3 Ways Sugar Sneaks Into Your Diet and How to Fight Back

3 Ways Sugar Sneaks Into Your Diet and How to Fight Back

If you’re anything like me, your sweet tooth is what gets you in trouble. When I’m not eating dark chocolate, I’m thinking about when I can get my hands on it.

In early 2016, the FDA issued new recommendations on sugar intake. Sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes and many other health problems. The FDA’s new dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugar to only 50 grams per day for most people, but that isn’t always easy. The typical American diet is so saturated with foods that contain hidden sugars that it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid. There’s even emerging science suggesting that sugar is an addictive substance — I know I’ve had my fair share of sugar cravings!

3 Ways Sugar Sneaks Into Your Diet and How to Fight Back

In my own health journey, I’ve found that limiting my sugar and carbohydrate intake produces amazing physical results, including weight loss. The problem is that added sugar runs so rampant in the American diet that it is hard to limit or eliminate it.

Here are three ways you can fight back:

Shop Smart for Prepared Foods

The largest source of added sugar in a typical diet is pre-processed, easy-to-make foods. We’re all guilty of reaching for that jar of spaghetti sauce once in a while rather than making our own, but these “convenient” products are often loaded with extra sugar to make them taste better. Manufacturers know that the better these foods taste, the more you will purchase.

Be sure to read labels. Look for ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which is a clever way of adding sugar. Even products such as granola bars and frozen dinners often contain lots of added sugar. Question foods labeled “healthy” or “organic” as well. They may tout “cane syrup” or “unprocessed sugar cane” as a healthier way to eat, but when it comes down to it, sugar is sugar.

Mind Your Beverages

You can often find a lot of sugar in what you drink. One single can of soda can contain 10 teaspoons or more of added sugar. Combine that with the sugar you add to your morning coffee and the hidden sugars in a bagel, pizza or salad dressing, and you’ve just overshot your sugar intake for the day — and then some.

Avoiding sodas can be a great first step, but coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages can also be full of sugar. It’s often difficult to guess how much sugar you’ll find in a glass of “sweet tea” from a restaurant or in a margarita at the bar.

Even juice can be a hidden-sugar beverage trap. While 100% orange juice and apple juice contain only natural sugars, oftentimes the special “mixed” varieties have sugar added to them. In addition, you might think a smoothie is a smart choice, but it’s actually a sugar bomb: On top of the sugars from the blended fruits, many smoothie places add sugar to their drinks in an attempt to make them taste so good that you’ll come back for more. That peanut butter-banana-protein smoothie is probably not as “healthy” as you think it is!

Avoid ‘Low-Fat’ Products

In the 1950s, the dietary conventional wisdom held that avoiding fat would make you less fat, but new research shows that’s not necessarily the case. Nutritionists now recommend a well-rounded diet that is low in sugar and full of lean proteins and healthy fats like those found in avocado, olive oil and nuts. While too much of any fat isn’t good for the diet, healthy fats are necessary for your body to function. When I’m sticking to a strict low-fat diet, I tend to tend get hungrier throughout the day than I do when I include healthy fats.

Many brands boast about “low fat” to try to get you to purchase their product, but that term doesn’t tell the whole story. Be careful when buying “low-fat” foods and be sure to read labels. Fat tastes good, so when companies remove it, they often add sugar to make up for any loss of flavor. For example, “low-fat” sour cream almost always contains much more sugar than the full-fat version.

Go Whole

I’ve found that a good rule is to try to eat as naturally as you can to avoid sugar. Vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy oils and nuts make for a good, sustainable diet that is low in sugar and high in nutrients. Try to decrease the amount of processed food you eat; drink more water, tea and sugar-free carbonated beverages while avoiding sugary liquids; and don’t buy into the low-fat craze.

Eating whole, natural foods will lower your sugar intake and increase health benefits. Slay that sugar dragon!

Want to track your sugar intake and other health and fitness metrics? Download the Applause app for iPhone or Android.

Our Picks: Is Your Relationship Making You Fat?

Our Picks: Is Your Relationship Making You Fat?

Have you ever heard the term “happy weight?” It sounds so positive, right? And, yes, everyone should be striving to find the weight that makes them happy because they feel healthy. But “happy weight” also refers to the fact that many couples gain weight when they are in a relationship – and it’s not always positive for your health.

Our Picks: Is Your Relationship Making You Fat?

Brides striving to look and feel their best for the big wedding day will want to be especially conscious of the habits that cause them and their partner to gain weight. Feeling comfortable in your own skin is so important in a relationship, but so is building your relationship on healthy habits that will last a lifetime – even after the wedding! We’ve rounded up some articles that explain why couples gain weight and give tips on how to avoid the weight … but keep the happy.

Eat Together, Just Not the Same

Even at the same height, a man will burn more calories than a woman because men naturally have more muscle mass, and muscle requires more fuel, even at rest. But couples typically aren’t the same height. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the average American woman is 5’4” and the average man 5’9.5” – if you both have medium frames and are moderately active, your beau will need about 40 percent more food than you each day to maintain a healthy weight. In other words – splitting an appetizer or dessert or eating the exact same thing for dinner just isn’t practical. Find ways to eat differently together. Get take-out from two different places, take it home and eat together, or make different meals with similar ingredients. When my hubby and I have Mexican food night he’ll have a loaded burrito (since he can afford the extra carbs) while I make a taco salad, but we share the veggies, roasted corn, black beans, pico de gallo and guacamole.” Read more at Shape.

I’ll Have What He’s Having!

“Partners are inclined to do things together. In most cases this isn’t a bad thing, but when it comes to eating what usually happens is that a spouse who doesn’t crave certain foods ends up eating them just because their other half had a burning desire for it. If the wife is eating cake, the husband will probably join her, and vice versa. Obesity also claims that as couples become comfortable around each other, they start spending more time eating in front of the TV, which increases the amount of food eaten (which is usually some tasty, unhealthy food), and not paying attention to the time of eating.” Read more at Happy Lifestyle Journal.

Unhealthy Habots Can Come in Pairs… and So Do Healthy One!

“It’s not unusual for married couples to forge common habits over time that influence their weight, said Ivanka Prichard, a weight loss researcher at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. ‘Over time, similarities in diet, particularly any unhealthy aspects, may lead to weight changes,’ Prichard, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. ‘There are also a range of pressures in life that could impact this such as having children, work, shared health knowledge, time or finances.’ Like unhealthy habits, though, positive lifestyle choices can also be contagious in a marriage, said Debra Umberson, director of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.” Read more at Reuters.com.

Healthy Eating x Two

“Married couples should consider their weight a factor in their overall health and well-being instead of just their appearance, the article in ‘Health Psychology’ notes. Just as married couples can influence each other to eat poorly, they can also influence each other to make healthy choices. Work together to create nutritious menus, shop for healthy foods together and make meal preparation a joint effort because these can help you stay slim, as well as bond over a shared goal.” Read more at Livestrong.com.

Table for Two? Easy, Healthy Meals for You and Your Beau

“Cooking for two can be a tricky skill to master. While leftovers are practical, eating Crock Pot chili five nights in a row can get pretty old. These recipes—from breakfast and starters to dinner and dessert—are perfect to enjoy with your girlfriend, boyfriend, mom, dad, friend, or dog (… if your dog eats human food). Each meal is perfectly portioned for two, so grab a sous chef and get cooking.”  Read more at Greatist.com.

What are you and your partner doing to stay on the healthy eating track?  One other tip: Try tracking your daily intake by downloading  the new Applause app.

The Beauty Diet — What to Eat for Glowing Skin, Hair and Nails

The Beauty Diet — What to Eat for Glowing Skin, Hair and Nails

“You are what you eat.” I know … sounds like old, tired advice that your mom might have given you while pushing liver and soggy vegetables on you. But guess what? There is more to that adage than meets the eye. Or, as it happens, that adage is exactly about what meets the eye.

That’s because eating well doesn’t only make you feel great. It can make you look great, too.

The Beauty Diet — What to Eat for Glowing Skin, Hair and Nails

Make no mistake: we’re not talking about weight. “So many people equate eating well with being skinny, and thinking that is what makes you beautiful,” says Alexis Wolfer, founder and editor of The Beauty Bean and author of “The Recipe For Radiance: Discover Beauty’s Best-Kept Secrets In Your Kitchen” and “Radiant Bride: The Beauty, Diet, Fitness, And Fashion Plan For Your Big Day.”

A “beauty diet” isn’t about being thin, she says. Eating for beauty is about looking and feeling your best, not just to attain a number on your scale. “You may be eating low-sugar, low-fat foods to help you lose weight, but ending up with skin that’s dull or sallow or breaking out. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and everything you eat creates those cells that contribute to how you look.” Skin, eyes, hair, nails: all of them can be a barometer of how nutritious your diet is.

Here are her top recommendations for a beauty diet that will allow you to look and feel your best.

Think of hydration as more than water

“Skin is the first part of your body that will show signs of dehydration,” Wolfer says. She recommends drinking plenty of water, of course, but also integrating water-rich fruits and veggies, such as cucumbers, apples, watermelon, peppers – anything that’s juicy – to amp up your hydration and provide a host of other nourishing benefits.

Find healthy fats

Don’t skimp on healthy fats, such as fatty fish, like salmon, avocados, almonds and walnuts, says Wolfer. “They help your body retain moisture levels and contribute to your skin’s plumpness and cell turnover.”

Vitamin A gets an A+

The spendy ingredients in your Retinol and Retin A creams that offer anti-aging properties and help prevent breakouts? Turns out that much of them can be found in produce loaded with Vitamin A, such as carrots, pumpkin and butternut squash.

Going pro for antioxidants

Foods packed with antioxidants, such as berries and beans, should be a go-to, Wolfer says. “Antioxidants help prevent our body from absorbing damage from free radicals by creating a barrier against those external elements that cause us to look older.”

Pump up the iron

Iron-rich foods are especially great for encouraging glossy, healthy hair. Try adding beans, lentils, spinach and oysters to your diet.

The “superfood” you’re not eating … yet

Finally, Wolfer shared a special secret that she has dubbed her No. 1 hair food: sardines. She acknowledges that not everyone likes them, but they should. “They are an acquired taste but you can grow to acquire it,” she says. Her fave way to eat them? If you remove the skin, bones and head (sorry, TMI but it’s worth it) and mash them up, they taste just like tuna fish. See? You do learn something every day.

And the best part about the beauty diet? “What’s good for one part of your body is generally good for all of it,” Wolfer says.

Ready to find out for yourself? Wolfer shared two super quick and easy recipes from her beauty diet cookbook, “The Recipe for Radiance: Discover Beauty’s Best-Kept Secrets in Your Kitchen.”

Raw Brownie Batter Pudding

They had us at the name, but even better … it’s bursting with skin-enhancing goodness, from raw cacao, which is loaded with anti-aging flavonoids, to avocado, which is packed with hydrating and anti-aging fats and antioxidants. It’s also vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. Use this as a dip for apples, bananas or strawberries for a healthier (and anti-aging) take on chocolate-covered fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons agave
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Granny Smith apple (optional)
  • Banana (optional)
  • Strawberries (optional)

Directions

  1. Puree the avocado in a food processor or with an immersion blender until creamy.
  2. Slowly add the raw cacao powder, agave, vanilla extract, and almond milk, stirring constantly, until well blended.
  3. Top with walnuts and/or fruit for dipping, if desired. Serve immediately.

Maple-Glazed Coconut Cashews

Could cashews be the key to longer, stronger nails? Yes, yes they can – if you’re munching on this maple-glazed variety. High in zinc and healthy fats, cashews help to strengthen and add luster to nails from the inside out. These are prepared with ground flax seeds, which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation within the nail bed for faster and healthier nail growth. Plus, they’re sweetened with maple syrup, which has nail-strengthening vitamin B5, and coconut oil which offers deep moisture.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dried coconut shreds, unsweetened
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients until the cashews are evenly coated.
  2. Spread mixture evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Broil on high until toasted, approximately 5 minutes, stirring halfway to prevent uneven cooking.
Miracle in a Bottle? The Skinny on Supplements and Vitamins

Miracle in a Bottle? The Skinny on Supplements and Vitamins

Vitamins and supplements are a multi-billion-dollar industry: We are bombarded with ads urging us to take our vitamins, from A to zinc, and supplements promise everything from more energy to sharper wits.

Miracle in a Bottle? The Skinny on Supplements and Vitamins

It often seems much easier to get our nutrients in a quick pill format than to slog through yet another salad or serving of oatmeal. But are we hurting more than our wallet when we shell out big bucks for the bottle? Dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are not required to obtain approval from FDA before marketing dietary supplements (although they are required to avoid making medical claims or false or misleading claims about the products).

But are vitamins necessary? Many nutritionists argue that it’s more beneficial to get the nutrients you need through whole foods, rather than pills. Here are a few articles we found that put the issue into perspective.

Healthy Diet Offers Additional Benefits Over Vitamins

“Are dietary supplements ‘bad?’ Not necessarily. There are some appropriate uses of supplements, as in conditions of iron or vitamin-B12 deficiency. However, I have seen the pendulum swing, where patients think taking more is better, but they may be doing more harm than good. Calcium is a good example. Calcium is important, especially for people being treated for osteoporosis. However, excess calcium can increase the risk of vascular calcification.

Before asking your doctor which dietary supplements to take, I encourage you to ask yourself these two questions: ‘Am I eating a well-balanced, healthy diet?’ and ‘Why am I taking dietary supplements?’ Most experts would agree that encouraging a well-rounded, healthy diet is the ideal way to obtain the recommended daily values of vitamins and nutrients. There are additional benefits of a healthy diet, such as fiber, which has been shown to help with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as constipation.” – Read more at the Santa Monica Mirror.

Be Smart When Supplementing Your Diet

“According to the AHA [American Heart Association], some vitamin supplements won’t be fully absorbed into the body. To improve those odds, taking supplements with food is recommended. ‘If taken on an empty stomach without any food, some of the fat-soluble vitamins will not be absorbed as well as they would if the supplement was consumed with a food that provides fat,’ Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Health and Human Development, told the AHA. And before throwing down whole tens of dollars for a bottle of multivitamins, doing one’s due diligence is a must: Supplements can be padded with fillers that are detrimental to the consumer’s health. Consult with a physician in determining what to take and what to skip. And above all, remember: Supplements are meant to bolster a healthy diet; they’re not cure-alls.” – Read more at the Mic.com.

Vitamins and Supplements As Gap-Filler, Not Cure-All

“Taking a supplement to get more of a specific nutrient to ward off chronic diseases may not be effective, as there is no evidence supporting the claim that supplements can effectively fight chronic diseases. In fact, FDA regulations do not allow supplement manufacturers to claim that their product can cure, treat, or prevent a disease. On the other hand, following government recommendations with respect to food—including those detailed in the recently published 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans— can help prevent chronic diseases linked with poor eating habits.’It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,’ said Carol Haggans, a registered dietician and consultant to NIH, in an NIH “News in Health” feature. ‘But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.’ Patients with certain dietary constrictions or habits may choose to use supplements in place of certain foods. Vegans, for instance, may want to rely on vitamin B12 supplements to help support their nerve and blood cell health, as vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, and dairy foods that they avoid.” – Read more at the Pharmacy Times.

Choose a Healthy Diet over Vitamins for Variety, Fiber and Nutrients

“All of those bottles at the drugstore can deplete your bank account, and they might not actually be any more beneficial than good-for-you foods. Time [magazine] revealed many supplements don’t get adequately inspected before winding up on store shelves. This means you might not be getting the nutrients the packages claim. Even if you are getting a pure source of this or that vitamin, that’s still no reason to load up. Mayo Clinic explained supplements can’t entirely replace food because they don’t offer the same nutritional variety, fiber, or phytonutrients. They’re designed to fill in gaps, not serve as alternatives to healthy eats. If your supplement situation is getting out of control, it might be time to reevaluate your diet.” – Read more at the  CheatSheet.

Plate vs. Pill: Are Vitamins Necessary?

“For those getting a late start on New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, nutritionists are saying it’s better to get your nutrients from a plate rather than a pill. That’s because studies examining the benefits of vitamins have shown that too many vitamin supplements can be bad for you, and overall those who ate healthy food to get their nutrients were in better health overall. Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School Joann Manson said her team has done ‘extensive research’ comparing the relationship between diet and health outcomes with the effects of supplemental vitamins and minerals. She said these supplements often come up short. … ‘For the most part, supplements are of little value to people who are well nourished and have a well-balanced diet,’ Manson said. ‘And they should never be viewed as a substitute for a healthful diet because they will never confer the same benefits as a balanced diet. They’re a safety net.’” – Read more at the  Herald Democrat.

Is it hard for you to get the nutrients you need? Leave a comment sharing what vitamins you take and what food you might try instead. And try tracking your daily intake by downloading  the new Applause app.

Rev Up Your Winter Vegetables with Butternut Squash – Fresh Ways to Serve This Nutritional Superstar

Rev Up Your Winter Vegetables with Butternut Squash – Fresh Ways to Serve This Nutritional Superstar

Feeling bored with broccoli or listless with lettuce?  We get it. The repetition of the few available fresh winter vegetables can sometimes feel like as much of a slog as the slush outside.

So we asked Dan Carroll, co-founder of Nehalem Valley Naturals organic farm in Nehalem, Oregon, what’s cooking in the winter. His pick? Butternut squash.

Rev Up Your Winter Vegetables with Butternut Squash – Fresh Ways to Serve This Nutritional Superstar

Carroll says that since butternut squash stores so well it’s one of the few fresh vegetables you can find locally almost anywhere. “Technically you can find most types of produce, like berries, tomatoes or asparagus, all year long, but because they can’t be grown in winter conditions and don’t store well, they’ve lost much of their taste and nutritional value since they’re being flown in from elsewhere.”

Butternut squash has a ton going for it: It’s packed with the ABCs (vitamins that is), as well as healthy doses of fiber and potassium. A colorful diet is a healthy diet, so the vibrant orange is a welcome change from the green that’s so prevalent in winter.

Quick Prep Ideas for Fast Healthful Dinners

Carroll finds these are the quickest ways you can prepare butternut squash, perfect for people wanting to put together something healthy after a busy day at work:

  • Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and toss in a little sugar and butter. Roast it in the oven for 30 minutes while you do a quick workout, and it’s ready.
  • Dice it and toss it in the blender, then add it to soups or even your kids’ (or your!) mac and cheese or other pasta.

Looking for something a little more “foodie?” Carroll’s wife and co-founder, Liz, offers three recipes she’s been using this winter.

Butternut Squash Risotto (From Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Jeanne Kelley)

“This was only my second attempt at making risotto, and I don’t know why I put it off that long. It’s not hard; it just requires stirring,” Liz says.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine the squash and garlic and pulse until the squash is chopped into 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan over high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes. Add the squash mixture and 1/4 tsp salt and sauté until the squash is almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the wine, broth, rosemary, sage, and 1 tsp of the thyme and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the risotto is thick and creamy, about 30 minutes.
  3. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Spoon into warmed shallow bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp of thyme, dividing it evenly. Serve.

Butternut Squash and Gouda Casserole (From Blue Apron)

“Because butternut squash is so filling, it can be an ideal meat replacement,” Dan says, adding that no one will miss the meat in this hearty dish.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 3 ounces Gouda cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 ounces Brussels sprouts
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons roasted, peeled chestnuts
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Heat 2 medium pots of salted water to boiling on high. Once the first pot of water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook 11 to 13 minutes, or until just shy of al dente (still slightly firm to the bite). Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, thoroughly drain the cooked pasta. Rinse and wipe out the pot.
  3. While the pasta cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce. Cut off and discard both ends of the squash; peel the squash. Separate the neck and bulb of the squash; halve the bulb lengthwise, then scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds. Large dice the squash. Cut off and discard the stem ends of the Brussels sprouts. Pick off and reserve the Brussels sprout leaves until you reach the lighter cores; discard the cores. Grate the Gouda cheese. Finely chop the chestnuts.
  4. Cook and mash the squash. Add the squash to the second pot of boiling water. Cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Off the heat, using a fork, mash the cooked squash to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside in a warm place.
  5. Make the béchamel sauce. In the pot used to cook the pasta, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the flour and spice blend; cook, whisking frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until toasted and fragrant. Slowly whisk in the milk and reserved pasta cooking water; heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, 4 to 6 minutes, or until thickened.
  6. Make the filling. Add the Gouda cheese to the pot of béchamel sauce; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined. Turn off the heat. Add the mashed squash; season with salt and pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine. Stir in the cooked pasta and Brussels sprouts; season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a baking dish.
  7. Bake the casserole and serve your dish. In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and chestnuts; season with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to moisten the mixture. Evenly top the filling with the moistened breadcrumb mixture. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes before serving.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup (From Damn Delicious)

Liz made this for her college-age daughter and three visiting friends. The verdict? “Bowls licked clean!”

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock, or more, to taste
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray.
  2. Place butternut squash, onion, bell pepper and bacon in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Add olive oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Gently toss to combine.
  3. Place into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until butternut squash is tender, stirring at halftime.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add butternut squash mixture and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in chicken stock and puree with an immersion blender.
  6. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add more chicken stock as needed until desired consistency is reached.
  7. Serve immediately, garnished with bacon, goat cheese and chives, if desired.

Looking for support staying on track with your winter eating plan? Download  the Applause app for iPhone or Android.

Our Picks: The 5 Health Habits Every New Mom Needs – and Why They Matter

Our Picks: The 5 Health Habits Every New Mom Needs – and Why They Matter

New moms are constantly thinking about everyone around them – from their new baby to their partner. But while they focus on creating a healthy lifestyle for their loved ones, it’s vital not to ignore their own needs for health, fitness and – let’s face it – balance. We rounded up the top five new mom health habits that will help you look and feel your best.

Our Picks: The 5 Health Habits Every New Mom Needs – and Why They Matter

New Mom Diet Plan: Pick Healthy Foods for You and Baby

“High-protein foods contain a hunger-fighting hormone and will fill you up more than carbs. And many sources of protein—fish, beef, and eggs—are also rich in iron and vitamin B12, both of which have been shown to increase energy levels. (What new mom doesn’t need that?) Just be careful to choose lean cuts of meat and watch your fat intake, as excess saturated fat won’t help your diet or your cardiovascular health.” – Health.

Make Time for Exercise

“If you really want to lose weight, you will need to move your body. You can add aerobic and strength training exercises, which will help you to burn more calories besides helping you to keep your muscles and bones strong. Exercise is very important for a new mom, because it offers several health benefits. It also helps you to keep away stress, which is very common in a household with a new baby. It does not mean that you have to go to the gym. It’s good if you can go because it will help you to get back in shape faster after pregnancy. You can easily take a brisk walk with your baby in the morning or in the afternoon. It will pump your heart and will also work your muscles. It may be difficult to find even 30 minutes at a row when you have a new baby, but you can break up the time. You can work out for 10 to 20 minutes sessions whenever you get time and can try 3 to 4 sessions during the day.” –  Dr. Tipster.

Ask for Help When You Need It

“Dr. Jennifer Birkhauser, a pediatrician at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, says moms shouldn’t hesitate to call for backup. ‘Ask for help, and accept it when offered,’ Birkhauser said. ‘Whether it be dad, parents, in-laws, other family, whoever – let them bring you food, help with cleaning and help take care of any other kids that you may have.’ Friends and well-deserved breaks are also important tools, Birkhauser added. ‘Other moms may be an invaluable source of advice and reassurance or, at the very least, an understanding ear,’ she said. ‘If you are truly feeling overwhelmed, it is OK to leave the baby in a safe place, such as a crib or bassinet, and go outside for a breath of fresh air for a couple of minutes.’” Orange County Register.

Make Time for Sleep

“The lack of [sleep] is the wrench that can throw all of the above into chaos. When we are sleep-deprived our perspective can be very warped. If you have never been woken up every hour for days on end, suddenly have a tiny and extremely demanding life depending on you absolutely and completely, then new parenthood will feel like some sort of insane Amazing Race you can’t get out of! Days and nights melt into each other and seem endless.” BlogHer.

Cuddle Away!

“Now, ongoing research shows this type of close, bare-skin snuggling can also significantly reduce maternal stress levels. The study was recently presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition. Researchers looked at stress levels of new moms before and after they held their NICU babies ‘kangaroo style’ for a minimum of one hour. These infants ranged in weight from less than 1 pound to more than 8 pounds, with ages ranging from 3 to 109 days. They remained in the NICU for a variety of health reasons, and over half were on oxygen support. The results? All of the mothers reported a decrease in stress after this skin-to-skin time with their infants — especially those moms who reported feeling helpless and unable to protect their baby from pain/painful procedures, or stressed from being separated from their babies and the overall NICU experience.” – BabyCenter.

What habits helped you the most as a new mom? Share with us below — and track your daily calories by downloading  the new Applause app.

Even More Reasons to Love Your Chocolate — Just in Time for Valentine’s Day!

Even More Reasons to Love Your Chocolate — Just in Time for Valentine’s Day!

Many of us were pretty happy to hear that red wine can legitimately be called a “health food.” And guess what? Our other old friend, dark chocolate, has many of the same benefits, thanks, once again, to flavanols.

Even More Reasons to Love Your Chocolate — Just in Time for Valentine’s Day!

Flavonols have high antioxidant abilities, which help protect the body from damage from environmental contaminants. Antioxidants have been linked to helping manage or prevent medical conditions that include some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and more. And you’ll find them in dark chocolate and cocoa.

What? Dark Chocolate Healthy?

But before you dive headfirst into a vat of chocolatey goodness, be aware that the benefits do not extend to milk chocolate and most other processed chocolate flavors, because the production process can remove the flavanols.

We’re talking the real deal — dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cacao solids. A 100-gram bar contains:

  • 11 g of fiber
  • 8 g of protein
  • 98% of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of manganese
  • 89% of your RDA of copper
  • 67% of your RDA of iron
  • 58% of your RDA of magnesium
  • 31% of your RDA of phosphorus
  • 22% of your RDA of zinc
  • 21% of your RDA of potassium

Remember: It also contains sugar and fat, so moderation is still in order.

Chocolate Health Benefits You Will Love

Here are a few of the benefits you’ll get from eating a small amount of dark chocolate a day:

  • Reduces your cardiovascular risk: It can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Aids your cholesterol: Cocoa powder can raise your HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and can lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).
  • Elevates your mood: Sure, we’ve been known to drown our sorrows in some chocolate therapy or celebrate with a sweet treat. Turns out, we’re on to something: a study has found that dark chocolate can help reduce our stress hormones.

Skinny Treats Start With Chocolate

So for Valentine’s Day, why not indulge in some dark chocolate for all its health-enhancing characteristics? But forget that boring box of chocolates or chocolate bar. Using dark chocolate or cocoa to bake can enhance any dessert.

“The unhealthy part of chocolate desserts is not the actual chocolate but all the sugar and empty calories often included with the chocolate in recipes,” says Katie Higgins, who blogs at Chocolate Covered Katie. “But when you lower the sugar, heavy cream and refined flours from a recipe — or in some cases omit them completely — you can end up with an antioxidant-packed dessert that tastes sinful yet is secretly good for you at the same time.”

She’s not the only dessert baker who uses these as go-tos. “I love to use cocoa powder in my baking recipes because it provides the same rich flavor as melted chocolate for a fraction of the fat and calories,” says Amy Atherton of Amy’s Healthy Baking. “Cocoa powder works really well in making brownies, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins and scones that taste just as decadent as traditional’ recipes.”

We like their style! Here we’ve rounded up five amazing recipes that include cocoa or dark chocolate. Share them with someone you love — or eat them yourself! — this Valentine’s Day!

Skinny Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins (from The Domestic Rebel)

Start your day off right with these delicious muffins that won’t blow your dessert budget, thanks to ingredients such as minimal butter, an egg white and low-fat buttermilk, combined with today’s star, baking cocoa.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate baking cocoa (can use regular baking cocoa if preferred)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • About 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, softened to an almost melted consistency

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees . Liberally grease a standard muffin tin with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar until it resembles soft, wet crumbles. Add in the egg, then egg white, whisking after each addition (for this, I simply used a fork — but you could use a handheld electric mixer if desired). Whisk the mixture quickly until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the buttermilk, water, vinegar and vanilla until just combined. Lastly, add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt until moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Evenly portion the batter among the muffin cups, about three-quarters of the way full. Bake for approx. 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs; do NOT over bake!
  5. Cool for a few minutes in the pan before gently transferring them to a wire rack. Put parchment of a paper towel under the rack to help with the mess, then drizzle the tops of the muffins evenly with the peanut butter.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes (from Cooking Light)

These babies have it all: unsweetened cocoa for an intense shot of chocolate flavor, dark chocolate for those heart-healthy benes we mentioned above AND portion control!

Ingredients

  • 3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (2.6-ounce) bar dark (71% cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder and salt.
  2. Place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars, beating until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating until well blended. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture; fold in chocolate. Divide batter evenly among 10 (4-ounce) ramekins; arrange ramekins on a jelly-roll pan. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°.
  4. Let ramekins stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Uncover and bake at 350° for 21 minutes or until cakes are puffy and slightly crusty on top. Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar; serve immediately.

Coconut Dark-Chocolate Truffles (from Eating Well)>

Got a date? These truffles do! (Several, as it happens, hehehe.) In fact, combining dates with coconut give these yummy chocolate-y treats a huge boost of fiber. The secret is the coconut flour which packs five grams of heart-healthy, filling fiber per two tablespoons.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (16-18 large)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Directions

  1. Place dates in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over them and let stand until cool, about 40 minutes. Transfer the dates and liquid to a food processor. Add vanilla and salt and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice. Add coconut flour and cocoa and process, scraping the sides occasionally, until a thick dough-like paste forms. Refrigerate until very cold, 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Using 2 teaspoons per truffle, roll the mixture into about 40 balls.
  3. Place half the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until it is about half melted. Remove from the microwave and continue stirring until completely melted. Place coconut in a shallow dish.
  4. Add about 4 date balls at a time to the melted chocolate. Working quickly, use 2 forks to roll each ball in the chocolate until coated. Use a fork to transfer the truffles one at a time to the coconut, letting excess chocolate drip off first. Sprinkle with coconut to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  5. When the first batch of chocolate is gone and about half the date balls are coated, melt the remaining chocolate and coat the remaining balls with chocolate and coconut. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill until the chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake (The Healthy Foodie)

Coconuts and avocados … what? They combine with our dark chocolate to make a sinfully rich cake that you won’t believe is lower in fat!

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 cup date paste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6) egg whites
  • 11/2 cup cacao powder
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
  • For the icing:
  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cacao powder

Directions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Line bottom part of a spring form pan with aluminum foil and fold the edges under it. Assemble pan by putting rim back in place, then bring aluminum foil up around the exterior of the pan. Grease bottom and interior of the pan with coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. In your food processor, add avocados and date paste and blend until well combined and super smooth and creamy.
  4. Add eggs and process until smooth.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well incorporated.
  6. Transfer your cake batter to reserved pan and bake in the oven for 28-30 minutes, until top appears darker pretty much all over. Be careful not to overcook.
  7. Turn the oven off, crack the door open and leave your cake in to cool for an hour or two, then transfer to the refrigerator and cool completely, at least 8 hours.

For the icing:

  1. In food processor, add all ingredients except cacao powder and process until well incorporated.
  2. Add cacao powder, about 1/4 cup at a time, and process until smooth and creamy with each addition.
  3. At this point, your icing should have the consistency of chocolate pudding. If you find that it is a little bit too stiff, you can help loosen it up a bit by setting over it a double boiler and whisking it gently until it has reached the desired consistency.
  4. Take cake out of the refrigerator and place it upside down on a serving plate.
  5. Pour icing right in the middle of the cake and spread it gently all the way to the edge.

Chocolate Mousse (From Food.com)

Super fast, and super yum. Dare we say it? Yep, we’re in love with this modern take on mousse.

Ingredients

  • 1(12 1/3 ounce) package silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place almond milk and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat about 1 minute depending on your microwave. Stir together until chocolate chips are dissolving in milk, you should now have a rich chocolate milk. If necessary, heat a bit a longer. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
  2. Add chocolate mixture, tofu, and vanilla to a food processor or blender and process until pureed. This is important: taste the mixture to make sure you don’t a have a tofu taste since all brands are different. If it’s not chocolatey enough, you can melt some more chocolate chips and add it but don’t add any more milk or it won’t set properly.
  3. Pour into 4-5 ramekins or small dishes. It will set better this way than if it’s in one big bowl. Chill 2-3 hours and it’s ready to eat.

Looking for support staying on track with your eating plan this winter? Download the Applause app for iPhone or Android.

Gym Etiquette 101: Be a Gym Dandy!

Gym Etiquette 101: Be a Gym Dandy!

As we say so long to January, many gym goers have already bid farewell  to their fitness new year’s resolutions. In fact, according to somewhat disturbing data from intelligence firm Cardlytics, 46 percent of new gym customers quit their membership by the end of January.

Gym Etiquette 101: Be a Gym Dandy!

That means that the gym is full of “regulars” again, and if you’re aiming to be one of them (and we’re sure you are), then you might need to step up your game to fit in. We’ve rounded up some sweat-tastic advice that will show you know the ropes (and barbells and machines).

Keep Your Sweat to Yourself

“‘Sanitizing your station is probably the No. 1 gym etiquette rule – making sure things are staying clean, so you’re not passing (around) any germs,’ said Holley Morrison, a district manager for Planet Fitness. Depending on the gym, clean up may be done with sanitizing spray and paper towels, or with disinfecting wipes. ‘You don’t want to leave a sweaty mess on your machine, and you don’t want to certainly walk up to one that is a sweaty mess,’ said Maria Bernard, fitness co-director at the Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center.” – (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

Watch the Free Stylin’ in Cardio Classes

“If you’re not going to follow the instructor’s routine, don’t position yourself in the front row. Whether it’s cycling, dance or other type of conditioning class, if you’re doing your own thing, do it far in the back or better yet, outside. Most experienced instructors have learned how to tune out the class disruptors. But sometimes they will have a hissy fit and call you out. Moreover, it really does distract everyone else in the class. If you think your routine is better than the instructors’, fill out an application to teach at the gym.” –  Huffington Post.

Don’t Dress to Impress

“Short shorts, barely-there tank tops and loose, baggy clothes that get caught in a machine can all constitute fashion hazards for various reasons. ‘While the clothes don’t necessarily make the workout, the right apparel can definitely enhance your exercise experience and help you to avoid any unwanted attention,’ says [Jessica] Matthews, [exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise]. Wearing clothing that provides appropriate coverage and the right fit allows you to do everything from jump squats to downward facing dog with confidence and ease. If your clothing is too tight, it can restrict your range of motion, which can make your form suffer. Baggy clothing or too-long pants can get caught or snagged on something or you can trip over them and injure yourself.” – Livestrong.

Let Your Trainer Train

“If you’re paying good money for training sessions, it’s best to, you know, actually listen to what your trainer tells you to do. I’ve seen a shocking number of clients flat-out ignore their trainer’s requests or instructions, and instead do something else on their own that was unsafe. If you’re at a reputable gym with well-educated instructors, take their word over that of some random guy you found on the Internet.” – Bustle.

Avoid These Common Offenses

“‘Wipe down equipment with sanitizing wipes when you are finished using (it),’ [Wayne] Nunnelle, [operations manager at Courthouse Racquet and Fitness/University Wellness in Flowood] said. “Rerack your weights when finished. Clean up after yourself in the locker room. Don’t make personal calls on cellphones when in a public setting. Politely ask if you can share equipment others are using; offer to share equipment you are using.”  – (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger.

Looking for support staying on track with your winter workout plan? Download  the Applause app for iPhone or Android.

3 Winter Sports Even Beginners Can Enjoy

3 Winter Sports Even Beginners Can Enjoy

Missing your outdoor exercise? Sometimes we see winter as that season that interrupts our biking, hiking and trail running. But even though indoor exercise options are plentiful – and there’s always the gym – why not embrace the white stuff and up your fitness by taking on a new winter sport?

3 Winter Sports Even Beginners Can Enjoy

“Many people use winter as an excuse to hibernate, but when the sun’s up and there’s new snow, it’s so gorgeous that you just have to get out,” says Reese Brown, Nordic Director of SnowSports Industries America.

He shared his three favorite winter sports.

Snowshoeing

An excellent lower body workout, snowshoeing is virtually as easy as walking, Brown says. It’s also great for the casual participant because it requires relatively little gear  – just the snowshoes and some cold-weather clothing. Brown recommends wearing shoes that are a little higher than a sneaker, like a hiking shoe, but says that the bindings of snowshoes are easily adjustable to fit many shapes and sizes. “Don’t overdress, because snowshoeing can be a lot of work,” he cautions.

If you’re a beginner, look for a track or trail to walk on; if you’re looking for more exertion, deep snow can provide a tough workout, where you might be sinking four to five inches and then lifting your foot out each time.

The great thing about snowshoeing is that as you get more into it, you will realize you can do it anytime, anywhere. Do you always travel with running or walking shoes just in case? Take a tip from Brown: “I leave a pair of snowshoes in my car so if I see a beautiful vista, I can just stop by the side of the road and tromp around.”

Cross Country Skiing

When people think skiing, they typically think downhill, but cross country is an ideal option for someone who doesn’t want to go through the hassle and expense often associated with alpine skiing. Brown says that cross country skiing can be a little confusing the first time, so he advises visiting a cross country center to learn the mechanics. One common beginner faux pas is failing to find out how to get out of your skis.

However, Brown urges people not to be scared away. “There’s a misconception that cross country skiing is really hard. But so is running a marathon. You can start easy and work your way up, just like with running.”  He says that with a groomed trail, you can be up and sliding around immediately.

As far as the workout potential, cross country skiing entails 95 percent lower body work for most beginners, but as you progress and learn how to maneuver the poles, it will be become more evenly balanced between upper and lower body.

Ice Skating

Even if you don’t have an outdoor pond near you, most towns have an ice skating rink, and it’s the perfect place for an afternoon of fun and exercise. Not ready to gracefully land a triple axel? Most rinks have walkers to help you get your skating legs before you zip around. No need to be embarrassed: Brown recently held a skate clinic and said most people there were using the walkers to help them balance. “You progress fast, and before long you don’t need it.”

Skating is not only relatively easy to pick up, it’s an awesome workout, especially if you skate hard. “Just look at the hockey players,” he says.

And while all these winter sports will torch major calories (upwards of 500 per hour, depending on your current weight and exertion), the best part is that they each have a great social component, Brown says. “Just grab some friends and go for it!”

Looking for support staying on track with your winter workout plan? Download  the Applause app for iPhone or Android.

Our Picks: Try Our Restaurant Hacks to Help You Order Healthy

Our Picks: Try Our Restaurant Hacks to Help You Order Healthy

Research has found that many restaurant meals can include more calories than you should eat in a single day. But we know: It’s hard to stay away. In one survey, respondents reflecting on their recent restaurant dining revealed that during the previous three months, 93 percent had eaten in a fast food restaurant, 71 percent in a casual-dining place and 56 percent in a fast-casual restaurant.

Our Picks: Try Our Restaurant Hacks to Help You Order Healthy

The problem is that many of us blow our diets in restaurants unwittingly because we don’t know how many calories (and how much fat, sodium and cholesterol) each plate contains. So we’ve rounded up some information on the gut-busting entrees that will scare you straight, plus some restaurant ordering tips so you can dine out without guilt.

What 2,000 Calories Looks Like (Yikes! No. 9 Doesn’t Even Have a Drink!)

“The Food and Drug Administration recommends an average daily intake of 2,000 calories.

Healthier, more transparent practices are making their way into the fast-food industry, yet simple awareness isn’t always effective. … We decided to do our own version and visit 13 fast-food chains to discover what ordering 2,000 calories looks like.While many of these arrangements look like single meals, each would be all you are recommended to eat in an entire day.” – Business Insider.

Dine Out Healthy at Chain Restaurants? Something is Fishy — And Fatty

“You’re headed out to a chain restaurant and want to pick the healthiest one. Red Lobster should be good, right? Seafood’s low in calories, high in protein, and full of good-for-you omega-three fatty-acids, right? Think again. While seafood can indeed boast all those nutritional perks, Red Lobster itself just had the dubious honor of being the “winner” of the 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards, held yearly by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to highlight the chain restaurant menu items with the highest calorie, saturated and trans fat, sodium, and added sugar counts. Head to the Lobster for a Create Your Own Combination meal—with a Traditional Lobsterita to drink, natch—and you could down 3,600 cals in one sitting. That’s over a third more than the 2,000 calories the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the average woman eat per day. ‘Restaurant meals are really a problem,” [Paige] Einstein [RD, a registered dietician with the CSPI] says. ‘People eat most of their meals outside of the home. It’s important for them to know that the average entrée, dessert, and appetizer averages 1,000 calories.’” – Health.

Independent Restaurants Not Immune

“Public health officials and experts in diet and nutrition have made plenty of fuss about the high-caloric content of meals served at chain restaurants. However, it turns out that eating at independent dining establishments often isn’t much better when it comes to keeping within the recommended dietary allowances for fat and calories. In a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers at Tufts University randomly sampled 364 meals from a range of privately owned and franchise restaurants in Boston, San Francisco and Little Rock, Arkansas, and found that 92 percent had the equivalent calorie count of over two-thirds the overall recommended daily intake. (The analysis excluded the caloric content of accompanying beverages, appetizers and desserts.) Portion size was a main factor behind the high-calorie content of the meals, proving that it’s not just fast-food places that are supersizing.” – Newsweek

Plan Ahead — And More Restaurant Ordering Hacks

“Eating deceptively unhealthy foods at restaurants is one of the biggest reasons people struggle with their weight. But it doesn’t have to be. … Nearly all fast food restaurants and most chain restaurants post their nutrition facts information online now. Take 5 minutes to plot your meal strategy and you can save yourself 1,000 calories or more. … Ask the server for a copy of the nutrition facts information. This is such a simple way to order healthy food at restaurants but no one does it. When you get to the restaurant, ask the server or manager if they have a copy of the nutrition facts information for the menu. Even if they don’t, they will likely recommend a healthier dish for you. Don’t be afraid to ask.” – Lifehack

A Genius Solution to Ordering Smart at a Restaurant

“When it comes to dining out and losing weight, resisting temptation of all things fried, buttered, and sautéed can test the limits of your willpower. This is especially true when you go out with a group of friends who just don’t seem to care about calories the same way you do — there’s nothing like having to stick to your side salad while everyone is digging into fries. But try this trick from registered dietitian and Women’s Health contributing editor Keri Glassman the next time you’re at a restaurant and you might be surprised at how healthy your night out will be: be the first one to order, and pick something healthy that supports your goals. When you do, ‘It’s amazing how everyone follows,’ she says. In contrast, ‘If someone orders something unhealthy [first], everyone is like, ‘All right, fine, I’ll indulge too.’”  – PopSugar

Healthy Restaurant Choices Come in Small Packages

“Portion inflation also means that today’s appetizers are sometimes the size of yesterday’s entrees – and that you can often get a filling meal with two appetizers. The strategy is especially helpful during business meals, when other people at the table are often ordering two courses and joining them is the natural thing to do. And when a menu or waiter pushes you to order several “small-plate” entrees, push back. At Panda Express, a standard combination meal comes with two different entrees. The meal you see is made up of one entree (the beef) and two sides (brown rice and veggies.) At certain types of restaurants, like those that serve Chinese food or pizza, these tricks help with shaving calories but not necessarily sodium. Yet sodium is not necessarily the villain many people make it out to be, especially for those with healthy blood pressure.” – New York Times

Have you had a restaurant revelation recently? Share with us below — and track your daily calories by downloading  the new Applause app.