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

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

The 50 Percent Rule: An Easy Way to Make Every Meal Healthier

There are many great tools available that make healthy eating and weight loss more manageable. Calorie counting apps, measuring cups, and activity trackers are some great examples. While each tool or method may not be a perfect fit for everyone, there is one simple strategy that you can use anyplace anytime. The 50 percent rule is where you aim to fill up half of your plate with veggies.

The 50 percent rule is easier than counting calories, because you don’t have to worry about the exact number of calories or macro nutrients you’re consuming. Instead you bring more balance to your meals by upping your intake of healthier, more nutrient dense foods.

Most people know or believe that vegetables are good for you. There are many health benefits that go along with eating a diet rich in veggies. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Dietary fiber can help with lowering cholesterol and is linked to lower rates of obesity and heart disease. Fiber can also give you more fullness (satiety) with your meals which can be helpful with portion control and overeating. Studies have also found that higher intake of dark leafy green vegetables lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet for cancer protection. Not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are the two most important things you can do to lower your risk of cancer and eating more vegetables in your diet is a great way to help maintain a healthy weight.

Not all vegetables are created equal. They each provide different nutrients, so variety is key. Aim to fill up half of your plate with non starchy vegetables. Grains or starchier vegetables like corn, potatoes, and peas should instead comprise a smaller portion of your plate, just 25%, while the remaining 25% of your plate should be protein.

Non starchy vegetables

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chayote
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts

This week I challenge you to put the 50% rule to practice. All you need to do is literally eyeball your plate and make sure that half of it is covered with non starchy veggies. If you don’t eat a lot of vegetables normally, you can ease your way in by just applying the 50% rule to one meal a day. Be bold and adventurous by trying new vegetables and recipes that you haven’t before. Until next time.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

8 Ideas for a Healthier Easter Basket

Easter is just around the corner, and this week’s post is going to help you build a healthier Easter basket this year. As a major chocolate lover, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you have to eliminate the candy all together. Instead, take some of these suggestions to help build a basket with more balance to show your kids that healthy foods can also be a fun part of the holidays and your lifestyle.

In addition to including yours (or your kid’s) favorite candy, consider adding some of the suggested items below:

Dried Fruit with No Added Sugar

Dried fruit can be a good option, and even something that you can fit inside your plastic Easter eggs. Just be sure to look for dried fruit that has no added sugar because a lot of the dried fruit out there has as much added sugar as a candy bar. See a few examples below.

Annie’s Cheddar Bunny Crackers

My toddler loves these organic cheddar crackers. Their bunny shape will tie perfectly into the Easter theme of your basket. The crackers are made with real cheese and have all natural flavors and colors.

Natural Lollipops with No Added Sugar

We recently bought these for my daughter to enjoy during her first international flight. They look just like regular suckers without all of the added sugar and artificial colors. My husband even thought they tasted good, and he’s definitely a tougher critic on healthy foods than me lol.

Inedible Gift Basket Ideas

I know Easter baskets are typically overflowing with candy, but there are also some great non edible gift basket items you can include.

Books

For my two year old, Easter themed books are a great option. Aim to get a book that will be age appropriate. Any book that you think your little one will enjoy reading will be perfect. Encouraging more reading can be a great educational way to decrease screen time (time on the phone, computer, TV or playing video games) for your little one.

Activity Book or Coloring Book

Another great option to include in your Easter basket is an age suitable coloring book or activity book for your child.

Games

Including a new game that your family can enjoy playing together is another great candy free Easter gift option (Bananagrams  game pictured below as an example).

Music

Consider adding the CD of your child’s favorite musical artist or singer. Or if you have a younger kid, look for a CD with fun children sing along songs to listen to in the car. If all else fails, you can always just keep things simple with an Itunes gift card.

Tickets

Give your Easter basket a little something special by including tickets for a fun family outing or activity. You can do something as simple as movie tickets, or even get a little more creative with tickets to the trampoline park, zoo, or aquarium.

I hope this week’s post gave you some new and healthy ideas for your family’s Easter baskets this year. Let me know which options you incorporate and  enjoy the most. Wishing you a happy and healthy Easter.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

6 Tips to Increase Your Water Intake

Water is the best way to quench your thirst without consuming an excess intake of sugar and added calories from popular sugary beverage choices like soda, juice, sweetened teas, sports drinks, aguas frescas, and vitamin water (to name a few). Sugar sweetened beverages are actually the leading source of added sugar in the American diet.

Many research studies have linked sugar sweetened beverages to obesity in both children and adults. Regularly drinking sugar sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, as well as tooth decay and cavities according to the CDC.

Bumping up your water intake and cutting back on sugary drinks can have many positive results including: saving money, lowering extra calorie intake from added sugars, promoting a healthier weight, and helping your muscles and brain stay hydrated for the best mental and physical performance.

Keeping all of that in mind, here are some helpful tips to increase your water intake.

6 Tips to Help Increase Your Water Intake

  1. When you are thirsty, try to drink water. It is the best way to quench your thirst.
  2. Serve water with meals instead of soft drinks.
  3. Cut down your intake of soda, juice, or other sugary drinks. Limit juice to no more than 4 to 6 oz a day.
  4. Fill your water bottle and keep it with you throughout the day.
  5. Use a water tracker app on your smart phone to track your daily water intake and set reminders to reach your water intake goals.
  6. Try infusing your water with lemon, lime, cucumbers, mint leaves, basil, or fresh berries for a little extra flavor.

I hope this week’s post motivates you to cut back on sugary drinks and fall back in love with the simplicity of water. In the words of W.H. Auden, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Tasty Snack Ideas

I’m hoping you enjoyed last week’s healthy snack recipe: BBQ Roasted Chickpeas. This week, I wanted to continue with the same theme and provide some additional healthy snack options for you to try.

My biggest tip for choosing healthy snacks is to think of snacks as mini meals and focus on choosing foods rich in nutrition.

The table below lists a table of different snack options. The snacks are broken down into three categories: fruit, veggies, and grains, depending on which food group you are wanting to emphasize.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Fruits

Veggies

Grains

String cheese and 1 small fruit

Tomatoes, bell peppers, and snap peas with hummus

Slice of whole grain toast with spread avocado

Apple and peanut butter

“Ants on a log”- celery with peanut butter and raisins

Mini quesadilla: 6 inch whole corn tortilla, low fat cheese, and salsa

Cottage cheese and fresh berries

Carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower with Ranch dressing

½ Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with spinach and tomato

Low fat yogurt with fruit and low fat granola

Whole wheat tortilla melt with low fat cheese and veggies

1 ounce of low fat cheese with whole grain crackers

Fruit smoothie made with frozen berries, low fat milk, and ice

1 Cup of low sodium vegetable or tomato soup with whole grain crackers

Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, whole grain pretzels, and low sugar dry cereal

½ Banana with peanut butter

Microwave a small baked potato and top with low fat cheese and salsa

1/2 Peanut butter or nut butter sandwich

 

Fresh fruit kebabs

Mini “pizza”: ½ Whole wheat English muffin topped  marinara sauce, low fat cheese, and veggies

1 Cup of low fat popcorn sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese

½ Whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese and strawberry slices

Mini whole wheat pita bread spread with hummus and topped with your choice of vegetables

Pita chips and hummus

If you’re like me and have a sweet tooth every once and a while, below are a couple of healthier “sweet treats” you can try.

  • Rocky road: Break up a graham cracker and add to low fat chocolate pudding, top with a few mini marshmallows
  • Fill a waffle cone with cut up fruit and low fat vanilla yogurt

I hope I’ve given you a few new healthy snacks to try over the upcoming weekend. Let me know which healthy snacks you enjoy the most by commenting and liking below.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Meal Prep Mastery: 5 Easy Steps to Plan Healthier Meals

Imagine, it’s the middle of the work week and you are completely spent after a long and tiring day at work. All you want to do is relax at home but you still have a laundry list of things to do including picking up your kids and figuring out what to do for dinner. You want to have something healthy, but you can’t bring yourself to cook a homemade meal after the day you’ve had. So, because of the convenience and your physical exhaustion, you decide to hit up the drive through of a fast food restaurant……..does any of this sound familiar? We’ve all been there at some point. Let’s be real, it’s hard to work a full day and then still have the energy to come home and put together a healthy dinner. So more often than not, convenience wins out.

One of the best ways to eat healthy and save money and time throughout the week is with meal prepping. Meal planning and prep involves preparing food up to 3-4 days in advance. The beauty of this strategy is that when you come home exhausted from work, you already have a healthy dinner that’s either fully or almost completely prepared. On average it is almost 5 times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant than it is to cook at home.

Another benefit of cooking at home is you can control how much salt, sugar, and fat is being added to your food, which is something we have little control over when eating out. This is especially helpful for pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.  

To help get you started, here are five easy tips to help you become a master of meal prep.

1. Choose recipes or meals that you want to have throughout the week

You can further save money and stay within your budget by trying to plan meals or recipes around ingredients you already have at home. Start with simple dishes that are easy to cook to further simplify the process. For recipe ideas you can check out some of the recipes on The Diet Duchess Pinterest page.

   2. Create a grocery list

Make a list of the grocery items you need for your chosen dishes and recipes. Having focus and a grocery list can help you choose healthier options when going to the grocery store, will limit impulse buys, and can help keep you in budget financially.

3. Pick a day to prepare meals

Ideally you want to choose a day that you don’t have to work and can dedicate some time in the kitchen preparing and cooking your food for the week.

4. Multi-task with meal prep

Cooking multiple dishes at a time on your meal prep day can help reduce the overall amount of time you need to spend cooking. For example- something can be cooking in the crock pot, while another dish bakes in the oven, and you assemble and pack salads or cold lunches for the week. The more prep you accomplish on your meal prep day, the less work you will need to do throughout the week.

5. Wash, cut, and prepare fruits and vegetables

Have fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables ready to enjoy as a snack or add to one of your meals for a boost of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. To save further time, you can even buy produce that is already washed, cut, and ready to cook or eat. Line containers with paper towels to absorb moisture and help prevent fresh fruits and veggies from spoiling sooner.

Another option that you have at your disposal is to use one of The Diet Duchess 7 day meal plans that are officially being launched today. They can be found in the Products section of the website. Meal plans are $29.99 and can simplify your meal prep even further by already having healthy meals and recipes selected for you. The meal plans have different calorie levels so that you can choose the calorie level best fit for you for either weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. The meal plans are also suitable for people with diabetes. 

To determine what calorie level is best for you, visit the following calorie calculator from the American Council of Exercise. It will take into account your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. The calculator will estimate how many calories you need daily to maintain your weight. If your goal is to lose weight, you can either:

  • Option 1: subtract 500 calories from this daily amount (this will allow you to achieve 1 pound of weight loss per week)

or

  •  Option 2: subtract 1000 calories from this daily amount (this will allow you to achieve 2 pounds of weight loss per week)

Healthy, natural weight loss is right around 1-2 pounds a week so I would not suggest subtracting more calories than suggested above. Eating too little calories can also be an inhibitor to weight loss.

I hope you enjoy The Diet Duchess 7 day meal plans and that they get you one step closer to Royally Rocking Your Diet. If you have any questions about them or have questions about what calorie level to choose, feel free to shoot me an email in the Contact section of the website.

Royally Yours,

The Diet Duchess

Homemade Healthy Granola

It’s been a few weeks since I shared a recipe and thought it was time to give you guys a new healthy and tasty recipe to try. Granola is a great option for breakfast or a healthy snack. The only problem is most granola you buy at the grocery store has A LOT of ADDED SUGAR!! That kind of defeats the point of a healthy breakfast. So, with this homemade recipe you can cut down on the total sugar while still enjoying whole grains and healthy fats.

In this recipe you can customize your own homemade granola by picking your favorite nuts, grains, and dried fruit. The prep time should only take around 5-7 minutes, plus 30 minutes of baking, so it’s a pretty simple and easy recipe to execute.

Build Your Own Healthy Granola:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite spiceEx- cinnamon, pumpkin spice, or cloves
  • 1 cup raw nuts/seeds Ex-chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup of coconut or more oats, quinoa, or nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit Ex- cranberries, raisins, apricots, apple, or pineapple (*Dried fruit usually tends to have a lot of added sugar. To cut down on sugar look for a reduced sugar option of your dried fruit, or look for dried fruit with no added sugar.*)
  • 1 pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of oil Ex-olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup of honey or 100% pure maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients
  • Spread ingredients onto a baking dish/baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper
  • Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown
Granola dry ingredients - Edited
Dry granola ingredients
Pan of granola - Edited
Granola ready for the oven
Granola up close
Finished granola

If you have diabetes, you can always use less honey or dried fruit for better blood sugar control and be sure to include some protein with your breakfast (for example eggs, peanut butter, or cottage cheese). Also, keep in mind that with granola you don’t need as large of a portion as your typical cereal. A single serving of granola is only ¼ Cup. This serving should be appropriate for a snack. For breakfast, ½ Cup, should be reasonable for most people, but this of course will depend on your individual daily calorie needs.

If you would like to recreate the granola I made that’s pictured in the post, you can find my chosen ingredients below (the combination came out delicious):

  • 4 C old fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1 C raw chopped almonds
  • ½ C quinoa + ½ C unsweetened coconut flakes ( I added the coconut halfway through the baking process so that it wouldn’t brown too much)
  • ½ C reduced sugar dried cranberries and dried apricots with no added sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ¼ C of canola oil
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • ¼ C honey

You can try enjoying your granola solo, with milk, over plain unsweetened yogurt, or cottage cheese. I hope you find this week’s recipe as tasty as I did. Be sure to store your granola in an air tight container (I like to use a Mason jar) and it should last 1-2 weeks.

Like and comment below, letting me know how your granola came out. Also be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post that will feature the official launch of The Diet Duchess 7 day meal plans that will be available for sale in the Products section of the website.

Royally Yours,

The Diet Duchess

Weight Worry: Who’s Really Benefiting from Regular Weigh-ins?

Let’s face it, one of the most notoriously dreaded parts of tracking weight loss progress for many people is stepping onto the scale. It’s a truth tell all moment where you get to see if all your hard work to lose weight is starting to pay off. I’ve had so many clients report in my office that they’re weighing themselves daily or even multiple times a day in the hope that they will see their weight moving in the downward progression. The real question though is, how often should we be weighing ourselves?

Don’t panic if you step on the scale twice in one day and notice the numbers don’t match

The first most important truth to realize is that our weight changes throughout the day. We do not weigh the same in the morning as we do later on in the day. There are many things that affect the number on the scale as the day progresses such as the foods we eat and our hydration status (for example, how much water or fluids we are drinking and whether or not we have recently gone to the bathroom or lost fluids through sweat). So don’t panic if you step on the scale twice in one day and notice the numbers don’t match.

Not all scales are created

Another important truth to realize is that not all scales are created equal. You can weigh something completely different at the doctor’s office than you do at home. Your best bet is to track your progress on the same scale for better accuracy. Additionally you want to avoid weighing yourself on carpet because it can give you an incorrect reading. Always make sure your scale is on a flat hard surface and that your weight is evenly distributed.  My general rule of thumb and recommendation is to check your weight once a week. Aim to check your weight the same day of the week, at the same time (in the morning when you first wake up after using the bathroom is best), and try to wear the same clothing (if any at all). Following these guidelines can help give  you a more accurate picture of what your weight is and which way it is trending.

Now you may be thinking, let’s just avoid the scale completely. I never want to weigh myself again! Before you make that decision, it’s important to know what some of the research says. A study done by the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012 found that people who lost weight were more likely to keep it off if they weighed themselves regularly. In addition the National Weight Loss Registry found that 75 percent of people who lost weight and successfully kept it off were weighing themselves at least once a week. Using the scale as a tool for weight loss and weight management therefore has the ability to help keep you on track.

Say goodbye to scale anxiety

There may be a group of us though that have had some negative experiences with stepping on the scale and may actually have serious anxiety at the thought of even doing it. If you fall into this category, and the number on the scale has the ability to drastically change your mood or the way you feel about yourself, then consistent weigh-ins may not be your friend and can potentially cause more harm than good. I myself fell into this category and gave up routine weight checks years ago. Instead I keep my focus on staying active, eating right, and the way I feel. It’s important to remember that the number on the scale is just that, a number. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t define who you are.

Alternatives to stepping on the scale

If you decide that routine trips to the scale aren’t for you but you want other methods to track your progress, I have a couple of suggestions for you:

  1. Measure your weight loss in inchesUse a measuring tape to track the inches you lose (for example measure your waistline, chest, hips, thighs, and arms and re-measure every three to four weeks to track your progress )
  2. Track your body fat percentageUse a handheld body fat analyzer to observe the trend of your weight loss and fitness level through your body fat percentage. Many body fat analyzers can be bought online for under forty dollars.
  3. Monitor your weight loss by clothing sizeSize unfortunately is not standardized, so I would recommend picking one brand of clothing that you already wear and celebrate when you achieve the victory of making it down to a smaller size.

I hope this week’s post answered some of your questions on weigh ins and weight loss, and how often (if at all for some of us) we should be stepping up onto that scale.  I encourage you to consider yourself and whether or not a weekly weigh-in or one of the alternatives I suggested will be the most productive tool for you in your weight loss and weight management journey. Make the decision and start implementing whatever is going to work best for you.

Until next week,

The Diet Duchess