Healthy Holiday Family Recipes: Ingredient Substitutions

The holiday season is here. You’r probably looking forward to a multitude of family gatherings, filled with some good old-fashioned home cooking.

It’s those few times of year that family recipes will once again be the centerpiece of family dinners.

You know… The sacred family recipes…

The ones you may not be able to make because there is a hierarchy in the family kitchen. No one makes it as good as Grandma. Or the recipe is five-generations old, and put together from memory. And you have to use the same ingredients and follow the age-old preparation methods and the special family pans to make the recipes.
What if you need healthy options for your holiday family feast? While you always have the stand-by portion control strategy, it can be difficult when it’s your favorite dish or those certain family members keep encouraging you to eat more or there is so much to sample.

If you have the opportunity to contribute to the family feast with a traditional family recipe, then you also have the opportunity to make a healthy version. You may chose to make a healthy version on the sly and see if anyone notices the difference; but if you want the family to embrace a healthier version you may want to let them know or make both versions for a family taste test.
Luckily, healthier versions of traditional recipes are becoming quite the trend. It all starts with substituting some key ingredients.

Some of them you already know, because you see the options every time you go to the grocery store:
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables
  • Egg whites
  • Herbs and spices
  • Leaner meat
  • Healthy oils 
  • Reduced-fat or fat-free,reduced-salt/sugar versions of prepared foods
Collards with
But what about some of those more complex recipes with a variety of ingredients that may need an unusual substitution….
  • no-sugar- added applesauce for oil and butter
  • evaporated or coconut milk for cream
  • cocoa powder and oil for baking chocolate
  • flavored extracts (vanilla, almond, peppermint) instead of sugar
  • nut or whole grain flour instead of white flour
  • rolled oats for bread crumbs
  • nutrient dense greens instead of iceberg lettuce
  • vegetable substitutes like zucchini noodles for pasta or cauliflower mash for  potatoes
  • flavored vinegars for salad dressing
  • merengue for frosting
  • cacao nibs for chocolate chips
  • nutritional yeast for cheese
  • pureed avocado for butter
  • fresh salsas for jar sauces
Avocado-Cocoa Brownies
Like ingredient substitutions at any other time of the year there are plenty of options when it comes to to making new traditional healthy family recipes.

In the meantime, your weight loss advisors at the Metabolic Medical Centers can help you with your weight loss strategies for all the other events of your holiday feasting season.

Eating Habits in the Workplace: 3 Arenas of Influence

The workplace is a unique place. We spend quite a lot of time there. It is the source of our livelihoods, and as such should contribute to a healthy and happy life.

To be a productive in our employment, we need to have the energy to complete our tasks to the best of our abilities. To get that energy, we need to maintain healthy eating habits throughout the workday. The structure of our working environment can have a significant impact on our eating habits in our physical work environment, our daily work schedule, and food availability.

Work Environment: What does your workplace look like? 
Do you work in an office building or in a manufacturing plant?  Are there vending machines or water fountains? Do you have access to a coffee maker, a refrigerator, a microwave, a toaster oven? Is there a break room? Or a cafeteria? Is there outdoor seating? Are these things areas provided by your company? Are they shared among businesses and/or departments in the same building?
Work Schedule: How does your workday flow? 
Do you have scheduled breaks or lunch times? Are you able to snack throughout the day? Do you bring your lunch or purchase what is available? If you stay at the office for lunch, how often do you eat at your workstation, if permissible? How often do you go out to lunch? Or get to leave the office on a coffee run? Do you work longer shifts less days a week or shorter shifts more days a week? Do you work swing shifts or night shifts? Do you work overtime? How often?
Food freebies. What food is available?
Does the office regularly provide like coffee and tea with creamers and sweeteners, or snacks and sodas for the employees? Do your colleagues bring something to share, like some homemade dessert or refilling the candy bowl on their desk? Do your colleagues bring or sell treats on behalf of their child’s school fundraiser? In routine meetings is there food available? Does your office sponsor events or trainings that are regularly catered?
Does any of this sound familiar? For as much as your work and your workplace is part of your life, it can profoundly impact your eating habits.

Whether you are trying to maintain your good eating habits or you are working with weight loss specialists to develop a daily regimen, it is important to factor in aspects of your work environment into your plan.

You will need to ask yourself what you do or do not have control over, and how to manage your work situation and your eating habits.

For example, some people may be able eat at their workstation depending on the nature of the work. Having healthy snacks may work in their eating routine. Having access to a refrigerator and/or microwave means that you can bring a greater variety of options for healthy lunch and snack alternatives.
What about at other times? Do you make healthy choices for yourself like when you buy your lunch, select something from the vending machine, walk by your colleague’s candy dish, choose the healthier options from catered office events?

If you are working to adapt, you could always as your colleagues to be supportive of your weight loss goals, or even petition your employer to provide healthier options and spearhead a movement to create a company wellness program.

As you navigate your workplace environment and work schedule, let the experts at the Metabolic Medical Centers help you make healthy food choices.

Weight Loss Toolkit: 5 Steps of Food Journaling

Have you ever had some major thing that you’ve always wanted to do, but it seemed impossible? There were so many different things you could do to make it happen, but you weren’t sure how to start? What tools you would need to help make it happen? Which method or combination of methods was best for you? How to break down the sections into manageable stages for completion?

Weight loss and weight maintenance are definitely two major challenges where you may need several tools to help you achieve your goals.

One of the first things that you can do in preparing yourself mentally for weight loss is to start a food journal. Think of your food journal as that beginning research on yourself. You have to know your current status to help make your game plan to achieve your weight loss goals.
Now, a food journal can be an intimidating prospect in and of itself; but it doesn’t have to be.

The first thing to ask yourself is what role is the food journal will play in your weight loss journey.

Before you get started, there are some things to keep in mind about food journals:
• The food journal is not the end-game. It is a tool to help you achieve your goals. It is not designed to be a long term activity.
• Like any activity, you have to keep at it for the time frame that you are doing it.
• It can downright scary to admit to yourself the things you are consuming. 
Now, how to make a food journal work for you:

1. Format.
Choose a format you that jives well with your personality and your lifestyle. An old school pen and notebook works just as well as taking notes or a picture with your phone. The easier you make it to record your consumption, the more likely you will document what you eat and drink.
2. Frequency
Pick your tracking frequency. Some of us are better at recall than others. You could incorporate your food journal into your nighttime routine with your notebook on the nightstand; or you may be better at taking care of things as they happen.

3. Track everything
Sometimes you don’t want to admit that we swiped that fun-sized candy bar from the receptionist’s candy dish (or three times during the day because it’s your favorite). Did you forget about that late afternoon grande special flavor latte with whipped cream? What about all those food sample stations that are cropping up in the grocery stores? Food can come at us from all angles. How often do you succumb to the temptation for a tasty morsel?
4. Details.
Decide how detailed you want to be. The more information you that you make note of can help you and your  weight loss advisors make the best plan for you. These extra details are often best recorded immediately rather than waiting for an end-of-the-day recall. These can include things like
          • ingredients (especially the contents of those additional condiments)
          • portion sizes
          • nutrition information tracking (calories, carbs, fat, fiber)
          • time of day
          • how hungry you are
          • emotions (before, during, and after eating)
          • exercise
          • medications
          • other medical tracking (blood sugar levels, allergy identification)
5. Review and reflect
It is time for the moment of truth. What have you been eating? How often? Why? What trends do you see? While reviewing your food journal with your weight loss experts ( is not mandatory for them to develop the next steps in your weight loss goals, it can help you and them identify potential problem areas you may have.
Studies from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have found that participants who use food journals lose more weight than participants who did not. With food journaling comes awareness of your what you eat, how often you eat, and why you eat.

So, can a food journal help you lose weight? That depends on you. A food journal is merely one tool  in your toolkit to help you on your weight loss journey. You can start out slow with documenting just what you eat and drink. You can add more details later. Your food journal can inform you of some of your more unconscious behaviors like overeating, as well as help you incorporate and more weight loss strategies into your routine like meal planning or incorporating exercise.

Remember, your food journal is not the end game. Weight loss is your goal and the experts at the Metabolic Medical Centers can get you there.

4 Weight Management Strategies for the Upcoming Holiday Feasting Season

Let the Feasting Season Commence! 
You may think it’s a little early, it’s never too soon to think about Thanksgiving.

With Halloween just barely past, you’re probably still in your Halloween candy management mode. As the unofficial start of the holiday feasting season with a primary focus on store-bought candy, you might not be thinking of the next big event.

Luckily you have plenty of time to think about your Thanksgiving strategy. But it’s not just about Thanksgiving, is it? Think of all the holiday parties coming up in December. Then a New Years Eve and New Years Day festivities.
Folks often gain one to seven pounds over the course of the holiday season. Even more alarming is that much of the weight stays permanently. Repeat this cycle, year after year, and the weight gain during the holidays becomes a national pastime.
Holiday weight gain has become a national pastime.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With all of the delicious temptations, including decadent desserts, interesting appetizers, holiday cocktails, and traditional comfort foods, it’s time to take back the holidays: instead of thinking of the holidays in terms of weight gain, it’s time to focus on weight maintenance and weight loss:

1. Plan ahead. 
    • Before any holiday events start filling your calendar, take a proactive approach to your weight
    • Make your daily and weekly meal plan menus.
    • Integrate more fitness into your daily routine.
2. Review your social commitments
    • Keep your calendar in constantly in sight.
    • As your calendar fills up with social engagements, you can see where you will need to adapt
       your meal planning strategy.
    • Incorporate holiday fitness activities like a Turkey Day or Reindeer Run into your holiday season.
    • Add charity activities in the spirit of the season, such as Angel Tree Gift giving, caroling, or
       volunteering at a local shelter.

3. General Tips. 
    Like all general weight management strategies, there are certain opportunities where you will have
    more control than others.
    • If you are providing the main meal or bringing a side dish, you can opt for healthier recipes.
    • Use smaller plates.
    • Make healthy choices (especially from the buffet table).
    • Select low calorie drinks.
    • Stop when you are full.
4. Day-of Strategies.
    Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day. These
    particular days within the holiday feasting season can be daunting.
    • Eat breakfast. Even a small breakfast will help you manage your hunger.
    • Whether you are celebrating the entire day at home or visiting multiple friends and family, space
       out your courses with other activities: a board game after the appetizers, a family football game
       before the main course, a walk through the neighborhood after dinner, a drive to enjoy the
       holiday lights after dessert.
With the help from the experts at Metabolic Medical Centers you can confidently make this holiday season a happy one, and most importantly, a healthy one.