Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weight Watcher Wednesdays! Portion Sizes

So going along with the daily letter theme of my blog I decided to make Wednesdays, "Weight Watcher Wednesdays" and share some great tips I have learned through my experience with Weight Watchers.  Over the years I have learned a lot of things including great tips and ides to help me with my journey.  There are some things though that are really helpful and those are the ones I tend to remember and use on a daily basis. Having these helpful tips to refer to are a great way to help you stay on track and learn whats healthy for your body.
One of the best things I learned was easy ways to understand portion sizes, especially when I am not at home or don't have something to measure with.  This becomes increasingly helpful at restaurants where the portions they serve are always much larger.

Here are some great ways to visualize what a "real" portion is..

You may know that 3 ounces of steak is a healthy portion, but do you know it looks like?
3 ounces serving of cooked lean beef steak is about the same size as a deck of cards!

Do you really know at a glance how much a half a cup of potato salad is, or a cup of pasta?
A 1 cup serving size is about the same size as a tennis ball!

What about when your making pancakes, do you know how big a pancake serving is?
A 4-inch pancake is about the same size as a compact disc!

Do you pile on the meat when making a sandwich?
A 3-ounce serving of deli-sliced meat like turkey is about the same size as a cassette tape!

Don't be fooled by those extra large restaurant muffins
A regular-sized muffin is about the same size as a cupcake wrapper!

Do you like to eyeball the scoop of ice cream too?
A 1/2 cup is also about the same size as cupcake wrapper!

Do you think you know the actual serving size of cookie?
A 1.2 ounce Chocolate Chip Cookie is about the same size as the top of a soda can!

What about those pesky things like Peanut Butter, Mayo or Butter?A teaspoon is about the same size as 1 die!

A tablespoon is about the same size as 3 die!

Having something to visualize will hopefully help you when you determining portion sizes.  It also helps to keep you in check with yourself when you know that heaping spoonful of mayo is way more than a single serving!

Here are some other quick tricks using your hand!

•Your fist is equal to one medium fruit or one measured cup
•Your palm minus the fingers is a 3 ounce portion of cooked meat
•Your thumb (whole thumb, from tip to base) is equal to one ounce of meat or cheese
•Your thumb from the tip to the first joint is about 1 tablespoon
•Your thumb nail is about 1 teaspoon

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday's Tip! 9 Foods for Youthful Skin

As we get older skin cells regenerate slower making it difficult to repair itself. We also produce fewer hormones with age which thins skin, leaving it more vulnerable to damage. Eating right is very important not only to our health but to aging. Research shows that a diet rich in certain nutrients may prevent and reverse skin aging more effectively than expensive beauty treatments. A recent study found a strong correlation between aging skin and poor dietary habits. Women with above-average intakes of vitamin C and linoleic acid who ate fewer fats and carbohydrates were more likely to have healthier, youthful skin. 

Here are 9 foods to eat for more youthful looking skin:

1. Kiwis

Kiwis have one of the highest vitamin C concentrations of any fruit. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that quenches free radicals, which cause skin damage. Try eating two organic kiwis per day 

2. Berries

Berries, particularly raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries, are excellent sources of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that helps protect skin against sun damage. Sun exposure leads to fine lines, discoloration, and age spots. All berries are rich in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that protect the skin from free-radical damage. Try top consume a variety of berries throughout the week, aiming to eat a 1/2 cup or more per day.

3. White Tea

White tea is full of antioxidants, fights cancer, boosts heart health, and protects skin. White tea also blocks enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, a protein that makes skin elastic and prevents sagging. Try to drink 2 cups of white tea a day.

4. Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil contains omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, both of which decrease skin roughness and scaling. By eating balanced amounts of essential fatty acids, you help your body produce flexible cells that keep skin moist, supple, and healthy in tone and texture Try to get 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day by drizzling small amounts over steamed vegetables, soups, or salads.

5. Spinach

Spinach has one of the most impressive nutritional profiles of any vegetable. One cup of fresh spinach provides almost 200 percent of your daily vitamin K, which inhibits calcification.  Not only can calcification cause hardening of the arteries, it also limits skin elasticity, leading to wrinkles.  Try eating 1 cup of spinach at least three times a week by adding it to your salads.

6. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can help skin maintain a youthful appearance, research found that chocolate’s flavonols, or plant pigments act like antioxidants and help protect skin from harmful UV light. Try eating 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day as a sweet treat

7. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene, a plant pigment with strong antioxidant properties. It stabilizes a volatile form of molecular oxygen produced by UV radiation that causes skin to age. Because lycopene is better absorbed when heated, tomatoes’ nutritional value increases when they’re cooked. Try eating a cup of cooked tomatoes with olive oil several times per week

8. Carrots

Carrots and other bright orange foods, such as sweet potatoes, are excellent sources of vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining the body’s outer epithelial tissue. It is necessary for skin maintenance and repair,the nutrient serves as a barrier, providing a healthy surface lining to prevent bacteria from entering the body.
Try to eat 1 to 2 cups of carrots or other bright-orange foods every week.

9. Avocados

Avocados are excellent sources of vitamin E and lutein, both of which promote healthy skin. Vitamin E can help reduce the sun’s harmful effects.  Lutein increases skin hydration, improves skin elasticity, and protects against deterioration of beneficial lipids that keep skin plump and firm. Try adding small amounts of avocado to your diet by putting slices on salads and sandwiches or blending it in dips instead of mayonnaise or sour cream.

So if you want to help protect your skin or help to repair it, try working these foods into your weekly diet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekend Warrior!

We had such a  fun time picking berries last weekend that we decided to go back again this weekend, though we didn't drag Kevin along this time.  My friend Rachel and I were super excited Saturday morning to head back over to Rose's Berry Farm. 
 We waited a few minutes before boarding the truck that takes you up to the field.  As soon as we started to ascend up towards the Fields we could see them.. Berries, Berries and more Berries.  Last week when we went the strawberry season was ending and the raspberries and blue berries were just beginning to start. We were watching people heading back with boxes and pints full of bright fresh berries which got us even more excited. 

Once again we started with strawberries, the season was over but we saw some people had been able to find some, so we got down on our hands and knees and starting sifting through the plants to find any hidden strawberries that were left.  We lucked out and were able to fill two pints worth.
Next we hit the raspberries and it was a whole different experience from last week, there were fresh ready to be picked berries as far as the eye could see.  We put our buckets around our necks and began picking hand fulls at a time.  It took some time since we probably bucketed as many as we ate along the way. It was amazing we could have gone on for hours.

We then hopped back on the truck and road to the blue berry field which was just as beautiful and colorful.  I am not a big blueberry fan so I decided that since I wanted the experience of picking them I would get some for Kevin and my Mother.  Now talk about easy, they came off by the handful quickly filling our buckets.  I even tasted a fresh blueberry right off the bush and it wasn't bad at all

After we had had managed to pick/eat enough berries we headed back to down to pay for our bounty.  Would you believe all that fruit cost only $10, try getting that at a grocery store or even a farmers market! I would go back every weekend if I could not just for the fun of picking them but for how cost effective it is.

I am telling you, as two time berry picker now its worth looking into and seeing if there are any farms around your area that offer something like this.  I cant wait, Apples are next! and then the raspberries have another season.

After that we hit up a local farm stand.  I had never purchased from there but since we were there I decided to get some things and avoid having to go to the grocery store.  I picked up some bananas corn and grapes and couldn't believe how much cheaper they were from the grocery store.  I am now going to try and only buy produce from farm stands, especially during the summer season, aside from their quality and organic nature they are also so much more cost effective. 

My new mission now is to find the best local farmers markets that are going on in and around our community.  This coming Saturday we will be checking out some across the state in Greenwich, Stamford & Fairfield and filming it for Hungry For Living TV.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday's Featured Product!

As you know I am up for trying new products especially desert products, but I always go into it skeptical.  Since I am not one who likes anything that taste "diet" I a very picky about snacks and deserts that are labeled that way. Not to long ago after getting one of my favorite magazines in the mail I sat down and began ingesting all things pop culture.  Then I came across an add for a new line of Skinny Cow ice cream cups. A few minutes later my boyfriend called me saying he was stopping by the grocery store on the way home, is there anything I needed? I paused for a second than described the delicious looking ice cream cups I was looking at to him in great detail hoping he would be able to find them. 

They came in 5 different flavors Dulce de Leche, Caramel Cone, Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Fudge Brownie & Cookies N' Cream.  Not wanting to seem piggish I listed the three flavors I was most eager to try. Dulce de Leche, Caramel Cone & Cookies N' Cream. 

They come in at 2 and 3 WW points each depending on the flavor so I was skeptical as to how good they would actually taste especially the Dulce de Leche.. WOW was i surprised.  I can now tell you my freezer is stocked at all times with these flavors.  I have yet to try the other two yet.

First I tried the Dulce de Leche, it was so sweet and creamy and has ample amounts of caramel swirled into it.  When I opened it up I saw the caramel peeking through on top and thought that you get just a single blob, but i was pleasantly surprised to find it swirled all the way through. WW 2 Points

Next (yes the same night) I tried the Cookies N' Cream.  I wasn't expecting much since I had tried other "low fat" or "diet" versions of Cookies N Cream ice cream and have not been impressed at all.  Once again I was pleasantly surprised I was very creamy and tasty! You could taste the sweet vanilla ice cream and all the yummy cookie pieces (not specs) It didn't taste low in fat at all. WW 2 Points

I waited till the next night to try the third flavor Caramel Cone, by this point I wasn't expecting anything but greatness from that first bite and it delivered. It's a sweet vanilla ice cream with generous amounts of caramel swirled all around (like the Dulce de Leche) & has crunchy chocolate coated pieces of waffle cone mixed throughout. WW 3 Points

I suggest anyone looking for a low fat, low calorie, or low point desert to try these out. Everyone I have had try them, loves them! They make a wonderful sweet treat at the end of the day & they won't undo your day of eating healthy!

I give them 2 YUMS UP!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday's This for That!

This week's Thursday's This for That swap is one of my all time favorite things to eat. A grilled cheese sandwich! Anyone who is on or has been on weight watchers knows you find ways to enjoy your favorite foods at a lower point value. Whether you follow WW or not this is a great way to have a much healthier grilled cheese sandwich and not feel bad about indulging in something so yummy!

A normal grilled cheese sandwich you would make at home or get from a restaurant calls for
  • 2 Slices of bread (at least 4 points)
  • 2 Slices of American cheese (at least 4 points)
  • at least 1 tbsp butter  (at least 1pt)
So were talking at least 9 POINTS minimum for a sandwich!
That is close to half the points most people are given in a day, so that has to show you its not a very healthy choice.

Today I will show you how to make that same tasty grilled cheese sandwich for only 3 points!

It is SO Simple! This recipe calls for:
  • 2 Slices WW whole wheat bread (1 point) you can use other light breads that equal 2 slices for 1 point
  • 2 Slices WW American cheese (2 points)
  • I can't believe it's not butter spray ( 0 points)
Use the butter spray to coat the outer sides of the sandwich and grill over medium heat on a frying pan or griddle and enjoy!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Journey!

I added a new page to my blog called "My Journey".  It is accessible through the link located on the right of the page under the "About Me" section.  I added some old and recent photos of myself to show my progress over the last two years.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a page like this but I decided that if I want to be honest and open with my followers it is something I need to do.  It is still hard to look at the old photos of myself.  I don't even recognize that girl.  I look at those photos now to keep me motivated on my journey to stay healthy and happy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday's Tip!

I am not a big onion fan, the only way I ever used to eat onions was in onion rings and lets face it there is no health benefit from eating those.  You end up doing more harm than any good that could come from eating the onion when you coat it and then deep fry it.  I have since found healthier ways to make onion rings at home and have been trying to incorporate them more into my diet. This week I decided to learn a little more about Onions! Aside from being a tasty addition to your meal they contain nutrients that help you ward off inflammation, fight chronic disease and regulate blood sugar.

The Basics of Onions:

Onions are separated into two main categories fresh onions and storage onions. There are tons of different varieties of onions (I'm talking hundreds people). Their  flavor and strength all depend on the type of soil and time of year they grow. The easiest way to determine how strong an onion's flavor is, is to follow this tip: The thicker the layers of onion, the stronger the flavor.

Fresh Onions:
  • Fresh onions come in spring and summer (Scallions,Maui,Vidalia,Walla Walla)
  • You should store them in the refrigerator
  • Eat them soon after harvesting.
  • When selecting green onions, look for ones that appear crisp yet tender & have green, fresh-looking tops.
  • Sweet onions should be firm and heavy with water.
Storage onions:
  • Storage onions are harvested in fall and winter (Yellow,White,Red,Shallots)
  • They have a stronger flavor
  • They store longer and should be kept in a cool, dry place (not refrigerated).
  • When purchasing, choose ones that are clean, well shaped and tightly closed, with crisp, dry outer skins.
  • Avoid onions that are sprouting or have signs of mold or soft spots.
Nutritional Info:

  • Studies have suggested that onions, which are rich in phytochemicals and the antioxidant flavonoid quercetin, may help lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and many types of cancer, particularly colon cancer.
  • Onions also have powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-parasitic properties.
  • One cup of raw onion contains more than 20 percent of the daily requirement of the trace mineral chromium, important for helping the body to metabolize sugar and lipids.
  • When cooked, onions have a slightly lower vitamin content, but the resulting chemical reactions increase the variety of beneficial sulfur compounds.

How To Use Onions: Cooked & raw onions add depth and excitement to many dishes.
  • Spring and red onions bring color and flavor to salads, salsa and guacamole
  • Sweet onions are best when eaten raw or only slightly cooked, making them perfect additions to hamburgers, sandwiches and fresh salads.
  • To saute onions, heat skillet over medium-high heat and add oil to coat bottom of pan. Add thinly sliced or chopped onions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.
  • To caramelize onions, first heat a saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 teaspoons of butter. Add 2 pounds of thinly sliced onions and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered until onions are soft and brown, about 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. If pan becomes dry, add a few tablespoons of vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Kitchen Tips:
  • To prevent watery eyes when cutting an onion, chill them for an hour before chopping. This will help slow down the movement of allyl sulfate, the enzyme responsible for producing tears.
  • When cutting a dry onion, chop off the top and slice in half through the root. (Leaving the root intact makes chopping easier.) Remove skin and place halves flat-side down on a cutting board. Slice to make uniform half-moon slices.
  • To take the onion smell out of a wooden cutting board, wash it with a paste made from baking soda and a few drops of distilled vinegar. Rinse with warm water. Season the dried board with mineral oil.(
Here are some recipes for making healthier onion rings at home:
(Ignore the picture posted, this is the recipe i use)
Do you have any good recipes that use onions?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Berry Picking!

This weekend I had a mission, pick strawberries! We were having a family party down at my grandparent's and my mom wanted me to bring fresh strawberries.  I was given this task since my boyfriends mother works at a local farm in our area.  Now we have been dating over two years and for over two years I have been telling him to take me berry picking.  He has gotten berries from the farm many times, but the best part of the farm is that you can go and pick your own berries if you want to.  Now for him this is something he has done all his life and sees it as a chore rather than a fun activity.  He likes to tell me how it was used as punishment when he was a child, and he would have to pick berries in his grandparents garden.  Well I wasn't giving up! This weekend was perfect, It was beautiful out & I had my friend visiting. I held strong and we finally ended up getting him to bring us to the farm. 

Now we had made it to the farm! but my boyfriend still looked like he was being tortured and tried to encourage us to purchase the fresh fruits that were already picked and ready for purchase.  I had made it this far and I was not giving up! We waited a few minutes and boarded the truck that takes you to the fields. At the time of our visit the strawberry and raspberry season was just finishing up and the blueberry season was starting.  You could pick whatever you wanted and as much as you wanted. I was in heaven.  I thought it was so cool to be picking my own foods, knowing exactly where they came from & picking only the ones i wanted to eat.

We started with strawberry's, they grow very low to the ground so you have to bend over or crouch down to pick them.  I didn't care I was loving it! My friend and I took the cardboard box we were given and went to town.  There were plenty for us to choose but it was also the end of the season so you had to search out the good ones. 

 With a little advice from my boyfriend (about going further down into the field since most people start at the top) we were off.  At first my boyfriend stayed up where I had dropped my purse at the start of the strawberry field, but soon enough he was right there with us picking strawberry's and showing us how to do it.  Because they grow right on the dirt they aren't as clean so we only tasted one or two as we went ;)

Next we hit the raspberry field and quickly started to search out ripe red raspberries.  It was a little harder to find them at first since the area we started in had been thoroughly picked through.  Finally though we found out if we look inside the bushes there were lots of ripe berries left to be picked. 

Those were more fun to pick because you just walked along side the bushes and easily popped off the ripe berries, plus it was easier to pop them in your mouth as you went along ;).  Plus I must add my boyfriend was enjoying himself so much trying to find the best ones, we lost him, though quickly located him.

On the way back to the front of the farm we stopped to pick up people who were collecting blueberries, I'm not a big fan of blueberries so we didn't pick any, plus my friend was dying from the heat.  I was still in heaven!  When we got back we paid for our berries which was about $9.00.  Not bad at all for fresh local picked berries, much cheaper than the grocery store! We also bought a frozen strawberry Rhubarb pie that my boyfriends mom makes for the farm to bring down to my family as well.

On Sunday everyone loved the fresh berries and the pie! It was a great end to the wonderful lobster lunch.  I for one who never really eats pie loved it! It tasted like a fruit roll-up.  I can't wait to go back! I will either have to bring a friend with me or give my boyfriend a little time in between our next visit. 

The farm we visited was Rose's Berry Farm in Glastonbury, CT you can visit their site HERE

If you are not in the area I also found a great web site to help you find places to pick local produce in your area Here

It's a lot of fun!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guilt Free Stuffed Artichoke!

Now I am sure some of you are saying WHAT! Mrs. Picky Eater here eats artichokes?? Yes! it's true! Though I can count the number of vegetables I eat on my two hands, the artichoke tops the list.  I have no explanation of this other than they are yummy! Now being that I am Italian I was raised eating stuffed artichokes, over the years however I have perfected my recipe and  slimmed it down to where it has become one of my favorite guilt free dishes.

Now starting off a artichoke is 0pts on Weight Watchers, after my amazing transformation you will have a delicious dish consisting of 3pts! Yes people you heard that right, 3WW Points!

Supplies you will need:
Large Pot
Sauce Pan
Electric Chopper or Blender
Steamer Insert
Kitchen Shears (optional)

Ingredients you will need:
1 Artichoke
A can of chicken Broth or stock
2 slices of WW whole wheat Bread or 
a Light Wheat bread or any that equals 2peices for 1 point
1/4c White wine
I can't believe its not butter spray (12 sprays)
1Tbsp Romano or Parmesan cheese
Spices i.e basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley, garlic  (Use fresh herbs if you have them)
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil (optional)

* You can adjust the herbs and flavors you use based on your preferences. I like to also add Mural of flavor and Herbs de Provence, 2 herb mixes you can get from Penzey's Spices.

1) Start by boiling the water to steam the artichoke on high heat.  You can use just water, I like to throw a bouillon cube in the pot to add a little flavor, or you can steam it in chicken broth or stock (whatever you would like) make sure to check back while the artichoke is steaming to ensure all the liquid has not evaporated.  If it is low just add more until the artichoke is done cooking.

2) Cut off the top 1/4 inch of the artichoke as well as the stem, making sure it has a even bottom to rest on while steaming. Then if you want use shears to cut the spiky tips off the outer leafs. 
*If you want you can dig out the center of the artichoke ahead of time, lately I have been leaving it in especially when the artichokes are smaller like this one you get more to eat.

3) Make your fresh bread crumbs. Add bread to chopper and pulse until it forms a bread crumb like consistency. Add cheese, a sprinkling of each spice, salt & pepper and mix some more. Adjust spice levels according to taste. ( if using fresh herbs chop them in the mixer prior to adding the bread)

4) Using your hands spread apart the artichoke opening up the spaces in between the leaves. Stuff the breadcrumbs in the center of the artichoke as well as in between as many leaves as you can.

5) Place the artichoke in the pot on top of a steamer insert. Drizzle a little Olive Oil over the top of the artichoke and cover for about 20min or until you can easily pull off an outside leaf using a pair of tongs.

6) In the sauce pan on low heat add 1/2 the can of chicken broth (you can save the the rest to adjust the flavor as the broth cooks or you can add it to the liquid being used to steam the artichoke) Add 1/4 cup of white wine (any kind) and 12 sprays of I can't believe it's not butter spray. Then add a little thyme & Rosemary I also like to add a pinch of oregano, basil & salt then let simmer (use fresh herbs if you have them) The thyme and rosemary are what gives the broth the distinct flavor. As the broth simmers feel free to adjust the flavor to you liking.

7) Once the broth is to your liking and the outer leafs of the artichoke can easily be removed using tongs remove artichoke from pot by using tongs to grip it on it's sides.  Place in the center of a bowl and pour the broth over the artichoke. (this will infuse the breadcrumbs with it's flavor as well as allow the artichoke to sit it the broth.) 


8) ENJOY!! Bon Appetit!

For tips on how you eat an Artichoke go HERE

* If you just want the artichoke without the broth it's 1.5-2 points depending if you use olive oil!