How The Great Salad Experiment Started

How The Great Salad Experiment Started

At the end of September, hubby was going to be out of town for the entire week and it didn’t make sense to cook different dinners for the kids and I for each of the six days he was gone. Plus, I didn’t want to spend my entire weekend prepping meals…that would have started me off exhausted and frazzled come Monday!

So the question became: How do I prep enough healthy dinners and lunches to cover me from Sunday to Friday?

Continue reading “How The Great Salad Experiment Started”

How to cut down on sugar without feeling deprived

How Can You Cut Down on Sugar without Feeling Deprived

Losing weight boils down to eating less food than your body needs to burn for energy. To think about this in another way, calories in should be less than calories out. If weight loss is your primary concern, a calorie really is a calorie and if you go on a 1,600 calorie diet to lose weight it doesn’t matter if they come from 100% fat, 100% carbohydrates, or a balanced combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. In theory that is.

In reality, getting your 1,600 calories from the right types of nutrients – a combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and of course fruits and vegetables – can have you dropping the weight without feeling like you’re on a diet. When you’re trying to lose weight having a lot of sugar in your diet can be a disaster because sugar provides empty calories that take up unnecessary space in your calorie budget.

With this information in hand, you might be tempted to cut sugar out altogether. Hold on a minute. If you eat a lot of sugar right now, there’s an underlying reason for it. And cutting down on sugar without addressing the reason why you reach for it can set you up for failure even before you begin. Rather looking for ways to cut out all kinds of sugar, make smart choices instead and to do this you need to understand:

Sugar is Sugar no Matter the Form

When looking to cut down on sugar in our diets, some of us look to replacing white sugar with brown sugar or more wholesome sounding sweeteners such as Agave Nectar, Honey, or Maple Syrup. All sugar is sugar. Yes there might be a slight difference in how your body processes it, or even a little benefit – in one case, raw local honey can help you fight allergies – but if you’re just looking to cut down sugar even these “good sounding” sugars should also be candidates for cutting.

Fruit and Vegetable Sugar is Different

With that said, fruit and vegetable sugar is different when you eat the whole fruit or vegetable. This is because the whole fruits and vegetables contain fiber that slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and increases the time it takes for your blood sugar to drop low enough for you to be hungry again. When using fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth, make sure you go for the whole fruit as the juice has the same effect as drinking a sugary drink. The same goes for vegetables like carrots.

Be Wary of Fat-Free Foods

Finally, one more thing to consider is that when you’re on a diet the allure of fat-free labels might be tempting but be careful of these. When they take fat out of foods, manufacturers usually add something back in to make it taste almost as good as the full fat version. This added ingredient is usually sugar. No food has this more than yogurt that have added fruit. If you read the nutrition labels on your average fat free yogurt and compare it to the full fat version, you just might find that the sugar in the fat free version is so much higher. This is just one example, so be mindful and read the labels when buying fat free.

P.S. Fat free milk is one exception to this rule, but that’s for another day

How can You Use this Information to Make Your Diet Cleaner?

I have four tips that you can try using now to reduce your sugar intake. Of course it’ll be good to know where you’re starting from on a sugar intake perspective so if you’ve been keeping a food journal this would be a good place for you to bring it out to see just how much sugar you’re eating right now. Anyway, on to the three tips:

Start Small

Start with the easiest things for you to cut down on. For example, if you currently have a tablespoon of sugar in your coffee or your morning oatmeal, cut it down to 1/2 a tablespoon to save about 22 calories. If you drink 3 bottles of soft drinks everyday, cut it down to two. If you drink a glass of juice for breakfast consider diluting it with water and drinking only half of the juice you normally drink or better yet replace it with the whole fruit. These small cuts might seem insignificant, but these changes can add up. Research has shown that cutting as little as 100 calories a day can result in long term sustainable weight loss (1). Just cutting down one soft drink gets you to this number and if you drink juice, soft drinks, and use sugar in your oatmeal and your coffee, you can save up to 200 calories in one day.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

A lot of us tend to ignore the effects of the things we drink on our waistline, but what you drink can be almost as important as what you eat:

  • One soft drink a day can add kilograms to your waistline in no time
  • Adding sugar and milk to your normally calorie free plain coffee and tea can do the same
  • And that harmless and fresh 100% orange juice that you have every day with breakfast can add up to weight gained without necessarily making you feel any fuller than if you skipped it

If you’ve made a habit of drinking your calories, this might be tough at the beginning, but it’s worth looking at as it can be one of the highest impact changes that you can make. If you absolutely love your soft drinks, give yourself an allowance of sorts to have one a week so you have something to look forward to. It is critical that you’re the one to set this rule for yourself and you understand why its important to you because that will help you stick to it.

Schedule Your Treats

If you have as big of a sweet tooth as I do, you’ll know that cutting out all sugar is a non starter. It’s one of those psychological things of you absolutely wanting what you can’t have. This particular tip is for those of us who can’t do without. Scheduling your treats can keep you focused for those days that you aren’t having treats and can help you learn what you really like. For me, Friday is the day that I can have one treat and it can be whatever I want no matter how many calories are in it. Since I implemented this rule for myself, I totally ignored the twix bars in the office vending machine (it wasn’t worth it) and I don’t get dry pastries from the bakery because it pales in comparison to the fresh oreo shake that I can have on a Friday. If you choose use this tip, give yourself some wiggle room. I choose the 80% rule, which is a fancy way of saying that I don’t require myself to be perfect all the time. Perfection is the enemy of done, and I’d rather stick to the rule most of the time than not at all.

Find Healthier Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

There are some genuinely healthy ways to build some sweetness in your diet. For instance taking the time to caramelize bell peppers and onions before adding other ingredients to the pot and add a hint of sweetness to a normally bland stir fry. Also making your stew out of roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes can create a sweet recipe. While its not the same as a piece of cake, it can hold you over till you decide that it’s okay to include a piece of cake as part of your diet.

Take Action

Take some time in the next week or two to examine your diet and identify how you can cut down the sugar without cutting the joy out of eating.

Also, don’t just identify; make sure you take action


(1) Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

What are Whole Grains and Why are They Important?

What are Whole Grains and Why are They Important? - Team by EJ

Have you heard the hype about whole grains and wonder to yourself, what’s all the fuss? If yes, this article for you. If no, you’ll probably get something out of this too 😄,

Let’s dive in…whole grains are cereal and grain products made from oats, rice, wheat, barley and other grains that are still intact. Before processing, grains are made up of the germ, the bran, and the endosperm and each part of the grain serves an important role in nutrition:

  • The bran is the oil-containing layer of the grain and is also vitamin, mineral, and fiber-rich
  • The germ can be used to grow other grains and is also the embryo of the grain. Plus it’s rich in oil, vitamins, and minerals
  • Finally, the endosperm is what’s left after the refining process and is pretty much all starch

Whole grains are intact because they have all three original components. Refined grains, on the other hand, have been processed to remove the germ and the bran. The refining of grains makes them faster to cook and easier to eat. Another practical reason for refining grains is to remove the oil containing layers, which increases the grain’s shelf life.

Why it matters that the grains you eat are whole

Whole grains are high in carbohydrates, but these are the types of carbohydrates that you want to eat. They’re called complex carbohydrates and are digested slowly in your stomach for a steady release of energy into your system. While some diets advocate lowering carbohydrates levels to lose weight, your body needs them for energy.

The reason why you might get a quick weight loss boost from cutting carbohydrates out is that you probably have a preference for refined carbohydrates in your regular diet, and these are quickly digested and can cause a surge of energy followed  by a crash that leaves you feeling tired and hungry in a shorter period of time than expected. This means that you eat more often to sustain your energy levels, and eating more often can result in eating more overall.

And the quick digestion of refined grains raises your blood sugar quickly and triggers the fat storage hormone, insulin, to get to work. So when you eat more whole grains, you’re reducing the frequency of these blood sugar spikes and giving your body time to use up some of the calories you eat before they get stored as fat.

Here some reasons why you want to eat more whole grains

They help keep you fuller for longer

Whole grains are fiber-rich and contain more protein than their refined counterparts. The small amounts of fat that they contain also give whole grains a flavor that you can’t get from refined grains. This combination means that whole grains raise your blood sugar slower than refined grains and doesn’t crash it as fast. Translation—more energy through the day to crush your goals without the 3 pm crash and fewer fat-storing triggers if you’re eating the right portions.

They fill you up on less

Whole grains are heartier than their refined counterparts. This means that it doesn’t take much of it for you to either feel full or get tired of eating. This can lead you to eat less while eating healthier, which is the goal when you’re trying to lose weight.

Keeps you regular

This goes back to the fiber that whole grains contain. Being constipated isn’t fun and can cause other problems like hemorrhoids (pile)…caused by the straining that you do when you’re constipated and want to force things to move along. Eating a diet rich in fiber—rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—can help keep things moving and keep you from this uncomfortable lifestyle disease.

How to use this information to eat healthier

Identify the refined grains that you currently eat regularly

If you don’t already track your meals, take the next seven days to keep track of what you eat. After the seven days are up, identify the grain foods that you eat and make a list of the ones that are refined.

Identify whole grains you can use to replace refined grains

Using your list from your food tracking, identify the refined grains you eat and identify whole grains you can replace them with. For example, if you eat:

  • a lot of pasta, look for alternatives like whole wheat or brown rice pasta (brown rice pasta is milder than whole wheat and still a whole grain)
  • and for my Nigerian sisters, if you eat white rice, you can consider going for brown rice. If you’re not a fan of that, continue reading.

If you don’t know where to begin making swaps, the companion worksheets that come with Weight Loss for High Achievers has a whole list of healthy foods that support weight loss. Get the book here and get access to this valuable bonus.

Eat other unprocessed high carbohydrate foods that aren’t grains

If you’re not a big fan of whole grain foods like brown rice or if you just don’t have access to them, you can get your carbohydrates from other whole foods. Starchy vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, and plantains are carbohydrate and fiber-rich.

You can also get your proteins from beans and lentils that provide protein and are fiber-rich sources of carbohydrates. If you choose to do this, consult your doctor as you might be introducing deficiencies into your diet by skipping grains altogether.

It’s time to take action

Evaluate the grains you eat right now and answer the following questions:

  1. What are the most common/popular refined grains you eat right now?
  2. Do you eat any whole grains?
  3. What can you do to replace your popular refined grains with whole grains?

Take action and actually do it.

P.S. Get a complete system to help you eat healthy to fuel your epic life and get to a healthy and happy weight with Weight Loss for High Achievers. You’ll get the tools you need and access to companion worksheet to help you get the most out of your investment in the book. Click here to get your copy on Amazon.

What is the real deal with fat and weight loss?

Can You Eat Fat and Still Lose Weight

When trying to lose weight or get healthy, your first impulse is usually to cut out fat as much as possible. You cook oil-less soups and stews and cut nuts out of your diet to trim your waistline and choose not to eat fat. 

While this well-intentioned removal of fat in your diet seems like the logical thing to do when trying to lose fat, cutting out fat can hurt your efforts in the long run.

It can hurt your efforts because the flavor in your meals goes out with the oil and you either count the days till your diet is over and you can eat fat again or you don’t even last that long. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.

So why did fat become the enemy anyway?

The logic for cutting out fat started in the 70s when heart disease became a huge concern and the link between fat and heart disease was first established. This thinking persists today because fat contains 9 calories per gram and heart disease is still the cause of a major health crisis today. But so is obesity, which means that we’re still struggling with weight even though we’re eating less fat.  

Some people do succeed at weight loss by cutting out fat, and this will happen for you too if you were eating a diet that was high in fat to begin with. You’ll see success in a short period of time by cutting it out altogether because you’re cutting down a lot of your calories, but once you’ve lost the weight you’ll find it difficult to keep the weight off for the reasons that I’ll explain next.

Why do you need fat in your diet?

Your body needs it to survive

There are certain essential nutrients that your body can only use when there’s fat present in your diet. These nutrients are the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your body also needs fat to line the outer membranes of your cells and provide some padding for your organs. From a physical appearance standpoint, your hair, skin, and nails look better and healthier when you have some fat in your diet.

It adds much needed flavor to lower calorie fare

There’s a reason why French Cuisine is seen as one of the best in the world, and that reason is butter and other sources of fat like cooking meat with the skin. Fat gives food flavor that is hard to add in other ways. When you’re on a diet, having a shot of flavor in your meals is critical to keeping you satisfied. It also makes it easier for you to consider your new way of eating a long-term lifestyle, which is the critical ingredient to keeping the weight off once you start to lose it.

There are the health benefits of eating fat

Research continues to uncover new things on the subject of fat and metabolic diseases like heart disease and cholesterol. The additional research (1) that has been done over the years has shown that eating moderate amounts of unsaturated fats can:

  • Reduce the levels of bad cholesterol, which are also known as low density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Reduces bad cholesterol without reducing the level of good cholesterol in your blood, which are also known as high density lipoproteins (HDL)
  • Reduces the amount of fat circulating in your bloodstream
  • Reduces the development of irregular heartbeat, a symptom that has been linked to cardiac events
  • Reduces the chance of developing blood clots in your arteries, which can cause a whole host of other problems

And it can help you stay full, which is essential to any weight loss diet

When you’re on a diet, hunger is the enemy because it can lead you to abandon your resolve before you see the results you want. There is quite a body of research about how long it takes for your stomach to empty, and food containing a moderate proportion of fat take the longest to leave your stomach.  This means that including a moderate amount of the right fats can help you feel fuller for longer periods of time especially when this fat is paired with slow-digesting whole grains and lean protein.

This last reason is why you’ll struggle to keep the weight off if you lose weight by cutting out fat altogether. Weight maintenance is a lot about hunger management, and giving up the fat will make it difficult to manage your hunger on a consistent basis.

What types of fat should you eat when trying to lose weight?

Not all fat is created equal. There are three main types of fats – unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. The type of fats that you want in your diet is unsaturated fat and an easy way to identify it is by the fact that it’s liquid at room temperature and naturally cholesterol free. So vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, olive oil, and nuts are all healthy sources of fat in your diet.

The types of fat that can do you harm are processed saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are naturally occurring in animal products such as red meat (beef and pork), whole milk, and whole milk products such as cheese and butter. But processed saturated fats can be found in just about any processed food that is sweet or buttery – this is what you really want to watch out for.. Trans fats are manufactured fats that are made from plant oils.

So how can you eat fat and still lose weight?

Strategically include unsaturated fat in your diet

Fat does have a lot of calories per gram, but it can be used in your diet to help you get the benefits above. Get yourself some measuring tools and use oil in your cooking in moderate amounts.

Go for one or two tablespoons of oil to finish off your soups and stews or fry an egg with 1/2 a teaspoon of oil; trust me it’s enough. Another thing you could do is measure out nuts to use as part of your snack to get both healthy fats and protein.

A note about coconut and palm oil:

These types of oils have a higher percentage of saturated fats, but they’re still healthy for you when you buy the unrefined versions because of the other nutrients they contain.

Coconut oil has a special type of fat called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) that have been shown to help your body maintain an ideal muscle to fat composition, which is what you want.

And of course there are the additional vitamins – vitamin E for instance – in palm oil that make the benefits outweigh the saturated fat content.

Reduce sources of saturated fat in your diet

Saturated fats are naturally occurring in most fat-containing foods. Even olive oil and nuts contain saturated fats. The goal isn’t to eliminate it, but to become more conscious about how much of it that you’re eating.

Getting your protein from beans and other legumes, fish, poultry, and eggs can help you reduce your intake of saturated fat from meats if you’re worried about that. But the goal is to avoid saturated fats from processed foods.

A note about eggs:

Yes, they do contain cholesterol and saturated fats but they contain a lot of other nutrients that are great for you such as lutein. Lutein is sometimes called the eye vitamin because it helps prevent some of the more prevalent eye diseases like cataracts.

And lutein is best absorbed in the presence of fats and is contained within the fat-rich egg yolk. So include eggs as part of your diet except your doctor instructs you otherwise.

Cut out the trans fat in your diet

With respect to trans fats, reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists will help you avoid these dietary culprits. When it comes to heart disease and cholesterol, avoiding trans fats is the number one thing you can start doing today to make an impact on your health.

To know if a food contains trans fat, read the ingredient list first. If the list of ingredients says the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” before any oil or anywhere on the list, you should avoid it because it has trans fat in it. This will rule out some margarines, but you’re better off having just a little calorie and saturated fat laden butter than having the trans fat-filled margarine.

Some countries have regulations that require that trans fat be reported on the nutrition label like the picture above. But for places like Nigeria, you can’t rely on the fact that this regulation. So when in doubt read the ingredients list.

Take action to help you eat fat and still lose weight

Take some time this week to look at the foods that you eat the most often and answer these questions:

  • What can you do to eat unsaturated fats in moderate amounts?
  • What can you do to cut down on processed saturated fats?
  • What changes can you make to cut out trans fats?

After answering these questions make a concrete action plan to put your answers into action. Remember knowledge without action will get you nowhere…

P.S: If you have any special dietary conditions that are being monitored by your doctor, run the changes you decide upon by him or her before implementing them

(1) Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willet, M.D., Dr. P.H.