Snack Calories: How Many Do You Eat?

chipsHave you ever added up the number of calories that you consume from daily snacks?  Those little nibbles between meals can contribute to a a significant percentage of your daily caloric intake and may lead to weight gain.  If you’re trying to lose weight, an analysis of your snack habits is essential.

Empty Snack Food Calories Add Up

Snacking itself isn’t bad. But our snacks are often full of  “empty calories.”  The USDA defines empty calories as those from added sugars and solid fat.  These are calories that have little nutritional value and often lead to weight gain and other health issues.  A recent analysis of snack habits revealed that:

  • On average, one third of our daily caloric intake comes from empty calories.
  • Men consume 923 calories per day from empty calories (average)
  • Women consume 624 calories per day from empty calories (average)

The report, called What We Eat in America, went on to say that women and men consume two to four times their limit of solid fats and added sugars on average.

Healthier Snack Options

Snacking is an important part of a healthy diet.  If you consume small healthy snacks between meals, you  are much more likely to eat moderately at mealtime because you won’t sit down to the table in a ravenous state. But what you eat at snack time makes a big difference.  If you are a woman who is trying to lose weight, you could cut 200-400 calories from your diet simply from choosing better snacks.  Over the course of a week, that could result in a 1/2 -1 pound weight loss.

Stay tuned for more information about how to make better snack choices. Next week I’ll reveal the nation’s favorite snack foods and offer healthy swaps for each food.  In the meantime, use these resources to make healthier snack food choices:

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NEAT Provides Healthy Long-Term Benefits

Go for a walk before the big meal.   (photo source: jzlomek/morguefile)

Diabetes prevention is a key concern for many adults as they age.  Lifestyle factors and family history may put you at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, which affects about 20 million Americans. Experts will recommend that patients pay careful attention to their diet and include exercise as a part of their regular schedule.  But a recent study has found that NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, may be an additional way to maintain healthy blood sugar levels as you age.

What is NEAT?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, sounds very technical, but it’s not.  It’s just a fancy name for all of the non-exercise physical movement that you do during the day. It might include climbing the stairs, folding the laundry, gardening, walking to complete errands, even standing while talking on the phone.  Sounds fairly simple, right?

NEAT has been gotten more attention from researchers in recent years.  Studies have found that the people who participate in more non-exercise physical activity enjoy significant benefits, including improved metabolism and an increased ability to control blood sugar.

Add More NEAT to Your Daily Routine

The great thing about increasing your NEAT is that it doesn’t require a schedule or a major time commitment.  It simply requires that you make certain choices throughout your day.  For example, if you drive to the grocery store, you can improve your NEAT by parking further away and walking the distance of the lot.  At work, you can improve your NEAT by taking short hourly breaks and walking to chat with coworkers.  At home, improve your NEAT while you watch television.  Dust, fold laundry, or do some other physical movement instead of laying on the couch.

These simple changes are easy to make, but can have a big impact on your long-term health.

Don’t forget to visit North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  You’ll also find tips and videos that will help you start an exercise program.  And be sure to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

More Healthy Summer Recipes

Colorful Fiesta Veggie Salad

Colorful Fiesta Veggie Salad

On Tuesday I posted a healthy potato salad recipe.  Have you tried it yet?  The recipe was developed by exercise physiologist and nutritionist Franci Cohen.  Cohen, based in Brooklyn New York, works with clients to develop healthy exercise and eating habits.  Here are two more of her recipes to try during Memorial Day weekend.

Colorful Fiesta Veggie Salad:

Salad ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ears fresh corn on the cob, cooked and shucked
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded & finely chopped
  • 2 hass avocado, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mesculin greens

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lowfat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T finely minced thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix all salad ingredients together
  2. Whisk dressing ingredients together until well-incorporated.
  3. Pour dressing on salad and serve on a bed of mesculin greens.

Yummy Fish Tacos with Slaw Salad

Yummy Fish Tacos with Slaw Salad

Yummy Fish Tacos with Slaw Salad


  • 1 pound mahi mahi or tilapia (this is more common and much cheaper), cut in quarters
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 6″ flour tortillas 

Slaw Salad:
  • 1cup shredded red cabbage.
  • 1 cup shredded white cabbage.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 carrots, grated.
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, finely chopped.
  • Juice and zest of 3 limes.
  • 2 T red wine vinegar

Chipotle Cream Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt or sour cream (strained in mesh cloth)
  • 2 tablespoons lowfat mayonnaise
  •  2 teaspoons chipotle pepper, in adobo sauce
  1. Whisk together oil, lime juice and zest, ancho chili powder, & jalapeño to create fish marinade.
  2. Arrange fish in single layer in a pyrex.
  3. Pour fish marinade over fish, and let marinate for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the fish from the marinade, and place onto a hot grill.
  5. Grill the fish for 4 minutes on the first side, and then flip for 30 seconds and remove.
  6. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.
  7. Place the tortillas on the grill, and grill for 10-20 seconds on each side.
  8. Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with slaw and chipotle sauce

Looking for more recipes?  Check back on Thursday for more.  You can also visit North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss to get tips about how to stick to your diet at parties and events.

Healthy Potato Salad Recipe

potato saladAre you planning a Memorial Day celebration with friends or family?  You can keep the meal healthy with lower fat and lower calorie versions of a few summer favorites.  This healthy potato salad is a perfect example.  Developed by exercise physiologist and nutritionist Franci Cohen, the tasty recipe is easy to fix and better for your body than its traditional counterpart.   Give it a try, then chime in on Facebook and let me know how you like it.

Healthy Mediterranean Potato Salad

  • 2 dozen small red potatoes (approx. 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 T finely chopped dill
  • 1 bunch finely chopped scallions
  •  1 red onion, diced small
  • 2-3 tsp cumin
  • juice & zest of 4-6 large fresh lemons (approx. 1/3 cup juice)
  • 3 T kosher salt
  •  2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1. Boil potatoes in covered saucepan filled with water and 1 T kosher salt, and bring to a simmer.
2. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender but not too soft (about 10 minutes)
3. Remove potatoes from saucepan and put into a bowl of ice water, to shock potatoes and stop the cooking process.
4. Remove potatoes from ice water bath, and chop into big 2″ cubes.
5. Place cubed potatoes into large bowl.
6. To create the dressing, mix remaining ingredients together and whisk to incorporate all.
7. Pour dressing over potatoes
8. Mix well and serve

Looking for more recipes?  Check back on Thursday for more.  You can also visit North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss to get tips about how to stick to your diet at parties and events.

How to Shop Smarter at the Farmers Market

veggiesOne of the best ways to incorporate more healthy food in your diet is to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, breads and meat from the farmers market.  Heading to the local market is also a fun family activity and a great way to get your kids more involved in healthy meal planning.

How to Find Local Twin Cities Markets

In Minneapolis, the North Lyndale Farmers Market is open every day from 6am- 1pm.  You’ll also find vendors on Nicollet Mall Thursdays from 6am to 6pm.  The downtown St. Paul Farmers Market is open on Saturday from 6am-1pm and on Sunday from 8am-1pm.  Find other local markets throughout the state by visiting the website of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

What’s in Season?

You’ll make the most of your money if you buy fruits and veggies that are in season.  Download this chart to get an idea of what you can buy throughout the year. Right now is a good time to look for asparagus (a food that is high in calcium and fiber)  rhubarb and strawberries.  In the coming weeks, you’ll also see fresh spinach, zucchini, and a variety of fresh lettuces.  Talk to the farmers about new ways to prepare the vegetables.  If a veggie looks unfamiliar, don’t be afraid to ask what it is.  Get the kids involved and make it a healthy learning experience for the whole family.

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21-Day Diet Fix

Look and feel better in 21 days

Look and feel better in 21 days

If a group of health experts told you that you could look and feel better in 21 days by changing just one thing about your diet, would you do it?   What if that single change could make your clothes fit better and give you a more slender appearance?  And what if it had the potential to improve your overall health?   All of these things are possible if you reduce your sodium intake for just three weeks.

The Effect of Salt on Your Body

According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, despite the fact that the organization recommends a total intake of only 1,500 milligrams for most adults.   So what does all that sodium do to your body?  In the short term, it makes your face puffy and your clothes fit tighter. But over the long term it may increase your risk of heart failure and stroke.

How to Reduce Your Sodium Intake

In January 2013, the AHA launched a campaign to help Americans reduce their salt intake. They named specific foods to reduce each week in order to lower your total sodium intake.   Use their plan to look and feel better in 21 days.

  • Week 1 – Start by tackling your consumption of breads and rolls as well as cold cuts and cured meats.  For example, one piece of bread can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium while a serving of turkey cold cuts could contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium.  When your recommended daily intake is kept to 1,500 milligrams or less, it’s amazing how fast it all adds up.  Check your labels on these items, look for lower sodium items and track your sodium consumption each day and log how much you’ve shaved out of your diet. Portion control does make a difference.  Foods eaten several times a day add up to a lot of sodium, even though each serving is not high.
  • Week 2 – Keep that momentum going!  This week’s foods include pizza and poultry.  If you’re going to eat pizza, try to aim for one with less cheese and meats or lower sodium versions of these items or try something different and add veggies instead.  When cooking for your family this week use fresh, skinless poultry that is not enhanced with sodium solution rather than fried or process
  • Week 3 – As you round out your challenge and embark on the last week of your challenge, your focus includes soups and sandwiches.  The two together typically make a tasty lunch or dinner duo, but one cup of chicken noodle or tomato soup may have up to 940 milligrams – it varies by brand –and, after you add all of your meats, cheeses and condiments to your sandwich, you can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams in one day.  This week, when choosing a soup, check the label and try lower sodium varieties of your favorites and make your sandwiches with lower sodium meats and cheeses and try to eliminate piling on your condiments.  Be sure to track your sodium and try to keep your daily consumption to less than 1,500 milligrams.

Of course, after the three week period is over, the goal is to maintain a reduced sodium intake.  But at that point you’ve retrained your taste buds to need less salt. Give it a try and let me know how it goes by posting your comments on the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss Facebook page.



Choose a Healthy Restaurant on Mother’s Day

Reach your goals with help from an RD

Help mom reach her goals

Many families will be dining out on Sunday to celebrate the mothers in their lives.  Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days in many restaurants.  If you’re the one making the reservation, you may need to take mom’s healthy eating goals into consideration.  If the lady in your life is trying to lose weight or improve her diet, use these tips to choose a healthy restaurant.

Find Healthier Restaurant Food Choices

The best way to find a healthy restaurant is to research the menu online before you make a reservation.  Scan the menu for foods that are broiled, grilled or poached.  Entrees that are loaded with veggies and fruit based desserts are also a good sign.  But if the menu at mom’s favorite restaurant doesn’t provide those options, you might still be able to dine there.  In many cases, you can talk to your waiter to modify selections according to specific dietary needs.  Call in advance to get more information about the kitchen’s flexibility.

You’ll also find smartphone apps and other online resources that will help you find healthy restaurants and to find healthy menu items once you’re there.  Check out these links to get more information.

And while you’re online, don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter!