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How to Pack a Low-Calorie Picnic: 4 Healthy Recipes

Written on August 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm , by

Did you know that August is National Picnic Month? As if we needed an excuse to eat al fresco in this gorgeous weather…

Too bad so many picnic favorites pack way more calories than we’d like to eat–especially considering this holiday falls right in the middle of bikini season! Luckily, some simple swaps can slim down your spread and FITNESS has plenty of recipes with all the flavors you love (but a fraction of the fat and calories).

Four we can’t wait to try this weekend:

  • Cool Skewers (150 calories): This no-cook app couldn’t be easier. Just slice, stack and serve!
  • Healthy Potato Salad (131 calories, 2 g fat): Low-fat mayo lightens up this cookout classic, plus, diced veggies amp up the nutrition.
  • Greek Salad Pita Pocket (286 calories, 6 g fat): Think of this as a portable version of your favorite Mediterranean salad! Everything’s betta with feta, right?
  • Double-Chocolate Brownies (111 calories, 4 g fat): Surprise! Cocoa powder can be a diet do when you opt for the unsweetened version. Try using white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour for even more fiber.

More from FITNESS:

Featured Fitterati: Weight Loss Blog It Sux to Be Fat

Written on July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm , by

Jen is hoping to expand her family soon—and keep the whole clan healthy at the same time.

Each Tuesday, we’re highlighting one category of winners from our Fitterati Blogger Awards! This week the spotlight is on the Best Weight-Loss Blogs!

Jennifer Swafford

  • 34, Marietta, Georgia

One hundred pounds down, elementary school teacher Jennifer is learning to maintain the healthy weight she achieved through Weight Watchers. She started It Sux to Be Fat to stay accountable (Jennifer posts weekly weigh-ins) and share her secrets to success.

Dessert Do “Instead of having the full-fat version of a dessert, I choose a healthier or portion-controlled version like Weight Watchers ice cream bars. That way, I can indulge my sweet tooth and satisfy cravings without overdoing it on calories.”

Motivation Must “My future family inspires me to stay on track with my diet. I want to get pregnant some day soon, and I know that the healthier I am, the easier that process will be!”

Best Breakfasts “Quaker Weight Control Instant Oatmeal is fast, easy and keeps me satisfied for hours. I also love Greek yogurt for the protein punch.”

Fit Links: Wacky Ice Cream Flavors and the Healthy Habit You Might Be Neglecting

Written on June 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm , by

How about a scoop of chickpea chocolate swirl? (Photo by Peter Ardito)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Cool Off With 4 DIY Desserts For Hot Summer Days

Written on June 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm , by

What a fun way to get your antioxidants! (Photo courtesy of Whole Foods Market)

When the weather warms up, our tastes naturally veer toward lighter, oven-free fare. Whole Foods Market’s Health Starts Here program has dozens of low-calorie, refreshing ideas to help you fit in your fruit and vegetable servings all summer long. Here are four of our favorites, all of which will please a crowd!

Double Grape Slushies

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup concord grape juice
  • 1 cup seedless red or green grapes
  • 1 cup honeydew melon chunks
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  1. Pour juice into a blender. Drop in fruit and ice.
  2. Put the lid on and blend until smooth.

Nutrition information per serving: 60 calories, 0 g fat

It takes just minutes to whip up healthy, protein-packed ice cream. (Photo courtesy of Whole Foods Market)

Banana Nice Cream

  • 2 bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 2 tablespoons smooth almond butter or peanut butter
  1. Put bananas, soymilk and nut butter into a blender.
  2. Puree, turning off the motor and stirring the mixture two or three times, until smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour into two bowls and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories, 13 g fat

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Sweet! 3 Low-Cal Sundaes For Summer

Written on May 17, 2012 at 10:45 am , by

Cool news: The Soft Serve Fruit Co., home to healthy, wholesome frozen yogurt-like concoctions made from real fruit, water and a bit of organic cane sugar, can now be shipped straight to your doorstep. Inspired to try a similar treat? Here are three sundae recipes from the company, which you can create with your own favorite base. (Hint: Blend up a frozen banana or some frozen strawberries with a little milk for homemade soft serve!)

(Photos courtesy of The Soft Serve Fruit Co.)

Crunchy Salty

  • Banana Soft Serve Fruit
  • Sliced banana
  • Pretzels
  • Peanut butter
  • Chocolate chips

Banana Split

  • Strawberry Soft Serve Fruit
  • Diced banana
  • Diced strawberries
  • Diced pineapple
  • Walnuts
  • Hot chocolate sauce
  • Maple syrup

Breakfast Berry

  • Strawberry Soft Serve Fruit
  • Raisins
  • Granola
  • Whole O’s (or Cheerios)
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Now tell us: What’s your favorite warm weather dessert?

Fit Links: Inspiring Healthy Movies and Quick Energy Boosters

Written on April 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm , by

Prep the popcorn—it's movie time! (Photo by Evan Sklar)

This week’s fit links from around the web:


The Pros of Probiotics

Written on February 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm , by

Written by Lauren Cardarelli, editorial intern

Many yogurts pack a healthy amount of "good bacteria." (Photo by Jonathan Kantor)

We often hear that probiotics are important to maintain healthy digestion, but what exactly do they do? FITNESS recently learned all about the friendly bacteria from Dr. Melina B. Jampolis, M.D., who we met with at an Activia event. We asked her about the digestive system, the role of probiotics in overall health and how to incorporate the live microorganisms in our diets. Here’s what she had to say:

How do probiotics help regulate our digestive system?

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in our intestines. The gut contains 70 percent of our body’s immune tissue so a healthy gut is important for healthy immune function. Probiotics help keep the cells of the colon healthy, promoting good digestion. Things like stress, lack of sleep, medication and infection can throw off the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the intestines which can lead to overall health and digestive problems. This bacteria keeps the cells that line the gut healthy, they produce vitamins and produce lactase, an enzyme that helps break down milk.

Can you get probiotics from frozen yogurt? 

It depends on the preparation of the frozen yogurt and if probiotics are added. Although yogurt contains live cultures, it does not contain probiotics unless they are added. If it is frozen slowly the probiotics can survive but if it’s just placed in the freezer they will not.

How can those who don’t like yogurt incorporate probiotics into their diet?

Probiotic supplements, both refrigerated and shelf stable, are available. You can also find different strains in chocolate bars and juices but the benefits of probiotics are strain specific so if you are looking for a specific benefit, such as supporting a healthy digestive system, it is important to choose a clinically validated product.

Pastry Chef and Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts judge, Johnny Iuzzini, showed us how easy (and delicious!) incorporating probiotics into your diet can be. Check out his sweet recipe!

Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream. (Photo courtesy of Activia)

Yogurt-Orange Blossom Panna Cotta

  • 2 1/4 cups Activia Vanilla Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 gelatin sheets or 1 tablespoon gelatin powder
  • Lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  1. Heat sugar and milk until hot.
  2. Soak the gelatin in ice water for 10 minutes then squeeze out excess water and add to the hot milk. Allow milk to cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir in the vanilla yogurt, lime zest and orange blossom water and pour into a 4-ounce ramekin or a mold and allow to set in the refrigerator.
  4. Once set, carefully unmold into the serving bowl by inverting and releasing one edge.

Holiday Cookies That Take You Back in Time…Way Back!

Written on December 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm , by

In our November/December issue, four game readers each tried out different popular diets (see page 132 for the full story!). A Paleo diet—which promotes eating a whole-foods diet like our early ancestors—was one of the more successful options, but our tester was bummed that she couldn’t find desserts to fit her eating plan.

Enter Make It Paleo, a book we just stumbled upon that offers Paleo twists on traditional dishes. Bloggers Bill Staley and Hayley Mason of The Food Lover’s Primal Palate share recipes like huevos rancheros, portobello turkey burgers and chocolate mocha cupcakes with their Paleo spin.

Since our tester had trouble satisfying her sweet tooth, we were instantly drawn to the dessert section. Interested in giving a caveman-style cookie a try yourself? Here’s the Make It Paleo version of the traditional holiday favorite: gingerbread!

The authors recommend decorating with raisins and Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Photo courtesy of Make It Paleo)

Gingerbread Cookies

Serves 12

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons palm shortening
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk
  • 3 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda’
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a sauce pan, heat molasses to a boil. Add maple syrup, palm shortening and coconut milk to sauce pan. Stir ingredients until combined, then remove from heat.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Pour dry ingredients into wet, and stir until batter is fully blended.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes.
  5. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper, until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut batter with cookie cutters of choice.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Let cool, decorate as desired, and enjoy.

Now tell us: Have you or would you be willing to try a primal diet?

Spook Trick-or-Treaters With These Festive Treats

Written on October 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm , by

Break up the trimmed off corner brownies to create a look that resembles a dirt-filled graveyard. (Photo courtesy of Sun-Maid)

Ah, Halloween. It kicks off the so-called “eating season” (including Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas and more) and is a holiday that basically revolves around massive quantities of sweet treats. So how do you stroll into November in the same pair of jeans you’re wearing today?

“Don’t buy your Halloween candy until October 30—it’s too torturous to have it around the house,” says Joy Bauer, R.D., The Today Show nutritionist and author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures. And rather than popping one fun-size bar after the next, “stick with longer-lasting treats like lollipops, or freeze a few pieces of dark chocolate so they melt more slowly while you eat them,” Bauer suggests.

Her top tip: “Give yourself an amount of candy you’ll enjoy around Halloween, say five snack-sized pieces, and pick them strategically to make them last. This way you won’t miss all of the festivities, but will be doing your waistline good.”

You can also eat festive treats that pack a little nutritional punch, like roasted pumpkin seeds or non-fat Greek yogurt mixed with a dollop of canned pumpkin (a couple of Bauer’s favorites) or these fun brownies, courtesy of Sun-Maid.

Halloween Tombstone Brownies

Serves 18 to 24

  • 3-ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Sun-Maid Natural Raisins
  • White icing tubes, pens or homemade and transferred to a pastry bag
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 9 or 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine chocolate and butter in a large saucepan. Heat over low heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in sugar; mix well. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well.
  4. Mix in flour and raisins until evenly combined. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake 9 x 9-inch pan for 25 to 30 minutes or 9 x 13-inch pan for 18 to 22 minutes, until top feels set when gently touched. Cool completely.
  6. Cut brownies with a sharp knife into approximately 1-1/4 x 2-1/2-inch pieces. Cut rounded corners on one short edge to shape a tombstone.
  7. Decorate tombstones with icing as desired. Arrange tombstones upright on tray to create graveyard (apply small amount of icing on bottom of brownies to stick to tray if necessary).

More from FITNESS: Candy-Coated: What You Need to Know About Your Favorite Sweets

Meatless Family Meals: Peas and Thank You

Written on July 27, 2011 at 11:17 am , by

(Photo courtesy of Harlequin)

Peas and Thank You, the book, is available now. (Photo courtesy of Harlequin)

Sarah Matheny would often tote a can of soup and a carton of yogurt for lunch during her busy day as an attorney. “I wasn’t eating terribly, but I did rely on a lot of processed foods,” Sarah admits. When she decided to become a stay-at-home mom after having her first daughter, Sarah opted to revamp her diet as well—turning vegetarian and  focusing on preparing whole foods-based meals. “I am a role model for my daughters and they pick up my behavior. I wanted to clean up my act,” she says.

Her meatless quest turned into a blog, Peas and Thank You, and the popularity of her recipes and stories on the blog offered her the opportunity to write a book. Peas and Thank You: Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love was released yesterday, sharing “healthier twists on foods we all enjoy.”

Since Sarah is a pro at creating produce-filled recipes her (adorable!) daughters devour, we asked for three tips for getting kids to eat their veggies:

  1. Don’t play hide and seek. “I want my kids to know that they’re eating vegetables so they realize at a young age that they’re delicious! Rather than disguising them, I incorporate them into meals they love the taste of, like enchiladas, pizza or pasta.”
  2. Make it visible. “We always have fresh produce in our crisper drawers, and tell our daughters that they can always grab something from there for a snack.”
  3. Let them help. “Bring your kids along to the grocery store and let them pick out a new vegetable that everyone in the family has to try that week. Then have the kids join you in the kitchen for meal preparation! They’ll have a sense of control.”

Click below for Sarah’s recipes for a simple morning smoothie and a mouthwatering dessert reminiscent of a brown bag lunch staple!

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