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Simple Swap: EVOO & Balsamic Vinegar

30 Aug

I may have gone to Italy to study cinema (see pretty much any post from July 2011), but some of the biggest lessons I took away were about wine and olive oil. I was taught all about them both in perhaps the world’s most revered places for these products – Chianti.

Because of this, and lack of alternatives, I came home with a newly developed taste for olive oil and vinegar as my salad dressing.

Italians love simplicity in their meals which is why you will never see salad dressing over there (let alone a variety of dressing choices). And no, they don’t use “Italian” dressing with little red and white bits of who-knows-what that settle at the bottom of the bottle. Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That’s it.

The great part about adapting to the salad style of Italians is that 1. I save money on salad dressing because a little bit of oil goes a LONG way and 2. I’ve made a lifelong simple swap.

Extra virgin olive oil has 120 calories per every tablespoon (which is really all you need for a regular salad) and balsamic vinegar has about 5 calories for every teaspoon (so feel free to use a few teaspoons!).

Granted, olive oil has more calories than a serving size of American Italian dressing, but it has 100% less salt than “Italian” dressing and 100% less sugar (that means no salt and no sugar – at all!).

On top of that, Extra Virgin Olive Oil falls in the same category as avocados – the “good fats.” It’s also full of antioxidants and vitamins. But, it is still a fat and high-ish in calories so you do have to keep in mind that a little really does go a long way (you shouldn’t eat a whole avocado in one sitting and your lettuce shouldn’t be dripping with oil).

AANNNDD, by using oil and vinegar, you can customize your dressing’s taste. Maybe you’re an oil-only person, or vinegar only, or 2 parts oil 1 part vinegar – you adjust the taste to your liking!

One important thing to remember – use high-quality olive oil as your dressing/dip for bread. Don’t use the cheapest bottle at the supermarket – that’s for cooking (sauteing, using in your pasta water, etc.). It doesn’t taste very good as a dressing. Higher quality olive oil – from a local winery or specialty company – is less processed and leaves more of the natural flavor in the finished product.

Mangiamo!

Simple Swap: Skinny Girl Margaritas

29 Aug

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but my bestie and I love us some margaritas. Unfortunately, the mix is generally loaded with sugar and the salt around the rim is not so great when trying to reduce weight/water retention.

Bethenny Frankel thought the same thing and created Skinnygirl Margaritas.

The bestie and I tried them last weekend during one of our nights in and they do a margarita justice! Only 100 calories per serving and it uses agave nectar instead of refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup. They run about $15 for a 750 ml bottle. I should say that they are more on the strong/tart side – comparable to Margaritaville’s “Perfect Margarita” or their version of a 100 calorie margarita.

Visit Skinnygirl’s website here to see other skinny products and recipes.

Give it a try the next time you’re having a girls night in – your hips will thank you.

Protein Style

12 Aug

I love cheeseburgers. I love Southern California. Therefore, I love In-n-Out. I also love mystery (as you can tell from my excitement with the secret bakery) so it’s only fitting that I love In-n-Out’s secret menu (locals only, yo!)

I’ve tried a few things on their secret menu – animal style fries and burgers – but last night, I had my first protein style cheeseburger. Loved it!

Lovely picture of a cheeseburger animal style care of TheChive.com

I’m not one to shy away from carbs but I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the gym that night and I wasn’t able to go on my lunchtime walk and I was out-and-about and starving and poor so I took the opportunity to try it. Granted the cheese and ‘spread’ aren’t exactly “good for you” but taking away the bun makes this a slightly healthier burger option (only about 330 calories according to In-n-Out’s nutritional chart). And it was only about $3. Win!

Dairy, Sugar and Acne – Oh My!

5 Aug

I met my friend Sarah in Italy and not only is she a great travel buddy, she’s a wealth of information regarding skin care, beauty tips, hair secrets and all kinds of other girly stuff (that I normally don’t pay much attention to). But when she started talking about diet changes that affect your complexion, my ears perked up real quick!

She posted this link on her Facebook about how dairy and sugar cause acne no matter what age you are.

Here’s a sample of what the study said:

“Two large controlled trials found that cow’s milk increased both the number of people who got acne and its severity. Other large randomized prospective controlled trials (the gold standard of medical research) found that people who had higher sugar intake and a high glycemic load diet (more bread, rice, cereal, pasta, sugar, and flour products of all kinds) had significantly more acne. The good news is that chocolate (dark chocolate that is) didn’t seem to cause acne.”

Sorry, had to bold that last line. My recommendation for excellent dark chocolate? Dove Silk. Pair the squares with raspberry sorbet and you have my new favorite dessert.

Back to the study: The dairy and sugars cause a spike in hormones, androgens and insulin which causes pimples! The article lists a slew of hormones that are found in cow’s milk (even organic, raw, etc.) which quickly makes it become as bad for you as all the sugar in soda.

Basically, cow’s milk is essential for growing calves just like mother’s milk is essential for human babies. Do humans continue drinking breast milk after being weaned? No. Do cows continue suckling other grown bovines? No. Why do we then continue to drink hormone-filled cow’s milk as adults?

The Alternatives

Personally, I love carbs. And after taking a test on what my specific metabolism is like, my body needs carbs. So I can have wheat and grain-based breads and pastas (that are better than bleached, heavily processed carbs that cause acne) without feeling guilty. Thank God! Eventually I’ll start exploring starch substitutes and post on those, but for now I’ve got a few dairy replacements to talk about.

I’ve already tried almond milk and recently picked up Trader Joe’s low-fat original soy milk. The soy milk’s texture and consistency is much better for cereal than almond milk. It’s thin like the fat-free cow’s milk I drink but unlike fat-free milk, the soy milk is a little bit sweet. I’ve heard people say that fat-free milk is basically water (heavily hormoned water…) but low-fat soy milk is just as light and has more taste. It also works great in my coffee, taking the bitterness out and complimenting the splash of Splenda I use.

The shelf life of soy milk is also super long – my half gallon doesn’t expire until October!

However, this particular soy milk has more calories than the almond milk – 110 per 8 oz. serving. Yikes! 2.5 grams of fat (in the low fat variety) and 10 grams of sugar. BUT! No hormones. There’s also 5 grams of protein and a substantial amount of calcium, Vitamin A and D.

Different brands may have lower-calorie varieties and I believe there may be an unsweetened type with less sugar. (I’m new to the soy milk party so I just grabbed a carton and went on my merry way.)

There’s also the option of rice milk, which is next on my “To Try” list.

Little adjustments like these are a great way to be healthier and have prettier skin, too!

Simple Swap: Sandwich Thins

21 Jun

I love carbs. Love Love Love. Needless to say, I eat a lot of bread (and pasta and cereal and rice…). But recently, I picked up a package of Oroweat Sandwich Thins.

Instead of 90 calories per slice, like other whole wheat bread, these are 100 calories for both ends of your sandwich. And unlike pita bread (which is delicious, don’t get me wrong), they’re still soft and even a little fluffy.

Another bonus? You don’t waste the end slices of loaf bread that no one likes.

The Oroweat brand also makes sandwich thins in honey wheat, multi-grain and whole wheat fill ’ems (for hot dogs and sub sandwiches).

The sandwich thins are enough for 8 sandwiches, fewer than an entire loaf of bread, and they’re a little more expensive but only by a few cents.

They’re great for brown-bag lunches (which I bring to work every day) and probably as hamburger bun substitutes, but I don’t think they could completely replace loaf bread (what about toast with jelly? These thins would probably turn into crackers if you put them in the toaster).

Simple Swap: Almond Milk

15 Jun

I have a friend who introduced me to Almond Milk and it seemed like the day after she talked about, everyone else around me was talking about it, too. They were talking about it having a longer shelf-life than milk and fewer calories, it’s lactose free….I was interested but I’ve always been a “Got Milk?” girl.

I hesitated buying it because of the $3 price tag (my usual fat-free milk is under $2) but eventually gave in because almond milk has only 60 calories per serving compared to fat-free/skim milk’s 90 calories. I checked the expiration date: August 2, 2011 (I bought it on June 13, 2011 – nice!). It also has a ton of calcium and Vitamins D, E and B12.

Almond milk isn’t as stark white as cow milk, it doesn’t have a milky smell (or really any smell that I could sense) and it’s much thicker than my usual fat-free milk – it’s more like whole milk. It does have a slight almond taste, but not enough that you could use it to make an almond latte (I do use it in my coffee and it does the same job as regular milk or half-and-half).

The only thing I’m not impressed with was the consistency it gave my Cheerios. Because of the extra thickness, my cereal was more cream-based-soup-y than I prefer. I’m probably going to try using it to make creamier oatmeal and other hot cereals, or hot chocolate (OMG almond milk hot chocolate sounds amazing!).

I tried ‘original’ but it also comes in vanilla, dark chocolate (apparently my idea isn’t so original after all…) and unsweetened.

Overall, it’s a pretty good substitute if you’re looking to cut calories anyway you can, if you’re lactose intolerant, or if you just don’t drink milk very often and need something with a longer shelf-life.

You can even visit Pure Almond’s website to register to get a $0.75 coupon. They also have some interesting recipes to use almond milk as a substitute.

P.S. If you say or write the word “milk” enough, it sounds utterly ridiculous (HA! Pun semi-intended :P)

Simple Swap: Spinach

6 Jun

Cute story: I’ve been eating spinach since I can remember because my grandma used to say, “Eat your spinach because you want to be strong like Popeye.” And really, what 6-year-old girl doesn’t want to have massive forearms to beat up bullies with?

Me! (apparently, I was annoyed...)

Clearly, he's every young girls idol

And now I use spinach as a great substitute for regular iceberg lettuce.

1 Cup of raw spinach has only 7 calories, 1g of fiber, 1g of protein, 56% of your Vitamin A for the day, as well as 14% of Vitamin C and 5% of iron.

1 Cup of raw iceberg lettuce has 10 calories, only 7% of Vitamin A, 3% of Vitamin C and 2% of iron.

I now use spinach on my sandwiches instead of iceberg lettuce and my salads are generally spinach-based (or another, dark green leafy veg like Romaine lettuce or baby greens). There is a slight taste difference, but only because iceberg doesn’t really taste like anything to begin with.

Popeye was really on to somethin’!

Simple Swap: Honey Mustard & Low Fat Mayo

25 May

I’m not a fan of plain, yellow mustard – at all. I used to opt for mayo (only the teensiest bit) when making a sandwich at home or getting one from Subway, and then I saw that EVERY calorie came from fat. Gross.

So next time I was at the store I checked the label of Light Mayo – 35 calories (instead of 90) per serving…but 30 calories are from fat. Gross.

I was eating my sandwiches dry for awhile.

Then I discovered honey mustard:

This little gem is only 10 calories a serving with NONE of the calories from fat. And it is a much better alternative to a dry sandwich.

Then I came across the dilemma of, “What am I going to use to make tuna???”

Low Fat Mayo, of course! (I’m not sure what makes it different from ‘Light Mayo’ but there IS a BIG difference in calories.)

Low Fat Mayo only has 15 calories per serving (10 of which are from fat but…I’m not ready to make tuna with mustard so…) and has tasted fine to me in my last batch of tuna.

I looked at the mayo that’s made with olive oil, but that still had 50 calories/serving 45 of which are from fat – ick.

Now, I only use honey mustard on my sammiches ( 🙂 ) and keep a small jar of Low Fat Mayo for tuna use only!

Simple Swap: Slim-Fast Lunch

9 May

Ok, I know a lot of people think they couldn’t possibly get by with just an 11 oz drink for lunch, but really, you can.

I’ve never done the Slim-Fast 3-2-1 plan and I don’t use the shakes to lose weight per se, but I do keep Slim-Fast meal shakes on hand for days like today – I opted to sleep in 15 minutes rather than put together my lunch and I’ve been running non-stop since I walked in the office.

Slim-Fast meal shakes

Slim-Fast meal shakes

This shake is perfect to grab and go, and because it has 10 grams of protein (20% of your daily intake), it really does fill you up until dinner. The vanilla and strawberry flavors have 180 calories per can, while the chocolate royale (pictured) has 190 calories. I prefer the chocolate and vanilla flavors. Strawberry is OK and I recommend staying far away from the capuccino kind (ick!).

Another perk – they’re affordable. You can usually find six-packs for about $5 at WalMart and just this past weekend I saw a 12-pack there for $10 (either packs come to $0.83/can!)