Build a Healthy Meal Template

Build your meals around nutrient-rich foods to make Mediterranean style meals focusing on:

Mostly plant foods, lean protein such as seafood or occasionally lean poultry, beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, mono fat.

Why? 1. Vegetables, fruits, seafood, lean poultry and whole grains have a low caloric densityCalorie density, also known as calories per pound, is how much energy, i.e. calories, is provided per unit measure of food. Choosing foods with a low calorie density can help with weight loss. 2. These foods are nutrient dense.

Helpful Resource 

This is my favorite book containing a collection of quick to make grain bowls, stews and risottos, that will help you create meals using my build a meal template. The author showcases recipes for vegetarian and vegan meals as well as heartier ones with meat and seafood.

Vegetables    ½ your plate

Salad greens or vegetable salads

Roasted asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper strips, mushrooms, etc.

Sautéed or stir fried mixed vegetables, kale, sugar snap peas

Raw vegetables

Broth based vegetable soup

Lean Protein     ¼ of your plate

Shrimp, Salmon, Crab, Fish, Chicken or Turkey Breast, Egg Whites, Tofu and some tofu products, quinoa, Reduced Fat Cottage Cheese, Low Fat Greek Yogurt, Skim Milk

Healthy Carbs    ¼ of your plate

Sweet potato or potato

Beans, peas, lentils, corn or green beans


Whole grain products: cereal, bread, tortillas, English muffins, pasta, crackers

Whole grains such as:

Products Spotlight:    *Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice, precooked and microwavable   *Barilla Whole Grain Pasta    *Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Crispbread      *Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley

Healthy Fat  Small Amounts 

Olive oil, olives, olive tapenade, canola oil

Avocado cream (see my blog)

Pesto, Costco’s Kirkland


Walnuts or almonds or other nuts

Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp, flax, sunflower

Light salad dressing

Flavor Boosters  Small amounts of the ones that are calorically dense

Rubs (Spike, El Gaucho, Salish Lodge, Rub with Love), Herbs and Spices, Ceylon Cinnamon, see here more Ceylon Cinnamon info, Turmeric, Salsa, Lemon, Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, Sirracha, Chipotles in Adobo, Chili Sauce, mustard, Brummel and Brown Spread, vinegars, Miso, avocado cream, Reduced fat sharp cheddar, feta, goat cheese, reduced fat sour cream, dried fruits, Stevia and erythritol. 

Foods to avoid: saturated fat, food colors, red meat, processed meat, deep fried foods, junky gluten-free products, agave (higher in fructose than other sugars), fast food, highly processed food, added sugar, refined grains like white flour, industrial vegetable oils, trans fats, fruit juice, alcohol, barbecued foods, high heat cooked food.

Share Button

How To Minimize Holiday Weight Gain

Photo credit Jennifer Pallian

The holiday season poses significant challenges to weight control and eating regulation for all of us and for those who are overweight, a higher degree of effort is required to manage their weight in the long term.

Several studies have found that those who gained weight over the holidays were far less likely to ever lose the weight. So paying attention to exercise and eating behaviors will pay off.
However, you can do what those who have a history of successful weight loss do to maintain or even lose weight during the holiday season. (defined by: lost a mean of 76 pounds and had kept ≥29 pounds off for a mean of 5.9 years)
Compared to Unsuccessful Losers, Successful losers:
  • Make specific preholiday plans to control their eating and
  • Maintain greater exercise,
  • Pay greater attention to weight and eating,
  • Have greater stimulus control,
  • Keep a food journal,
  • Practice greater dietary restraint during the holidays,
  • Eat a healthy breakfast,
  • Weigh themselves weekly.
In general, successful losers give greater overall attention to weight, exercise and eating during the holiday season.

5 Tips to Avoid Gaining Those Extra Holiday Pounds!

Many will fall into the trap of gaining holiday pounds over the next several weeks, only to be faced with a belly of blubber that must be worked off in January. With a little thought and planning, YOU can avoid that cycle and start January ahead of the pack! Here are 5 tips to stay on track this holiday season.

  1. Understand that a holiday is just 1 day.
    Too often I hear people practicing negative self-talk. “I just can’t lose weight around the holidays”, “I know I will gain 10 pounds between all the holidays- it happens to me every year,” or “I’ll just wait until January and then get back on track with my nutrition and exercise.” That’s inaccurate thinking. A holiday is just one day. You CAN enjoy a meal with the family and still stay on track with your goals- just take it one day at a time. Remind yourself that it’s only 1 day. Don’t allow your holi-“day” turn into a holi-“week”!
  2. Spend part of the day outside instead of on the couch!
    While watching Thanksgiving football has become an American Tradition- try to get outside for part of the day as well. Go to watch a local game, throw the football around in the park or backyard with the kids. Have fun- just get your butt unglued from the couch at some point during the day.
  3. Limit alcohol consumption
    Think of beer and wine as liquid fat. Alcohol has dramatic affects on the body’s metabolism and energy usage. If you’re a social drinker, try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks- and make them last. Avoid high calories mixed drinks that are full of sugar. Even better- skip the alcohol and order a tonic water or diet soda.
  4. Opt for mashed potatoes instead of candied sweet potatoes. . A cup of mashed potatoes has about 240 to 300 calories, depending on how much butter (each tablespoon is 100 calories) and what type of milk or cream you use. Candied sweet potatoes, however, also contain butter — as well as brown sugar and sometimes even marmalade, honey, maple syrup, marshmallows and/or pecans, which can add up to more than 450 calories for a one-cup portion.
  5. Choose one desert, not three
    Pumpkin Pie, Christmas cookies, Chocolate- the holidays are full of traditions with sweets. Enjoy them! But pick 1; don’t feel like you have to eat everything on the table. Give yourself permission to enjoy all the holidays have to offer, and then grab the platter of veggies!

Remember YOU have the power to lose or gain weight this holiday season. By incorporating these 5 tips you’ll come out of this holiday season better than ever and ahead of the pack in January!

Maria Faires, RD is a Registered Dietitian, a Certified Personal Trainer with the American Council on Exercise and President of Active Nutrition.  For more information on getting in shape for the holidays and getting RESULTS with this year’s resolutions contact Maria at My Active Nutrition Fitness & Nutrition Consulting.


Share Button

An Exercise to Disprove Negative Thoughts That Derail Your Weight Loss Efforts

Negative thoughts can derail your weight loss efforts and suck you into a downward spiral that will keep you from being successful. 

Try going through this exercise the next time you catch yourself thinking a thought that you recognize will only prevent you from taking positive steps forward.

Negative thought: “I only have 3 weeks until my Palm Springs vacation. It’s not enough time to lose weight or get into shape so I might as well not even try.”

What evidence do I have to disprove that thought? ___________________________________________________________________

For instance, in that time I could lose 5 to 10 pounds. It may not be the 45 that I eventually want to lose but 5-10 would be great. I’ve been able to lose that much in 3 weeks in the past. I can do it! In 21 days’ time, I could realistically do 17 days of 30 minutes of walking. That’s 510 minutes of walking! That’s really something. I’d burn over 1700 calories. I noticed that in the past when I planned my meals ahead of time, packed my lunch and reduced how often I went out to eat, I was able to stick to my calorie goal.

What would be the benefits of trying? _________________________________________________________________

For instance, I’d feel so much better being 5-10 pounds lighter, feel more confident in shorts, after all the cardio I do in 3 weeks, I’d feel like I could walk more easily, I’d feel proud of myself.

In what ways am I critical of myself? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________________________________________________________________

For instance, I view myself as a failure, lazy, unmotivated.

If my best friend told me she had that thought, what would I tell her?  ________________________________________________________________

For instance, I could tell her that if she puts in some effort every day, she will see some progress. I will tell her that she can do this and I would be there to help her and support her.

What am I going to do now?­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________________________________

For instance, I will plan out simple meals, chicken or fish and vegetables for the next 3 weeks and walk 30 minutes 5-6 days a week. I will schedule my exercise and write out a grocery list. I’ll tell me husband that I’d prefer us eat at home the next 3 weeks instead of going out to eat. I will log all my food on My Fitness Pal.

Share Button