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Spring Clean Your Pantry to Help Stamp Out Hunger

Written on May 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm , by

(Image courtesy of Stamp Out Hunger)

The words “spring cleaning” conjure up images of scrubbing floors, washing windows and maybe tidying up the garden so it’s ready for a new batch of plants. But while you’re accomplishing all of these things, why not tidy up your kitchen too? As an extra dose of motivation, if you do so this week, you can help a good cause at the same time (and who doesn’t love to multitask?)!

Just like FITNESS, Stamp Out Hunger, the nation’s largest one-day food drive, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In 2011, Americans cleaned out their pantries or shopped for nonperishable goods to donate 70.2 million pounds of food to Feeding America through the program. We talk quite a bit about obesity here, but it’s important to remember that more than 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. may go hungry today.

Helping out is easy: Simply leave a bag of non-perishable foods (soup and other canned items, pasta, juice, cereal, etc.) next to your mailbox before the USPS carrier arrives on Saturday. Your donation will then be dropped off at a local Feeding America or other food bank to help those in need in your community.

Find out more on the Stamp Out Hunger Facebook page.

More from FITNESS: Learn how to spring clean your life—physically, emotionally and financially.

Fit Links: Electronics Overload and Meatless Meals

Written on June 10, 2011 at 3:47 pm , by

Photo by Peter Tak

The scale: Love it or hate it? (Photo by Peter Tak)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Now tell us: Would you be willing to shell out a few extra dollars for a more nutritious restaurant meal?

Best and Worst Cookout Foods

Written on June 2, 2011 at 9:15 am , by

grill and cookout foods

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Summer is here, and that means outdoor parties and cookouts with friends and family! But if you’re trying to eat healthier, it can seem hard to find good choices at the picnic table. You don’t have to hide out until September just to resist temptation, though. Use this guide to choose food that’s light, healthy and refreshing at any backyard blowout.

Burgers ‘n Dogs
Hamburgers and hot dogs don’t have to be a diet disaster. Start with a 100% whole wheat bun instead of white for a healthy dose of fiber, and watch the fat content of the meat. The average beef and pork hot dog contains about 180 calories and 17 grams of fat before you add a bun and toppings. Turkey dogs are tasty and won’t sabotage your diet—you can have two of them for less than 100 calories. If you’re going for a burger, stay away from the high-fat toppings like cheese, mayo and bacon. Choose cheese slices made with skim milk to reduce the fat content and load your burger with mustard and fresh veggies instead. Here’s the burger ‘n dog breakdown:

Worst Better Best
Hamburger patty (4 oz)

290 calories

22g fat

Turkey burger patty (4 oz )

160 calories

9g fat

Veggie burger patty (2.5 oz)

110 calories

4 grams of fat

Bratwurst (4 oz)
300 calories

25g fat

Beef hot dog (2 oz)

180 calories

17g fat

Turkey dog (2 oz)

45 calories

5g fat

Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms

150 calories

13g fat

Cheese, lettuce, tomato,
onion, pickles, ketchup, mayo and mustard

131 calories

9g fat

Lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pickles and mustard

25 calories

0g fat

Buttered bun

160 calories

6.5g fat

Whole wheat bun

110 calories

1.5g  fat

A lettuce leaf

5 calories

0g fat

Chips, Salads & Sides
If potato salad is your downfall, make your recipe healthier by leaving the skins on the potatoes (for more fiber and nutrients) and choose nonfat Greek-style yogurt instead of mayo. Make creamy cole slaw more waist-friendly by reducing the fat in the dressing by swapping plain low-fat yogurt for half the mayo. Baked beans are usually a good choice, but opt for vegetarian varieties that aren’t made with bacon, if possible. If you want to avoid the creamy salad temptations completely, fill your plate with fresh grilled vegetables. Spray chunks of red peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant with canola oil spray and grill them on the barbecue. Add freshly ground pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar for extra punch.

When it comes to dips, look for vegetable and fruit-based choices like guacamole (made from avocado fruit) and salsa (made from tomatoes and veggies). These pack healthy nutrients that creamy dips often don’t.

Worst Better Best
Potato salad (1/2 cup)

179 calories

10.3g fat

Cole slaw (1/2 cup

150 calories

8g fat

Vegetarian baked beans (1/2 cup)

100 calories

1g fat

Ranch dressing (2 Tbsp)

180 calories

18g fat

Guacamole (4 Tbsp)

100 calories

8g fat

Salsa (1/2 cup)

60 calories

0g fat

Potato or tortilla chips (1 oz)

150 calories

10g fat

Pretzels (1 oz)

110 calories

2g fat

Raw vegetables (1 oz)

16 calories

0g fat

Read more

10 Ways to Lighten Up Any Recipe

Written on April 14, 2011 at 10:17 am , by

lighten up recipes and food

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Choosing healthy foods is an important part of eating right, but cooking them in a healthful way is another huge part. For example, zucchini can take on two completely different forms when it’s quickly sautéed in olive oil versus battered and deep fried. What we add to foods makes all the difference when it comes to home cooking.

The first step to healthier cooking is to take recipes as suggestions. Before you start chopping and mixing, scan the recipe to see if there are any unnecessary calories. Look for excess cheese, butter and oils, as well as sugars.

Here are some tasty, healthy ideas to help you become a professional recipe overhauler!

  1. Sauté—the skinny way! A couple of tablespoons of  low-sodium vegetable broth can be used instead of oil or butter in your stir fry or as the basis for a sauce. This method will add a nice flavor to your dish as well as a little moisture—and you’ll save calories to use elsewhere. To get a dose of unsaturated fats, serve your broth-sautéed veggies with a side salad, and pour an olive oil-based dressing over the top.
  2. Say no to skin. Three ounces of chicken breast meat with skin has almost 150 calories; three ounces of chicken without the skin has 50 fewer calories. Tasty as it might be, the skin contains mostly heart-unhealthy saturated fat. You can cook with the skin on to retain moisture  (add fresh herbs or citrus zest underneath it to really bake in some flavor), but be sure to remove the skin before you enjoy your meal to save on calories and saturated fat.
  3. Squeeze on the citrus. To add a powerful flavor punch with minimal added calories, use citrus on steamed veggies instead of butter or over a salad instead of a dressing. It’s even great on fruit salad in place of sugar and adds some zip when squeezed onto a pasta salad. Don’t forget to use the flavorful zest of citrus fruits as well! Wash a lemon, orange or lime, then use a zester or grater to add the zest to dishes such as baked seafood.
  4. Be choosy about cheese. When using a mildly flavored cheese, such as Monterey Jack, you need more cheese to taste it. But when you choose a cheese with intense flavor, you can use less and still get the desired effect. Try a reduced-sodium feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan next time. Light cheese wedges such as The Laughing Cow brand are useful when you’re watching fat and calories, too. Try mixing one of these soft cheeses into your scrambled eggs or noodle dishes instead of loading on the shredded mozzarella.
  5. Go Greek. Tangy, fat-free Greek yogurt is a healthful replacement for sour cream. Try this switch in herbed and spiced dips, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, or throw it in a cooked dish as a thickening agent. You’ll save 45 calories for each 2-tablespoon serving.

Keep Reading for 5 More Helpful Tips to Lighten Up Any Recipe!


More From Spark People:

How to Eat Out and Still Lose Weight

The Proven Weight-Loss Program That Isn’t a Diet

50 Easy Ways to Cut 100 Calories