Weight Loss Reminders

Weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight is a battle for a lot of us, me included. I was told recently by a dietician that the Four Pillars are the key to being healthy. Exercise, Stress Management, Sleep, Food. I totally agree. If we can keep our portions to a healthy size, exercise regularly, sleep enough, and manage stress there is no reason we all can’t feel better and continue to feel good about ourselves.

Exercise: Movement is important. A lot of us have sedentary jobs. During this pandemic, even something as simple as walking from your car into the office and back made a difference. That alone put 2600 less steps on my pedometer. When your goal is 10000 a day, oops that adds up quickly. Always consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise program but until then, a walk is a good start. It doesn’t have to be a run, or a jog, or 10 miles. Around the block is a good place to start. Today is as good as any other day for a walk.

Stress Management: Cortisol is our stress hormone. It actually helps us in some situations. It increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. It helps us react to a bad situation like a child getting hurt, or avoiding a car crash. Too much of it and it turns against you. This will cause a rise in blood sugar, weight gain, suppressed immune system, digestive issues, heart disease. We can’t avoid stress but the key is managing properly. That is not always easy and there are lots of options out there. 

Sleep: A nutritionist told me years ago I needed to get my diet sleep. Sleep deprivation spikes our hormone called cortisol. See in the stress management above the side effects of cortisol. So many things can affect our sleep. Noise, ate too late, stressed, bad bed, and so on. It could be one thing or a combination of things. You need to isolate why you aren’t sleeping enough and correct those issues or at least reduce the amount of times that you don’t get enough sleep. Once in a while should not cause adverse effects. If you lack sleep on a regular basis, you will have an issue in the long term.

Food: Portion control is key. Who says you can’t have something. Unless you are allergic, there is no reason you can not have a food. How much of that food is key. A plate should be 1/2 vegetable, 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch. Smaller dinner plates help. Putting everything in the plate helps too. I also use a scale for weighing my food. Key is moderation. Example, I felt for a snack. I had fresh pineapple but I wanted something sweet. Then a thought of a chocolate fondue where you dip fruit into chocolate sounded sooo good. I opened the fridge and there was a sugar free low fat chocolate pudding. So I put that over my fresh pineapple, You know what, it was good. 140 calories. Healthier than a chocolate bar, still sweet and satisfied my craving. 

So what can we take from this? Everything is connected. If one thing is out of balance, you will struggle to lose or maintain your weight. We need exercise regularly, manage our stress, sleep well, and have good portion control of our foods. There are no limits on possibilities on how to make this happen, we have to understand it, embrace it, and make the plan our own.

Skinny Banana Bread Muffins

Skinny Banana Bread Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Skinny muffins that are flavourful and moist. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Well, it is and they are healthier than most. These banana muffins have no oil, low sugar and are only 130 calories. I apologize to the store bought or coffee house muffins.

Ingredients

  • 4 bananas mashed (about 1-1/3 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cup all purpose flour (whole wheat makes them a little more dense)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tin with paper liners or silicon liners.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mash bananas, add egg, vanilla, sugars, and cinnamon and stir well to combine.
  3. In a larger bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add banana mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Gently stir in melted butter. Don’t over-mix the batter as the muffins will be tougher.
  5. Spoon into muffin tin and bake for 18-25 minutes.

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 2 g
  • Sugar 9 g
  • Carbohydrates 23 g
  • Protein 2 g
  • Fibre 2 g

Note: You can freeze these for up to 2 months in a freezer safe ziplock bag. Make sure that they are completely cooled and get as much of the air out of the bag first.

If calories or sugar are not of concern, you can add walnuts, raisins, cranberries, or even peanut butter (if you add peanut butter, you will need to add an equal amount of flour). This makes the possibilities endless. Remember to have fun and make it your own.

Orange Chiffon Cake

Orange Chiffon Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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I was asked for a recipe that is light not only in calories but also in texture. Something that felt like summer. This is what I came up with. Hope you like it.

This cake is refreshing. It is low caloric and sweet. First time I made a chiffon cake. I had fun and made it my own. Your turn to do the same.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of cake flour (if you don’t have any, all purpose flour will do, minus 2 tbsp and add 2 tbsp of cornstarch)
  • 8 tbsp of a mixture of sucralose and sugar. (if you want to use sugar only that’s ok just remember to add that to the calories and sugar content per serving)
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp of grated orange zest (approx 2 oranges)
  • 3/4 cup of orange juice freshly pressed
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • 1 tsp of brandy or orange liquor (optional)
  • 6 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar
  • 2 oz of semi-sweet chocolate
  • Cooking spray or butter and margarine and 1-2 tbsp of flour to coat pan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, 6 tbsp of the sucralose-sugar mixture, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, add eggs, oil, zest, orange juice, brandy to the flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, using clean blades on medium, beat egg whites and cream of tartare until soft peaks. Bring speed up to high and add remaining sucralose-sugar until it forms stiff peaks.
  5. Using a spatula, slowly fold in the egg mixture to the flour mixture until blended.
  6. Pour into a very lightly greased and floured bundt pan. Cook for 50-55 min or until cake tester comes out clean. (Make sure not to open oven door during first 45 minutes)
  7. Reverse onto a parchemin covered plate after cooled completely.
  8. Cut chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl that goes in the microwave. Stir every 30 seconds until completely melted.
  9. Pour over cooled cake and cut and serve.

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calories 165
  • Fat 7 g
  • Sugar 15 g
  • Carbohydrates 22 g
  • Protein 4.0 g
  • Fibre 1.0 g

Note: if you are using a nonstick pan, some people recommend not greasing and flouring others say it’s imperative. First time I did it, I didn’t flour the pan just greased it and it stuck. Also make sure to let it cool completely before unmolding or else it will break.

Instead of melted chocolate, you can always add your favourite coulis. Remember have fun and make it your own.

Banana Prune Muffins

Banana Prune Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Not everyone likes prunes. I’m not the biggest fan, but it was suggested I have some. So I buy a bag, and realized I needed to find recipes or I would waste a lot of them. Came across this recipe, did a few modifications (made it my own) and voila, another muffin recipe and to my own surprise, quite good.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of mashed banana
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used unbleached)
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup of chopped pitted prunes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour muffin tin or use paper liners (I use reusable silicone muffin liners)
  3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and egg and beat until smooth.
  4. Blend in banana and vanilla.
  5. Mix together in another bowl flour, baking powder, baking sodium, salt and cinnamon.
  6. Stir into egg mixture until just moistened.
  7. Mix in the prunes.
  8. Spoon into muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calories 187
  • Fat 5.2 g
  • Sugar 30 g
  • Carbohydrates 33.6 g
  • Protein 2.7 g
  • Fibre 2.0 g

This muffin was surprisingly good. It was very moist, sweet and had a good texture. You could serve it plain, or heated with a dab of butter. Whatever you choose, have fun and make it your own.

Sunflower and Flax Seed Whole Wheat Bread

Sunflower and Flax Seed Whole Wheat Bread

  • Servings: 8-10 of 60 grams or 2 slices of 2 ounces each
  • Difficulty: Easy
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I started with white bread, moved up to whole wheat and now I’ve graduated to healthy multigrain bread. I’m having fun with bread. Who knew that making bread that you don’t need to kneed would be fun.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups of water (120-130 degrees Fahrenheit or 50-55 Celsius)
  • 1/3 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup of flax seeds (whole)
  • Vegetable oil spray

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast together. At this time you can add the sunflower and flax seeds and stir them around a bit.
  2. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula mix in until it’s all incorporated.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter for 12 to 20 hours.
  4. After rise time, spray an 18×12 inch sheet of parchment paper on counter with vegetable spray. Set aside.
  5. On clean floured counter use your cupped hands to drag dough in small circles to form smooth ball.
  6. Preheat oven at 425 and place dutch oven as your oven heats up (approximately 10 min)
  7. Transfer ball to centre of greased parchment sheet. Use parchment to lower dough into Dutch oven (let extra parchment hang over pot edges) Cover pot with lid and put back in oven for 30 minutes
  8. Remove lid and put back in until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Place on cooling rack to cool.

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calories 213
  • Fat 0.374 g
  • Sugar 0.31 g
  • Carbohydrates 39.21 g
  • Protein 7.57 g
  • Fibre 5.1 g

Trick for yeast, make sure your water is hot enough but not too hot. Yeast is a living organism. Also got to find out that one of my issues with yeast was that I stored it in the cupboard next to the stove. Guess what, big mistake. I was killing it with the heat. Lessons learned.

Making this bread reminded me that with patience anything in the kitchen can be conquered. Seriously, this bread is so easy to make and it is good too. You add other seeds, just make sure to keep that in calorie count. I’m open to suggestions so help me with this. Have fun and make it your own.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are always a hot subject. How much should I have, how much shouldn’t I have? Which foods are high in carbs, which aren’t? Some diets tell you no carbs, some say high carbs. I don’t claim to be a doctor nor am I a nutritionist or dietician. I won’t tell you how many carbs you should or should not be eating. I’ve personally never believed that any food should be omitted from one’s diet unless there is an allergy or you are told to by a physician. Everything in moderation. 

Here a few functions of carbs and the primary one is to provide your body with energy. Most of the carbs in foods you eat are digested and broken down into glucose. Glucose goes through your blood stream to produce fuel for your body. 

Glucose in your muscles is vital for long periods of high intensity exercise. In circumstances where your body has all the glucose it needs, it will convert it and store it as fat.

If you lack glucose in your body, muscle can be broken down into amino acids and converted into glucose to generate energy. Obviously this is not an ideal scenario. 

In carbs, fibre is also included. Fibre promotes good digestive health and reduces the risk of digestive track diseases. Eating plenty of dietary fibre can benefit your heart and blood sugar levels thus reducing your risk of diabetes.

Bottom line, carbohydrates serve several key functions in the body. They provide energy for daily tasks and are the primary fuel source for your brain’s high energy demands. The fibre in carbs help promote good digestion and reduce your risk of heart diseases and diabetes.

I’ve included a list I found on the internet that lists all sorts of products and their carb content. This is just a quick reference guide when you are making choices like, do I have a bagel or a 2 inch cube of corn bread. This guide has helped me plan some of the meals to make sure that I have a controlled amount of carbs to my diet. This can also be helpful to all you diabetics out there. 

Carbohydrate Content of Foods

So, the above is just my opinion. I believe we need to have a little of everything in our diets. It helps keep it interesting, less cravings, and I believe, healthier. We’ve all done diets that remove a food from the lineup and guess what, first day, most of us crave that food. Tell me I can’t have chocolate and guess what I crave it. Even if I haven’t had chocolate in weeks, all of in a sudden, I just have to have it. But that is just me. 

Above all make sensible choices, stay healthy and if you need help, seek advise from a nutritionist or dietician. 

Buttermilk Apple Cake

Buttermilk Apple Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This is a recipe that I didn’t even alter. Thank you to Anne Lindsay on this one. This is a coffeecake-type cake that stays moist and is great for brunches, packed lunches or just plain dessert. I didn’t peel the apples because the skin is added fiber.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soft light margarine
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup of buttermilk (light)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 1 cup of whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2-3 medium apples, cored and finely chopped (about 2.5 cups)

Topping

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Lightly grease and flour an 8″ or 9″ square cake pan
  3. In a large bowl, beat together margarine and sugar until combined; beat in buttermilk
  4. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and apples; mix until combined
  5. Spread batter evenly in pan
  6. Topping: combine sugar, cinnamon and coconut; sprinkle over batter
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  8. Let cool in pan

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calories 192
  • Sugar 21 g
  • Carbohydrates 35 g
  • Protein 3.9 g
  • Fiber 2.9 g
  • Fat 5 g

This is a nice moist cake. Serves great with coffee, fresh fruit, or just plain as is. Enjoy this and remember to make it your own.

Szechuan Orange-Ginger Chicken

Szechuan Orange-Ginger Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This is much easier and faster to make than it sounds. Chinese dishes from Szechuan region of China usually have a spicy flavour. If you prefer milder, use less chili paste, and if you are like me and like it hot, use a little more. Even as is, this is delicious either way. I served with plain white rice as to not take away from the flavour of this meal.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs of boneless chicken breast
  • 1 large sweet green pepper coarsely chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 orange
  • 1 tsp of bottled chili paste
  • 2 tbsp of sherry or bourbon
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp of minced garlic (or more to taste)
  • 1 tbsp of minced fresh ginger root

Directions

  1. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes, set aside
  2. Chop green pepper and red pepper in about 1 inch cubes
  3. Chop onion coarsely
  4. Peel orange, remove rind and cut into thin julienne strips about 1.5 inches long, set aside. Squeeze orange and reserve 1/4 cup of juice
  5. In a small bowl, combine juice, paste, sherry, sugar and cornstarch, stir until smooth
  6. In wok, heat oil, add chicken and stir fry for 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove chicken. Add orange rind, garlic and ginger root and stir-fry to 10 seconds. Add peppers and onion and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes
  7. Add chili paste mixture and bring to a boil
  8. Return chicken to wok and stir until heated through

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calorie 264
  • Fat 12.3g
  • Carb 6g
  • Sugar 0g
  • Fiber 0g
  • Protein 41.4g

I served this with plain rice but if you want to be carb conscious then I would suggest pasta as per 1/2 cup of white rice compared to 1/2 cup of vermicelli is 10 grams of carbs less. Good option for diabetics.

Now for spicy, well you can use chili paste or dried chili peppers or hot chili sauce. If you use dried peppers, make sure to watch the quantity of the seeds you put in. The more seeds, the hotter it gets. If you want a little more orange flavour to it, just add more zest. Remember most of all to have fun and make it your own.

Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole

Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole

  • Difficulty: Easy
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I take recipes and modify them for personal tastes, dietary demands and such. Sometimes it’s just ‘cause I want to have fun with the recipe. That is why I encourage you to modify to your tastes, and remember to try something new.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 garlic clove minced
  • 2 cups of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 large sweet green peppers chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper chopped
  • 1.5 cups of white rice
  • 2 cups of cooked red kidney beans (I prepare my own ahead of time and freeze them, if you use canned make sure to rinse and it would be approximately 1.5 cans of 28 oz/796 ml)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes 28 oz/796 ml
  • 2 tbsp of chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper (oh, i really added 2 but shush)
  • 1 cup of low-fat shredded low fat mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms and peppers. Stir often until onion is tender about 10 minutes.
  2. Add rice, beans, tomatoes, spices and water, cover and simmer until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  3. During that time preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sprinkle cheese and bake for 15 minutes or so until the cheese melts.

Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calorie 380
  • Fat 6.5 g
  • Carb 64.2 g
  • Sugar 7.3 g
  • Fiber 9.0 g
  • Protein 17.1g

As you see I prefer to cook my own kidney beans, you can soak them overnight and cook them for approximately 90 minutes. I don’t add salt. I rinse them thus giving less gas.

If you are diabetic, this is not a recommended recipe as is, as your carb intake should be 45-60 so this is a little high. But if you interested, I can supply a lower glycemic version with less rice and more kidney beans. Kidney beans can be of help to reduce your sugar spike due to its low carb and high fibre. Just let me know.

Now you have to have a few more veggies with this, I would recommend a nice salad to go with this. I like spicy so I am very generous with cayenne. You can spice it up or down. That’s up to you. Remember to have fun and make it your own.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

  • Servings: 48 Cookies
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Cookies are made to be fun. We all know they are an indulgence. No one can say, “I will die if I don’t have a cookie” but we all know we want one. Who says that cookies can’t be good and good for you. Below is a recipe that is fun and tastes good. In the notes below you will see modifications for lighter cookies and fat free reduced cookies. I will even give you the breakdown on the nutritional value differences. The first part is the full-on recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups of all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extra
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar (icing sugar)

Directions

  1. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with mixer on medium high speed, then blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla until incorporated.
  3. Gradually mix in flour and dry ingredients.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 3-4 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non stick baking spray.
  7. Scoop dough into one inch balls. (I use a small 2 ounce scoop, works well, worth the money) Roll in icing sugar, place dough balls on baking sheet.
  8. Bake for roughly 12 minutes.
  9. Remove from baking sheet to a cooling rack. When completely cool, store cookies in an airtight container. On the counter they will keep 3-4 days, in fridge for about a week.

Nutrition Per Cookie

  • Calorie 69
  • Fat 2.45 g
  • Carb 11.8 g
  • Sugar 6.4 g
  • Fiber 0.4 g
  • Protein 1.4g

That is the full version, full fat, full sugar. Still not bad 2 cookies is only 140 cals. And they are good source of vit A.

Now if you omit rolling them in icing sugar, you reduce, per cookie, the calories by 8.1, the carbs by 2.1 and the sugar by 2.1. Now for the reduced calorie and fat but leaving in the icing sugar. Omit the butter and replace with same quantity of unsweetened apple sauce. Cook for 1 minute less.

Nutrition Per Cookie

  • Calorie 53
  • Fat 0.5 g
  • Carb 11.8 g
  • Sugar 6.4 g
  • Fiber 0.4 g
  • Protein 1.4g