How to Order Healthy Meals in Restaurants

Look for the red check in restaurants

Look for the red check in restaurants

Do you order heart-healthy meal when you dine out?  Trying to order a diet-friendly meal in a restaurant can be quite a challenge.  Entrees are usually too big and it is hard to find out how much fat, salt and sugar was used to prepare your entree.  But a smart diner can learn to order better meals in restaurants with a few handy tips and tools.

American Heart Association Certification

The American Heart Association provides a helpful guide for diners who want to eat better when they dine out.  Their Dining Out Guide provides tips by cuisine, a guide for deciphering the menu and other helpful tips.

The AHA also provide a certification of certain items on restaurant menus.  If you see the check-mark logo on an entree at your favorite spot, you’ll know that the item meets the nutritional guidelines established for good health by the AHA.  This means that the entire meal contains:

  • less than 700 calories
  • less than 30% of the total calories from fat
  • less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • less than 0.5 grams trans fat per the entire meal
  • 900 milligrams or less sodium per the entire meal
  • 10 percent or more of the Daily Value of one of the following nutrients per the entire meal: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, dietary fiber or protein.

Making Good Restaurant Choices

Since the AHA’s restaurant certification program is new, it is very likely that you’ll end up at a restaurant that doesn’t have menu items with the logo.  And very few restaurants provide nutritional information about their food.  So what do you do to make better choices?  Check out our Tips for Staying Social on a Diet.  You’ll find quick tips for dining out and advice for how to manage parties and other situations where food is present.

You’ll  find plenty of resources about diet, exercise advice and healthy eating strategies at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  Check it out or join the weight loss community on Facebook and Twitter.


How to Gain Less Weight As You Age

file0001591954106We may not like it, but we expect our bodies to change as we age.  We get grey hair, our skin begins to wrinkle, and we gain a little weight after menopause, right?  Maybe not, says a new study.  A recent review released by the International Menopause Society (IMS) claims that menopause does not cause weight gain.  The group says that environmental factors, not hormones, cause women to gain weight as they age.

What Causes MidLife Weight Gain in Women?

The literature review conducted by the International Menopause Society is only one research review (and there have been many) that comments on midlife weight gain in women.  The results have been mixed, partially because it is nearly impossible to separate hormonal changes from the inevitable lifestyle changes that happen when we get older.  The IMS review did acknowledge that hormones change the way fat is distributed on a woman’s body, but study author Professor Susan Davis told Science Daily, “It is a myth that the menopause causes a woman to gain weight.”

Gain Less Weight in Middle Age

So what should you do if you want to maintain your weight through menopause and beyond?  Some researchers feel that the key is staying active. One research study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology evaluated how different factors such as age, menopause, and lifestyle changes account for the weight gain often experienced by women in their 40s and 50s. They found that by remaining active, many women prevented weight gain.

For both men and women, staying very physically active throughout middle age and beyond has numerous health benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that we get 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.  Of course, there is not guarantee that it will prevent weight gain entirely, but it’s a great way to minimize the effects of aging and stay healthy.

Looking for more weight loss tips and advice?  Check out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website.  And get support and daily inspiration by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.




Super Bowl Snacks: 3 Lower Calorie Recipes

Eat healthier snacks during the game

Eat healthier snacks during the game

What’s your favorite Super Bowl snack?  If you are a typical viewer, you’ll enjoy buffalo wings, nachos, chips, dip and guacamole during the big game.  But those snacks are loaded with fat and calories.  How about making a few lower calorie Super Bowl snacks?

Use one of these recipes to have a healthier viewing experience.

  • Cheesy Artichoke Spread. This recipe from North Memorial registered dietitian Karen Palmer only has 177 calories and 4.5 grams of fat per serving.  Dip sliced veggies instead of crackers to keep the calorie count low.
  • Marinated Grilled Vegetables. Skip the chip bowls and high calorie spreads!  Instead grill a batch of these colorful veggies and present them on a platter.
  • White Bean Dip. This recipe from has far fewer calories than most sour cream based dip, but it’s just as tasty!

And if you are trying to keep your calorie count in control during the Super Bowl, remember to tally up the calories that you consume in liquid form.  The calories in beer, wine and cocktails can send your daily total through the roof.

You’ll also find plenty of resources about foods to eat and foods to avoid, exercise advice and healthy eating strategies at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  Check it out or join the weight loss community on Facebook and Twitter.

Weight Loss Tips for Men

Men have special challenges when they try to lose weight. For one thing, much of the weight loss advice that you find in magazines and online is geared to women.  This can make it hard when guys look for tips and advice to address their unique needs.

I recently interviewed a panel of experts – all men – who talked to me about the special challenges that guys face when they try to slim down and get in shape.  My experts included weight loss experts, book authors, personal trainers, a Hollywood stuntman and a winner on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.  You’ll find the entire Men’s Guide to Weight Loss at  But these were the three most common problems that they addressed and their suggestions for the best solutions.

  • Going it alone.  Men don’t like to ask for help, according to my experts. But social support has been identified as a key factor in predicting the success of weight loss programs.  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, ask family or friends for support on your journey.  Be specific about ways that they might help you along the way.  You might want a workout buddy for example, or help learning how to cook.
  • Doing too much too soon.  My fitness experts who work in gyms and health clubs said that the most common workout mistake that they see men make at the gym is doing too much too soon.  That might mean lifting too much weight, running too fast on the treadmill or spending more time than necessary at the gym in the very early stages of a workout program.  Remember, if you’re in it for the long haul, a slow and steady pace is essential if you want to build a solid fitness foundation.
  • Underestimating your diet.  There’s a saying that ‘fitness happens in the gym but weight loss happens in the kitchen.’  In many ways that saying is true.  It’s easy to justify bad eating habits when you exercise.  But the calories you burn at the gym rarely balance out the extra treats we consume with that rationale.  If you want to lose weight, honor your good exercise habits with a clean, balanced diet.  Meet with a registered dietitian to get an eating plan that provides the right amount of food to fuel your workouts, but not so much that you won’t lose weight.

You’ll also find plenty of resources about foods to eat and foods to avoid, exercise advice and healthy eating strategies at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  Check it out or join the weight loss community on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Shop for Healthier Food

Buy healthy snack food.

Buy healthy snack food.

Are you stocked with the right food to help you lose weight and improve your health?  If you followed my blog post on Tuesday, you’ve taken the time to clean out your refrigerator  and you’ve made room for convenient, easy-to-grab, healthier food options. Now it’s time to fill your fridge with good food.  Let’s get started!

Food to Eat, Food to Avoid 

Before you go to the grocery store, take a few minutes to brainstorm about healthy foods that you enjoy eating.  For example, you might not like all vegetables, but there are probably a few that you like to eat.  Would you eat more fresh fruit if it was available for snacking?  Think about how those foods can replace some of the less healthy snack items that you typically buy.   Once you have a few ideas, use this list of Foods to Increase, Foods to Decrease from the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website to come up with more options to consider when you go to the grocery store.

Create Your Shopping List

Take all of your healthy eating ideas and compile them into a shopping list.  Use our Healthy Shopping List as a guide.   Your list will not only help you to make better choices at the grocery store, but it will help you to navigate the store differently than you normally do.  Many experts recommend that healthy eaters shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where you generally find fresh meat and produce.  Your new route may help you find other healthy food choices.

Need more help coming up with a food plan? Why not meet with a registered dietitian at North Memorial ?  Your primary care provider can give you more information about getting a referral.  A dietitian will help you develop a personalized eating plan so that you can reach your health and weight loss goals.

Looking for more weight loss tips and advice?  Check out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website.  And get support and daily inspiration by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

Healthy Snack Recipe: Herb-Stuffed Mushrooms

One of the most difficult parts of dieting is giving up high calorie snacks.  But a healthy eating plan can – and should – include snacks.  If you have a sweet tooth, berries or other fresh fruit can be satisfying. But if you like savory foods, snacking can be a little more challenging.  Many savory foods are high in salt, starch and fat.

This healthy recipe can be prepared as a side dish, as an appetizer to be served at parties, or you can make a batch to keep for snacking.  The recipe is provided by the USDA’s MyPlate Holiday Recipe Makeover Program.  You’ll find other healthy recipes for a special occasion or any day of the week by checking their website.

(click on the recipe to see a larger, downloadable recipe to print out)

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Avoid Weight Loss Workout Mistakes

walking shoesDid you start a new workout program in 2014?  If you’re like many Americans, you began the new year with a new commitment to exercise and a eat better diet.  But in order to keep your plan on track, you need to stay healthy.  Try to avoid these workout mistakes to keep your program on track.

3 Common Workout Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Doing too much too soon.  We are often enthusiastic when we start a new exercise program.  That excitement can lead to injury if you do too much too soon.  If you are new to exercise, try to do a moderate workout (like walking or swimming) 2-3 times during the week.  Try to move continuously for 20-30 minutes and gradually increase the duration of your sessions.
  2. Eating too many calories.  It’s easy to justify that extra dessert or that extra serving of mashed potatoes if you have exercised during the day.  But if your goal is weight loss, remember that you need to end the day with a calorie deficit. Your exercise session probably won’t burn enough calories to account for your extra indulgence.  A 30 minute walk on the treadmill, for example, only burns about 130 calories.  A brownie contains 400 calories.
  3. Not asking for help Your workout will be more effective if you exercise at the correct intensity and incorporate a few strength and flexibility exercises.  If you don’t know what exercises to do, ask for help! Check out the exercise videos at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss to learn about different ways to exercise at home.  Or ask your physician for a referral to see an expert at the Institute for Athletic Medicine.

Don’t forget to connect with us at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.