Bake like a boss this holiday season

One of my favorite childhood memories at Christmas is making homemade sugar and gingerbread cookies with my mom and sister each year. The house would be filled with this heavenly aroma of sugary sweetness, and my sister and I would get to apply our inner art skills with joy and grace to every cookie we decorated. Not only do you get to create memories that can last a lifetime when doing your holiday baking, you also get to enjoy the deliciousness that each cookie has to offer. The only downside, there’s a reason why Santa’s waistband is so grandiose. You can’t eat copious amounts of cookies without adding a little extra junk to your trunk.

That’s why this weeks post will give you some ideas on how to bake like a boss this holiday season by cutting the calories in your cookies and other baked goods without compromising their taste.

Christmas baking

Tip 1: Better your brownies

Brownies

Try substituting tofu for half of the fat in your brownie recipe. Now I know many people recoil at the word tofu, but tofu has a neutral taste that is overpowered by the delicious chocolate flavor. In fact, a study done at Idaho State University found that 8 in 10 people liked fudge made with tofu in place of butter. Try substituting pureed silken or soft tofu for half of the fat your brownie recipe calls for. This will cut calories and boost the protein and calcium in your brownies.

You can also reduce the amount of sugar in your brownies by ¼ cup by substituting ⅔ cup of  finely grated fresh beet as recommended by pastry chef Marisa Churchill. The beets will add moisture, natural sweetness, and gives you the opportunity to sneak a little veggie into your brownies.

Tip #2: Keep your cookie portions in check

Cookies

Cookies in sleigh

Cookies up close - EditedUse a smaller portion for your cookies. It may be shocking, but most chocolate chip cookies are 7 times larger than what the USDA recommends for a healthy portion. Making your cookies smaller can help keep your portions in check by reminding you of the appropriate cookie size (use 1 tablespoon to measure out your dough).

Cookie dough

You can also try using 1 cup of mini chocolate chips in exchange for 2 cups of regular chocolate chips. This will cut back  1120 calories and 64 grams of fat but still offer chocolate chips in every bite.

Tip #3 General baking substitutions

White Whole Wheat Flour

A few additional substitutions you can try include substituting all purpose flour for white whole wheat flour. You can substitute the entire flour measurement or even just try half, if you’d like to ease yourself in. White whole wheat flour is lighter than regular whole wheat flour and has a taste that is comparable to all purpose flour. It is a healthier choice because it is a whole grain and will give more fiber to your baked goods.

Applesauce

applesauce - Edited

Using applesauce as a substitution for fat is another great option. Cut the butter in your baking recipe by half and substitute the remainder with  unsweetened applesauce. This will cut the total amount of calories and saturated fat in your recipe, but still keep your baked good tasting delicious.

butter and applesauce

Reduce Sugar

The final general substitution you can make is reducing the sugar in the recipe by 25%. You can generally cut down the sugar by this amount without compromising or changing the taste of your dish. For example if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you can try cutting it down to ¾ C instead.  

I hope these baking tips and substitutions have given you some new inspiration and healthier (but still tasty) alternatives to your holiday baking this year. Comment and like below and don’t forget to share what substitutions you try and which ones work best for you.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Day-After-Thanksgiving Salad Recipe

If you still have some Thanksgiving left overs and are looking for a recipe that’s a little on the lighter side, this day-after-Thanksgiving recipe is perfect. You can use your holiday left overs to make a leaner meal post holiday splurge. The salad will utilize some of your favorite Thanksgiving flavors without overdoing it in the calorie department.

Day-After- Thanksgiving Salad Recipe

Servings: 2 meal-sized salads

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons leftover cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon water to thin (if necessary)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

  • 6 ounces (1 to 1 1/2 cups) leftover turkey, diced or shredded
  • 4 cups mixed greens (lettuce, baby kale, spinach)
  • 1 cup leftover prepared vegetables (sweet potatoesbrussels sproutsgreen beans or a combination)
  • 1 medium apple or firm-fleshed pear, diced
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Directions

  1. Add all dressing ingredients — except for water, salt and pepper — to a blender. Blend until smooth, adding water a little bit at a time, if necessary, to make smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
  2. Toss turkey, greens, vegetables, fruit and pepitas together in a large bowl.
  3. To serve, divide into 2 servings and drizzle each salad with 2 tablespoons of dressing (you will have dressing left over). Enjoy!

Healthy holiday hacks: 5 tips to eat healthy this holiday season

The holidays are a joyous time of year filled with family gatherings, annual traditions, and let’s not forget the fabulous food!! I myself get excited every time the holidays roll around each year. 

Another less fortunate trend of the holiday season is found in expanding waistlines. The Calorie Control Council estimates the average holiday meal has 3,000 calories, and this is without even including the additional calories consumed in appetizers and drinks. On average Americans experience 1 to 2 pounds of uninvited weight gain during the holidays. That amount may seem pretty insignificant but when you have an extra pound or two creeping on each year and compounding year after year, before you know it you’re ten pounds heavier and can no longer fit into your favorite pair of jeans.

Not to worry, this week’s post will give you a few simple tips to keep you on track with your healthy eating during the holidays and still allow you to enjoy a little pie.

Holiday tip # 1 Don’t skip breakfast

I myself have been guilty of skipping breakfast on Thanksgiving in the past. I used to think that since I knew I would be eating a large feast later in the day I should skip my food intake in the morning. What can actually happen when we skip or miss meals though, is we end up overeating later on. Research even shows that people who eat breakfast actually eat fewer calories throughout the day. Therefore an easy way to reduce the amount of calories you eat at Thanksgiving is by making sure you include breakfast. It truly is important and can set the tone for your whole day. Eating breakfast has also been found to be a common denominator of people who have been able to successfully maintain their weight loss.

Holiday tip # 2 Downsize the carbs

Holiday feasts are usually full of carbs galore with everything from mashed potatoes, dressing, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, bread rolls, and macaroni and cheese to name a few. No wonder it’s easy to overdo it in the carbs department. Carbohydrates are not bad, it’s just when we eat them in excess that things become problematic. Aim to limit your portion of carbs and starches to just 1/4 of your plate. This will help you to get a more balanced meal and allow more room on your plate for non starchy vegetables. Try adding some of these tasty veggie dishes to your holiday spread:

Holiday tip # 3 Include activity in your family celebration

To help balance out some of the extra calories you’re bound to consume during the holiday season, make an effort to do something active the day of your family get together. You can try going for a morning hike, playing an afternoon game of football, or even have a dance battle on Nintendo Wii. The most important thing is to find a physical activity that you and your family can enjoy together.

Holiday tip # 4 Take leftovers to go

Remember that there are always ample leftovers at Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have heaping portions, or even a bite of every dish the day of. Stick to modest portion sizes knowing that you can have more at a later meal or even later on in the week.

Holiday tip # 5 Be mindful of your portions

Portions have drastically increased over the years which has contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Cut back on your portions to lower your overall calorie intake. Even a small sliver of pie can satisfy your craving for holiday sweets. Eat slowly and savor your bites so that you can enjoy the fall flavors of your meal. Choosing a smaller plate can also help you keep your portions in check.

Hopefully these 5 tips for healthy eating during the holidays help you to finish your holiday guilt free and thankful for finding the right balance in the most indulgent meal of the year.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

5 Ways to Lower Cancer Risk Through Diet and Lifestyle

Cancer is an all too common and devastating disease that affects millions of people each year. Chances are you know someone that has had cancer, or even you yourself have battled the disease. There are various factors that can increase your risk for cancer. Diet, physical activity, and body weight for example are significant risk factors for developing certain types of cancer.

The five following diet and lifestyle guidelines are recommended by the American Cancer Society to help fight your risk for cancer.

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity increases the risk for at least seven types of cancer including: colorectal, kidney, pancreatic, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, gallbladder, and a common variety of esophageal cancer called adenocarcinoma. Maintaining a healthy weight can be achieved by regular physical activity and following a healthy balanced diet. Even losing a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.

2. Limit Alcohol

It is recommended to drink no more than one drink a day for women and two per day for men.

3. Eat Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body’s cells from oxidative damage. The AICR (American Institute for Cancer Research) recommends eating 5 servings of non starchy vegetables and fruit per day. Examples of a serving = 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or a medium apple.

4. Eat Whole Grains and Beans

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans provide the body with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which can help the body to fight against cancer and other diseases. Phytochemicals have the ability to stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage that can lead to cancer, and slow the growth rate of cancer cells.

5. Limit Red and Processed Meats

Processed meats are linked to increased cancer risk. Processed meat is meat that has been salted, cured, smoked, or has chemical preservatives added to it. Examples of processed meats include: hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and corned beef. Because of their association with increased cancer risk, it is recommended to limit your intake of processed and red meats.

There you have it, the five diet and lifestyle related ways to lower your risk for cancer. It’s never too early to start taking steps to fight this disease.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

How to Make a Healthier Homemade Pumpkin Bread

One of my favorite parts of the fall is all things pumpkin. I love going to the pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds, and of course savoring all pumpkin flavored foods. Everything from pumpkin pie, to pumpkin ice cream, and pumpkin soup…..the list goes on and on.

One of my newfound fall favorites over the past couple years has been making homemade pumpkin bread. Pumpkins are rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins.

I modified the following low fat pumpkin bread recipe by Skinnytaste to include half white whole wheat flour and I reduced the added sugar by 1/3. These changes allowed the bread to be 50% whole grain and cut down the extra calories from added sugar (don’t worry the bread still tastes sweet enough). See the recipe below.

Homemade Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
  • 1 1/4 C flour (for a healthier spin, I recommend doing half white whole wheat flour and half white all purpose flour)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (to reduce the sugar content, I recommend using just 1/2 C)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2  tsp vanilla extract
  • baking spray

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl mix oil, egg whites, pumpkin puree and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick.
  • Scrape down sides of the bowl.
  • Add flour mixture, then blend at low speed until combined. Do not over mix.
  • Pour batter into loaf pan and bake on the center rack for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let the pan cool at least 20 minutes, bread should be room temperature before slicing.

I hope you enjoy this fall favorite of mine with a healthier approach. Let me know how you enjoy the recipe by liking and commenting below.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Healthy Tips for Back to School

Back to school is a busy time of year with lots to think about as a parent. Everything from shopping for back to school supplies and clothes to planning to attend your children’s meet the teacher night. Another important thing to think about is preparing healthy back to school lunches.

It’s important for your kid’s lunches to be colorful, fun, tasty, and nutritious. Eating healthy, balanced meals can help improve your child’s school performance, development, and overall health.

Tip 1. Prepare lunches ahead of time

Prepping the school lunches ahead of time can make things less stressful as you try to get everyone ready in the morning. It also can give you extra time to make sure the lunch you’re packing is balanced and nutritious.

Prep your lunch ingredients on the days that you are the least busy. Rinse and chop your fruits and veggies so that they are ready to pack and eat. Be sure to rotate through a variety of options and colors (see ideas below). Change it up so your kids don’t get burned out on the same lunch day after day.

Red: tomatoes, bell peppers, radishes, raspberries, apples, watermelon, red pears and strawberries

Orange: carrots, bell peppers, peaches, nectarines, oranges, butternut squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, sweet potato, and persimmons

Yellow: bananas, bell peppers, yellow tomatoes, yellow squash, corn, pineapple, and yellow radishes

Green: spinach, celery, pears, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, grapes, avocado, asparagus, kiwi, artichokes, apples, and green beans

Blue/Purple: grapes, eggplant, blackberries, cabbage, plums, blueberries, and purple carrots and potatoes

White: cauliflower, jicama, mushrooms, onion, and potatoes

Try including hummus or Greek yogurt as a fun sauce for your kids to dip their vegetables and fruit into.

Tip 2. Choose quality grains

Whether your packed lunch includes a traditional sandwich, or something less common, try including whole grain choices most of the time. Whole grains will offer your kids more fiber and nutrients. Examples include: whole wheat bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, whole wheat crackers, and whole grain corn tortillas.

If you have younger children, cutting their sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters and creating fun characters is a great way to get them excited about their lunches.

Tip 3. Include lean protein

To balance out your school lunch, be sure to include some quality protein. Protein is important for keeping your kid’s immune systems healthy and strong and will help them to feel more full so they don’t get hungry between meals. Include lean sources of protein that are rich in nutrients such as: eggs, tuna, salmon, nut butters, cottage cheese, turkey, tofu, beans, cheese, and chicken.

Hopefully you find this week’s blog topic helpful and it inspires you to revamp some of the school lunches for your children this year. Let’s do our part to keep our kids fueled with the best nutrition.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

National Watermelon Month

July is officially National Watermelon Month. To celebrate all things watermelon, this week I thought I’d post one of my favorite summer salads…..that yes, does include watermelon 🍉😋

This week enjoy a healthy, cool, and refreshing dish without having to heat up the whole kitchen. If you have diabetes, try pairing this salad with some grilled chicken or fish for the best glycemic control.

Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/8th seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 12 ounces feta cheese, 1/2 inch diced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. Refrigerate the vinaigrette if you do not plan to use it within an hour.

2. Place the arugula, watermelon, feta, and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.

This salad is a great way to include some nutrient rich veggies and fruit with your meal which can help foster a healthy diet and can assist with weight loss and healthy weight management.

Let me know what you think of the recipe by commenting and liking below. Please let me know if they’re any other summer recipes you’re interested in trying.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

3 Tips for a healthy 4th of July

The 4th of July is just a day away and is filled with annual traditions, everything from patriotic parades, barbecues with friends and family, and nighttime firework shows. If you’re having any anxiety or worries about staying on track with your healthy eating this Independence Day, try some of the tips below.

1. Eat before you go

Eating something healthy before you go can be a great way to avoid arriving to the barbecue on an empty stomach. This will help you to avoid overeating once you get there. It can also give you the opportunity to eat healthier choices that may not be available there (for example a green salad or grilled veggies).

2. Bring a healthier dish with you

Most barbecues have an ample supply of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato chips, macaroni and potato salad and soda. Think about bringing something else that’s typically not served. For example bring some whole wheat buns for the hamburgers, vegetable kebabs to roast on the grill, green salad, or a sugar free alternative to soda like watermelon mint infused water. Check with the host to see what is being served, that way you can bring a healthy option that’s currently not on the menu. Your healthier option will not only be a benefit to you, but also everyone in attendance.

3. Allow yourself a small treat

Moderation and balance is key to mastering a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you only limit and restrict yourself, you may set yourself up for failure by overindulging later on. It’s human nature, if you tell yourself that you can’t have something, you’re likely to want it even more than if you hadn’t put the restriction in place. Keep your portions small so you don’t set yourself back with too many calories, etc. For example just doing a single scoop or 1/2 cup of ice cream or a 2 inch square (about 2 oz) piece of cake will allow you to enjoy a treat without beating yourself up for it later on.

Try implementing one of these healthy tips tomorrow and see where it leaves you. I hope you find at least one of these tips helpful for staying on track with your healthy diet while still getting to enjoy the holiday with your loved ones. Happy Independence Day.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

The Coconut Oil Cure: Who is Really Benefiting from this Miracle Oil?

One of the biggest nutrition topics and trends over the past few years has been coconut oil. When Dr. Oz referred to this oil as the miracle oil that helps you lose weight popularity quickly sky rocketed.

Many of my clients report that they are cooking at home with coconut oil beaming with pride and the belief that they are doing something healthful for their diet. The real question though, is coconut oil actually a healthy option? Today’s post will give you the inside scoop on two of the biggest health claims surrounding coconut oil.

Claim 1: Coconut oil is good for your heart

Saturated fats increase your LDL cholesterol, also known as your “bad cholesterol”. LDL has this reputation of being bad because when your levels are high, it increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Coconut oil, like other tropical oils such as palm kernel oil are high in saturated fat. Coconut oil specifically has 92% saturated fat which is actually higher than butter. Shocking…..I know!

A science advisory from the American Heart Association after analyzing over 100 research articles confirmed that saturated fat increases your bad cholesterol and found that coconut oil raised the bad cholesterol in seven different controlled clinical trials. Most experts therefore agree that coconut oil should be consumed in moderation and has yet to prove itself as a protective agent in heart health.  

Claim 2: Eating coconut oil can help you lose weight

Coconut oil, unlike many other oils is comprised of a unique type of fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Medium chain triglycerides are different from long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) because they are made up of fewer carbons and are immediately taken to the liver for processing. Some research studies have shown higher fat breakdown and more satiety (fullness with meals) when eating MCTs versus LCFAs.  

Most of the research available that showed promise for weight loss with MCT oils  however used C8 and C10 fatty acids, and coconut oil is only made up of about 15% of these.The remaining medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are C12 ( lauric acid), which there currently is lacking scientific research to prove that the medium chain triglyceride C12 has the same potential weight loss effects as C8 and C10.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do to lose weight was to eat some of this “miracle oil”? As the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. There currently is no concrete evidence to validate coconut oil as an effective or practical weight loss aid.

So now that you have the facts, does this mean you can never eat coconut oil again? No of course not. A healthy diet is truly just a balancing act. My recommendation is to think of coconut oil as an occasional indulgence versus your everyday cooking oil. Aim to choose cooking oils that are lower in saturated fat and higher in heart healthy unsaturated fats such as olive, avocado, canola, and grapeseed oils. Trust me your heart and cardiovascular health will thank you for it in the long run. Until next time.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

10 Healthy Graduation Party Food Ideas

Graduation season is upon us. Whether you are celebrating a graduation yourself or are hosting a graduation party for a loved one, this week’s post will feature healthy recipes for you to enjoy as a part of this year’s graduation festivities.

Graduations are often pivotal moments of accomplishment that are celebrated in the company of friends and family. If you’d like to stay on track with your healthy eating, you can bring along or serve some healthier dishes at the graduation parties you have to either attend or host this year. For some fresh ideas, check out some of the recipes below:

Middle Eastern Tahini and Yogurt Appetizer

Spinach Artichoke Strata

Edamame and Shrimp Bruschetta

Mini Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

*Try this recipe with mini whole wheat or whole corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas for a healthier whole grain option*

Sheet Pan White Pizza with Salami and Peppers

Parm-Style Chicken Sliders

Watermelon Arugula and Feta Salad

Skinny Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Rainbow Fruit Skewers with Yogurt Dip

Skinny Cake Pops

I hope you find some delicious yet healthier recipes to try. Comment and share which recipes you enjoy the most.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess