 you can also find basic steaming instructions. Serve this dish with 1⁄2 cup hot cooked rice or ramen noodles, flavored with some of the steaming liquid, and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers tossed with light dressing.
1 Combine the wine, ginger root, soy sauce, and garlic in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp. Toss gently to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2 In a steamer filled with enough boiling water to barely reach the bottom of the steamer tray, arrange the shrimp in the tray in a single layer. Top with snow peas. Pour the remaining marinade over the snow peas. Cover and steam for 4 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque. (This step may be easier to do in two separate batches.)
3 Sprinkle the shrimp with cilantro before serving.
Trying a Variety of Vegetarian Dishes
In books and articles about health and weight control, I often see advice to eat at least one vegetarian dinner a week. I agree with this advice and even suggest that you work at least one vegetarian day into your diet every week, because you can benefit from eating a vegetarian diet in many ways. For one thing, it’s a good way to get more fresh vegetables, beans, and grains into your diet, along with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that come with them. Another reason vegetarian meals are helpful on a low-cal diet is that they add variety to a plan that limits the amount of food you can eat, which can help prevent you from getting bored.
Simple and Savory Black Bean Chili with Cheese
Hearty foods like chili are a satisfying break from lighter diet fare. To get all 300 of the calories you’re entitled to for dinner, stir 1⁄4 cup of rice into your chili bowl or serve with half a dozen baked tortilla chips. Like most tomato-based sauces and stews, chili tastes even better when it’s reheated the day after it’s made. If you like, substitute a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream for the shredded cheese topping.
1 Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until softened. Add sweet pepper and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Stir in the beans, tomatoes with juice, corn, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2 Spoon chili into four individual bowls and top with shredded cheese. Serve hot.
Tostadas with Avocado, Corn, and Refried Beans
This easy-to-assemble, one-dish meal quickly satisfies your hunger for classic Tex-Mex food. When you use fat-free beans and reduced-fat cheese, you can pile your tortilla high with flavorful ingredients and still stick to your 300-calorie dinner limit.
1 Preheat the oven to broil. Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on a broiler rack. Broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until edges start to brown. Set aside.
2 Meanwhile, combine the beans, 1⁄2 cup of the salsa, and 1⁄2 can of the corn in a medium saucepan. Cook, over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until heated through.
3 Combine the remaining salsa, remaining corn, and avocado in a small bowl.
4 Spread the bean mixture evenly over the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with lettuce, avocado mixture, yogurt, green onions, and cilantro. Serve warm.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
These giant, meaty mushrooms, packed with hearty white beans, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese, are practically a meal. Serve them with a small, mixed vegetable salad tossed with a teaspoon or two of light dressing.
1 Preheat the oven to 400. Use a spoon to scrape out the black gills from the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms, stem side down, on a nonstick, rimmed baking sheet. Cover with aluminum foil.
2 Bake the mushrooms for 10 to 15 minutes or until just tender. Remove the mushrooms from the baking sheet and drain on paper towels. Leave the oven on.
3 In a medium bowl, mash the beans slightly with a potato masher or fork. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, basil, mozzarella cheese, and pepper until mixed. Spoon the mixture evenly into the mushrooms. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.
4 Bake for 10 minutes or until heated through.
The following recipe for Curried Rice Pilaf features toasted almonds. To toast the almonds, place a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring often, until the almonds just begin to turn golden around the edges and become fragrant. Remove the almonds from the skillet immediately and set them aside to cool.
Curried Rice Pilaf
For maximum flavor in this dish, use basmati, Texmati, jasmine, or another flavorful long-grain rice.
1 Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Sauté 5 minutes or until tender.
2 Stir in the rice, curry powder, and cinnamon. Add the raisins and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the skillet, and simmer for 10 minutes.
3 Stir in the pepper and beans. Cover and simmer 5 minutes longer or until the rice is tender. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes.
4 Sprinkle the pilaf with the almonds just before serving.