Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

Have you tried Jicama?

While Jicama (hicama)  is very popular in Latin American countries, it really hasn’t caught on in the United States and is pretty much unheard of in Wisconsin.   We have it in our produce department but it is pretty lonely.  It can be described as an ugly cousin of the sweet potato but don’t let  looks fool you.  This brown lump is full of nutrition and has very few calories so give it a chance.

One cup of jicama slices has just 46 calories and has no fat, no cholesterol, very low sodium, high in fiber, high in potassium and very high in vitamin C.  Wow- no wonder it scores a perfect 100 on the Nu Val nutritional scale!

How do I even start to prepare this thing?

I find it easiest to peel a jicama with a paring knife rather than a peeler but that is just personal preference.  It is also a bit large for my hand so I cut it in half, and then in half again to make it easier to hold while peeling.  Look for jicamas that are not cracked or bruised and avoid any that have soft or moist spots.  You can use a jicama in many of the same ways that you use a potato- steamed, boiled, baked, or fried but unlike the potato, it is excellent raw.  Peel, cut into slices and enjoy.  To jazz it up, sprinkle on some pepper or chili powder.  Jicama is also a great addition to a veggie tray.

Thank you to Chef Mark Biesack from the Fox Valley Tech Culinary institute for this jicama recipe, I made it last night and it is fantastic.  One word of warning- between the apples, cabbage, and jicama you are taking in a lot of fiber.

Green Apple Jicama Slaw

3 tbsp lime juice                       1-1/2 cups jicama, peeled and julienned

1/2 tsp red chili flakes              1 cup green apple, julienned

6 tbsp rice wine vinegar           1 cup napa cabbage, shredded

1 tsp sugar                                   1/2 cup red onion, thinkly sliced

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil       1/2 cup red bell pepper

1 tsp salt                                        1 tbsp cilantro, chopped

1 tsp pepper

1- In a small bowl mix lime juice, chili flakes, rice wine vinegar, sugar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, whisk to combine

2- Combine jicama, apple, cabbage onion, red pepper, and cilantro in large bowl and toss

3- Add dressing to vegetables and let sit 15 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.

If you do not like spicy food, you might want to cut back on the chili powder.  I think I will also use less olive oil next time as there was quite a bit in the bottom of the bowl.


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You lift weights?

Yes, I do lift weights.  In fact, I lift weights three times a week and I lift heavy weights.  I pick them up and put them down!   And yet I don’t look like this:

or this:

While some women (and men) like this look, most women are afraid to lift weights because they think they will bulk up.   Trust me, women do not have the genetic potential to have muscles like this except in very rare cases.  We simply don’t have enough testosterone which is needed for the development of muscle bulk.  Women like those pictured most likely have some “assistance” to get this look.

Why should you lift weights?  Here are some great reasons:

Lifting weights gives you an edge over belly fat, over stress, over heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. lifting even makes you smarter and happier. You will lose 40% more fat, burn more calories, and your clothes will fit better.  Your body will stay younger, have stronger bones, and be  more flexible.  Your heart will be healthier, your diet will improve, you will sleep better, fight off depression, and add years to your life.

Yes, you can be strong and sexy!

Really?  Picking things up and putting them down will do all that? Yes!  Yes, it will!

I know those of you who don’t lift weights are thinking up all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t or won’t lift weights.  I have been teaching strength training for almost 6 years now and I have heard it all. In fact, I was once one of those naysayers.  My daughter convinced me to join a class at the Y. We hid in the corner and stayed away from the mirrors.  We avoided putting too much weight on the barbell.  We complained about our sore muscles and came up with all kinds of reasons to skip class until one day I looked in the mirror and saw shoulder muscles.  And then biceps.  And my triceps stop wiggling.  Hmmmm……I kinda liked the results and continued to add more reps and more weights.  Before you know it, I was in front of the class showing other women (and men) how much fun weightlifiting can be.

Do you still think strength training isn’t for you?  Come back tomorrow and I’ll bust some of those myths and overcome your excuses.

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Tomorrow is International Pancake Day!

From the IHOP website:

Since beginning its National Pancake Day celebration in 2006, IHOP has raised nearly $8 million to support charities in the communities in which it operates. On February 28, 2012, guests from around the country are invited to celebrate National Pancake Day at IHOP and enjoy a free short stack of Buttermilk pancakes. In return for the free pancakes, guests are asked to consider leaving a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals© and other designated local charities.

This is a great cause and everyone loves free food so if you are a pancake lover- go ahead and enjoy a short stack.  IHOP has very detailed nutritional info on their website so here’s the scoop.

Short Stack- 3 pancakes

Calories- 490, 160 calories from fat

Fat-18 grams

Saturated fat- 8 grams

Trans fat- 1 gram

Cholesterol- 80 mg

Sodium- 1610 mg

Fiber- 4 grams

Sugar- 13 grams

Protein- 13 grams

This is not the best choice, but certainly not the worst…except…this is JUST the pancakes.  Let’s add some butter and syrup.

Butter– 1 tablespoon has 105 calories of fat.  No nutritional value at all

Syrup -IHOP Maple  1 serving (they do not say what size is a serving, I’m guessing we all use WAY more than a serving!  110 calories 18 grams of sugar (a little over 4 teaspoons) and, of course, syrup is just liquid candy. Other options:

IHOP blueberry syrup- 110 calories, 18 grams of sugar, IHOP sugar free is 15 calories, IHOP boysenberry is 100 calories.

By now you have added an additional 300 calories if you use butter and a normal amount of syrup so your free stack is up to 790 calories and plenty of sugar and fat.  Stop now and you haven’t done too much damage.

But…can you eat pancakes without meat? Keep adding…

Ham, 1 slice- 110 calories

Bacon, 4 strips-150 calories (plus 610 mg of sodium)

Sausage, 4 links- 350 calories (plus 32 g of fat)

Almost done….let’s wash it down with a 16 oz orange juice – 190 calories and 39 grams (almost 10 teaspoons) of sugar

Whew- our free pancakes don’t look like such a deal now, do they?  Again,  if this is a rare treat for you- do it and enjoy.  But, if you are seriously watching your weight/sugar/fat/sodium, it is far healthier to just write a check to Children’s Hospital and enjoy a Simple and Fit Veggie omelette with fruit for 320 calories. Or, you can make it a turkey bacon omelette for just 100 more calories.  This sounds like a much healthier way to start your day!



Sunday Morning Inspiration

Why are you waiting?

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WARNING-Shamrock Shakes are Back!


It is almost March so it’s time for the Shamrock shake to make its annual appearance.  Before you celebrate St. Patty’s Day with this treat, let’s take a look at the nutritional info.

Small Shake= 540 calories , 13 grams of fat (8 saturated), 180 mg of sodium, 96 grams of carbs and…82 GRAMS OF SUGAR!

Large shake=840 calories and 24 grams of fat (14 saturated)  Sugar content?  164 GRAMS!

To put this in perspective, at approx 4 grams per teaspoon the small has 20 teaspoons of sugar, the large is 41 teaspoons.  Yes, 41 teaspoons of sugar in 1 beverage.  This is just under 1 cup of sugar.  Unbelievable.  Please do not buy this item under any circumstance.

If you really must have a frozen minty treat, try this Hungry Girl Makeover:

Ingredients: 3/4 cup light vanilla soymilk
 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
 2 drops green food coloring
1 no-calorie sweetener packet (like Splenda)
 1 1/2 cups crushed ice (8 – 12 ice cubes’ worth)
Directions: Place Coffee-mate in a glass and add 1 tbsp. very hot water. Stir until powder dissolves, and then transfer mixture to a blender.
Add all other ingredients to the blender. Blend at high speed until mixed thoroughly.
Serving Size: 1 shake/about 12 oz. (entire recipe) Calories: 176 Fat: 4g Sodium: 142mg Carbs: 29.5g Fiber: 3.5g Sugars: 16g Protein: 7.5g


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It’s Fat Tuesday!


If you live in northeast Wisconsin or any area with a strong Polish community,  you most likely saw several news stories about today being Paczki Day in addition to Fat Tuesday.

So what’s the big deal?

While doing some research, I learned that Paczki  (punch-key) are made and eaten on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. (tomorrow) These donuts were originally made to use up the lard and eggs in the pantry before Lent.  While traditional Paczki have a prune filling, these days there is a wide range of flavors, including Bavarian crème, strawberry, lemon, blueberry,  and chocolate crème.

The typical paczki has 600 calories and about 27 grams of fat, depending on the filling.  (yes, that is in ONE).  If you decide to splurge, keep in mind that your body will be working extra hard to process all that artery clogging fat which could cause a temporary rise in blood pressure. It would be wise to avoid any strenuous activity for several hours after eating it to avoid any heart related issues.  I think that any food that comes with a blood pressure warning should be totally avoided, but I’ll let you decide for yourself!

Don't be surprised if your heart does this after too many Paczki. Enjoy in moderation


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Sunday Morning Inspiration

When you think your limitations are too much to handle, remember this boy and the obstacles he has overcome.  The look on his face is priceless.  If he can do it, so can you.

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Is this Tunsa and Salstun?

I’m  not sure what to call this super easy snack but this is a good one!

Combine one can of tuna with your favorite salsa.  Use Triscuits for scooping.

Wow- that’s a short recipe.  Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.

Tuna- always buy tuna in water not oil.  Chunk “light” does not mean it is lower in calories.  It means the tuna is light in color and not white tuna.  There are mercury warnings for tuna so don’t exceed more than 2- 6 oz. servings per week and stay away from tuna if you are pregnant.

I found this great product on the shelf- how handy is this for throwing in the lunch bag?  It is more expensive than buying the can of tuna but certainly less messy.  This portion controlled container has 70 calories and a Nu Val score of 53.  Starkist Low Sodium in water has an impressive score of 81.

Salsa– My favorite salsa is our store brand, Carlita’s.  It has a decent Nu Val score of 33 and just 15 calories per serving.  Choose your favorite from mild to super hot.

Triscuits–  You can probably use any type of cracker but Triscuits are hardy enough to not break and have a really good crunch.  They are also one of the higher rated crackers as far as nutrition is concerned.  Triscuits with a Hint of Salt have the highest score with 38 but the other flavors are in that range. 7 crackers=120 calories.   FYI- Ritz crackers score a 3 meaning they have the same nutritional score as many candy bars.

This easy snack is great for those mid-day munchies and should stave off hunger until dinnertime.  Total calories=about 200.

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Nuts! It’s another healthy snack.


Why Nuts?

A handful of nuts every day can lower your heart-disease risk by a third, chop your Alzheimer’s risk by two-thirds, and help you slim down. The high protein content in nuts helps you feel full and will keep you from overeating. Yes, they do have high fat contents, but it is mostly good fat.  Also, your body simply can’t absorb all the fat in nuts so any excess is flushed away.

What’s Your Favorite Nut?

Almonds-A true superfood, almonds are good for your brain, brawn, and belly.  A handful of almonds will  supply you with half of your daily value of Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant that can increase memory and cognitive performance.  Almonds are a great post-workout snack as the Vitamin E will help with muscle recovery.  Eating almonds also seems to stimulate production of hunger-supressing hormones.

Cashews– This nut has less monounsaturated fat and protein that almonds, but they do contain more iron.  Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body and plays a critical role in energy production.

Walnuts– The walnut is oh-so-good in so many ways.  It is rich in heart-healthy omega 3’s, has more anti- inflammatory polyphonols than red wine, and has half as much protein as chicken.  Walnuts might even help clean up after your bad habits.  People who ate walnuts  after a large pastrami sandwich reduced arterial inflammation caused by lunchmeat.

Pecans– Pecans have more anti-oxidants than any other nut.  They are also rich in vitamin E.  Research shows that pecans can help prevent arterial damage and adding them to your diet can cut your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.

Brazil Nuts– Toxins  from air pollution and car exhaust have the potential to damage sperm. Men who want hardier, more viable swimmers might want to add Brazil nuts to their diet because this nut has more selinium than any other food.  Selinium is crucial for healthy sperm and studies also show it can prevent colon cancer in men.

Macadamia Nuts– Eating 12-16 macadamia nuts a day may help raise your HDL (good) cholesterol by as much as 8%.

Pistachio– Snacking on pistachios can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by up to 12%.  Researchers also show that weight loss and blood fat reduction is greater when dieters ate pistachios instead of unsalted pretzels.

What about Peanuts?  Well, technically, they aren’t a nut (they are a legume) but they do make a great snack because the high protein count will tame your hunger.  Just be sure to eat the unsalted variety. Try peanut butter on a stick of celery for a crunchy, satisfying snack.

Before you go nuts on nuts- a few words of advice.  Nuts do contain a fair amount of calories so pay attention to the serving size.  Don’t eat mindlessly out of the can, count  or weigh the serving size and put the rest away.  Nuts are not in addition to your mid-morning or afternoon snack, they are in place of it!

Try these if you have portion control issues. Throw one in your purse or bag for a quick on-the-go snack

Nuts in candy bars, cookies, pie, and sprinkled on donuts do not count!!

Have a healthy, nutty day.



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It’s Snack Week!

I’m a snacker.  I eat pretty healthy meals but snacking is my downfall. I have written about snacking before and it seems to be a hot topic with a lot of people so let’s dedicate a whole week to those in-between meal treats that can add up both in calories and/or sugar and salt.

What is the best snack?


Bananas are  loaded with Resistant Starch (RS), a healthy carb that fills you up and helps to boost your metabolism. Slightly underripe medium-sized bananas have 12.5 grams of RS-more than most other foods. Ripe bananas give you 4.7 grams of RS, still enough to keep hunger pangs away.

Other reasons to pack this handy snack in your lunchbag:

Research has proven that just two of them provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder this great fruit is the number one fruit with the world’s leading athletes. But energy isn’t the only way it can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating one. This is because they contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

PMS: Forget the pills – eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia: High in iron, they can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

Blood Pressure: The banaba is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed this fruit’s industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power:  Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert. A banana is MUCH better than a Red Bull or No-Doz!

Constipation: High in fiber, including them in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

I love bananas and eat at least 1 if not  more everyday,  my preferred recipe is “peel and eat”  but there are other ways to enjoy bananas as well.

A big favorite of mine is banana ice cream.  Peel, slice, and freeze 1 small banana. Place frozen banana pieces in a blender and blend until thick. Check out this link for more.

Feel free to add vanilla, nuts, etc. to your ice cream.

Another favorite is Banana Salsa Make a quick salsa with 2 diced peeled bananas, 2 tablespoons minced red onion, 1 tablespoon minced cilantro, 1 teaspoon minced serrano or jalepeno pepper, juice of 1 lime, and brown sugar and salt to taste. Use it to top fish or pork tacos, jerk chicken, or jerk pork. This is surprisingly good and easy to make.

For obvious reasons. we won’t be talking about banana cream pie and banana bread!

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