Think Healthy for the Holidays!

Looking to make something healthy and creative for your friends and family this holiday season? Watch this video  to learn about healthy choices plus see how easy it is to whip up this fun holiday treat.

7-Layer Lemon Hummus & Pesto Yogurt Dip

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 T tahini (sesame seed paste found in the ethnic food section, or use unsweetened almond butter)
1 lemon separated into 1 tsp grated zest, 3 T juice
3 T organic or reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup basil pesto
1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese (or use crumbled feta for a stronger taste)
1 large tomato, seeded, diced 1/4 inch (1 cup)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded with a spoon, and diced (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced

For dipping
Serve grilled or toasted whole-grain pita chips or flatbread torn into pieces
Romaine hearts

1. To make the hummus: Purée chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, broth, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil. Spread hummus evenly in the bottom of a 9- X 9-inch glass dish.

2. Stir together yogurt and pesto and spoon over hummus. Evenly sprinkle the cheese, followed by single layers of tomato, cucumber, scallions, and olives. Enjoy this dish on the same or the next day for optimal freshness.

*Note: For a more festive look, use a trifle-style glass bowl rather than a square baking dish. It makes for a great-looking potluck contribution.

Nutrient Analysis per 1/4-cup serving
Calories: 77; Total fat: 5 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 4 mg; Sodium: 243 mg; Total carbohydrate: 5 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Protein: 4 g

— Recipe reprinted with permission from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes With Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love by Michelle Dudash, RDN (Fair Winds Press, December 2012) 

Your Holiday Swapportunities!

The holidays are a special time of year in which we celebrate with families and friends and good food. It’s perfectly fine to indulge a little bit on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but make sure you are not indulging Thanksgiving through Christmas. While losing weight during the holiday season may be too stressful of a goal, just maintaining one’s weight can also prove to be its own challenge. Two major culprits to weight gain during this time of year are increased caloric intakes (from dishes with excessive carbs and fat) and decreased physical activity levels. Staying healthy this time of year is much easier than one may think. All it takes is a few food swaps and better exercise patterns.

Food Swaps

food3_MP9004117011. Bring on the vegetables! Vegetables are such a great food group in our diets because they are low in calories, generally lower in carbohydrates and pack in a ton of vitamins and minerals. Add 1 cup of cooked winter squash and 1 cup of tossed green salad to your plate for healthy carbs, fiber and nutrients. Adding mushrooms, onions, shredded carrots and zucchini to meat dishes can help cut down the fat and calories per serving.

2. Swap vegetables for common starches. Swap 1 cup of spaghetti squash for 1 cup of pasta and save 158 calories. Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bread with your next sub sandwich order and save up to 350 calories. (Calorie count based off of a regular Jimmy John’s sandwich vs. their un-wich variety)

3. Pull out the yolks. I love a protein-powered breakfast with eggs, but if you are using multiple eggs, the calories can add up quickly. For every egg yolk you take out, you save 55 calories.

4. Swap nuts for empty snack foods like pretzels and crackers. This swap may not change the amount of calories you are consuming, but it will improve the type of calories you are taking in. Nuts are full of nutrients, protein and fiber; and they have a lot more staying power than a handful of pretzels.

5. Be mindful of your breads. Did you know that a bagel has more than double the amount of calories of an English muffin? The thickness of your bread also raises the amount of calories it has in it. If you’re big on sub sandwiches, try scooping out some of the excess bread from the top bun which will reduce the amount of carbs and calories with your meal.

Recipe Swaps

1. Try using plain yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes. This will lighten the calories of your dish plus add some protein, calcium and Vitamin D.

2. Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg in a recipe. Save calories and fat by taking advantage of this healthy swapportunity.

3. Use prune puree in place of oil in chocolate desserts. At first glance, this swap seems pretty terrifying, but I was totally hooked after I made a batch of chocolate fudge brownies with this alternative. Reduce the fat in your recipe in half and replace with ¼ of prune puree. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, reduce to ½ cup and add ¼ cup of prune puree.

4. Use a can of diet soda in place of oils. Choose a diet cola for chocolate desserts and diet Mountain Dew for light-colored desserts. Mix one can of diet soda with one box of cake/cupcake mix and bake as directed. This is an old Weight Watchers trick that my mom used to use. While it is still not the healthiest of dessert options, it does slash the amount of fat and calories in the recipe.

5. Use ground turkey, ground chicken or lean ground beef in stews and casseroles. A lot of people have a hard time switching to turkey or chicken burgers because the lack of fat in the meat causes them to dry out very easily. It’s best to use these substitutes when making a dish with a sauce component such as spaghetti sauce, chili or a casserole. The moisture of the sauce will help keep these leaner meat selections from drying out. Remember to look for all-white meat varieties. Regular ground chicken is made from a blend of both white and dark meat chicken so it has potential to contain just as much fat and calories as ground beef varieties.

Figge’s Favorite Things (Part Two)

Happy Holidays and welcome to the second part of Figge’s Favorite Things. Here is the second half of my personal list of favorite things to keep you happy and healthy this season.

7. Amy Dixon-home fitness workouts Amy Dixon has always been one of my favorite fitness experts. I have had the pleasure of meeting her at several fitness conferences and learn more from her with each new session that I go to. Whether you’re an avid athlete or beginner to exercise, Amy and her team demonstrates a variety of levels and modifications to guarantee you will have a safe and effective workout. You can find her DVDs on her website or at select Costco stores.crockpot

8. Crockpot I never thought I needed a crockpot until we received one as a wedding gift. This kitchen must-have saves valuable time for making healthy and delicious meals.

9. This is a great website for your outdoor adventure needs. Don’t wait too long on the deals, because they are only available for a limited amount of time.

photo 310. DIY projects Last year I made my very first appearance in the DIY world. My first project I selected was from Michaels and was a Family Name banner.To my surprise, it was quite rewarding and made awesome gifts. DIY projects can save you a lot of money in gift-giving and provides opportunities to test your creative skills.

11. CrossFit Instinct. My crossfit journey began a little over four months ago. A co-worker had asked me if I would join her in one of the free Saturday morning classes they offer and I have been hooked ever since. Excellence shines in the coaching staff and programming at Crossfit Instinct. In just a few short months, I have accomplished fitness goals that I never thought imaginable such as unassisted pull-ups and dead-lifting over 150 lbs.65 Check out a free on-ramp class for yourself and see what your body is capable of doing!

12. Mindless Eating by Dr. Brian Wansink. In this book, Dr. Brian Wansink addresses the environmental cues that cause us to overeat or have bad mindless eating habits. By making readers more aware of their surroundings, we can turn our bad mindless habits into good, healthy ones.

13.Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm: The winter months  are always difficult on my lips. Between walking the dog, snowboarding and other fun outdoor activities, my lips are always chapped, cracked and can even bleed sometimes. Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm lip ointment has been a lifesaver. Typically lip balms make my lips peel even more, but this special formula leaves them soft, smooth and protects against the harsh weather.

photo 114. PuppiesBecause who doesn’t love puppies?

In case you missed itFigge’s Favorite Things (Part One).


Figge’s Favorite Things (Part One)

Julie Andrews has her raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Oprah endorses her list of goodies and gifts to give during the holiday season. Here is my personal list of favorite things to keep you happy and healthy this season.

pigeon pose1. Yoga Mat Back Pain. Does it need any more of an introduction? After years of putting up with my chronic back pain, I decided to see a physical therapist. I learned that I have extremely tight quads, hamstrings and hip flexors (mainly from sitting all day long at work) and my remedy was a simple, daily stretching routine. Since that visit, I am now stretching those muscles on a regular basis and my back hasn’t been complaining since. Using a yoga mat, my favorite stretches to perform are the couch stretch, pigeon pose and a deep runner’s lunge which all target my hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. You can usually find yoga mats for a cheaper price at stores like TJ Maxx or Gordmans.

2. Garlic Press This is a kitchen utensil that is used quite frequently in our household. It’s a quick, convenient way to add flavor to meat and vegetables dishes. In addition to flavor, garlic provides health benefits such as reducing cholesterol, helps prevent blood clots and has anti-cancer benefits.

ch-4dcFood processor I love my Cuisinart food processor. It’s a fantastic way to puree nutritious vegetables into soups and sauces.  

LW6A33S_011432_14. Lululemon Journey Crop  The Lululemon journey crop pants are by far my favorite workout pants I’ve ever had and they are perfect for any type of workout. The quality of the fabric far surpasses other brands of fitness attire and I’ve had some of my Lululemon pants for as long as 6 years.

bbcl_28_bk_15. Blender Bottle This is a perfect way to consume your protein shake after a great workout. I purchased my blender bottle from Bed Bath and Beyond and was able to use my 20% off coupon on it.

51BMhLEFqwL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_6. Against All Grain cookbook  This is one of my favorite cookbooks and my favorite website to go to for grain-free and dairy-free meals. These meals are great for individuals with food allergies to dairy or gluten or for those looking to create dishes that use minimally processed food ingredients.

Check out Part 2 of Figge’s Favorite things.