How to Make My Fitness Pal Work for You + How to Diet at Work

How to Make My Fitness Pal Work for You + How to Diet at Work

Even though I love Facebook and Instagram, my favorite app of all-time has to be My Fitness Pal.  I discovered it in 2012, and it relieved my brain after 15 years of calorie counting in my head.  That may sound weird to some people, but I’ve mentioned it to others and I’m not the only one who has been reflexively calorie counting since I was 13.  In 7th grade, my science teacher taught us how to count calories, and it was eye opening.  I went from being chubby to being thin within months because of this big secret.  My weight has fluctuated over the years because of different things, but counting calories and taking responsibility for them is the only way to keep yourself in check –unless you’re just very lucky and were born with a high metabolism (to which I say I am jealous!)

My Fitness Pal takes the guesswork out of it, especially if you’re eating prepackaged food or even restaurant food.  The only parts that require your discretion are 1) remembering to use it, 2) being honest about the amount you consumed, and 3) using it proactively.

The first 2 things are pretty simple.  I mean, if you don’t input your food, it’s not going to do anything.  And if you lie to yourself about the quantities, you’re not hurting anyone but yourself.  Remember, My Fitness Pal doesn’t actually care if you lose or gain anything.  My Fitness Pal is not going to go up a pant size if you eat 3 servings of ice cream and said you only had 1!  But seriously, the real accountability lies within each of us.

But what do I mean about using My Fitness Pal proactively?  I didn’t learn that until about a year ago when I started losing baby weight from Benji.  Using it proactively means that I think about where I might go today.  Do I have dinner plans?  Am I going somewhere for drinks?  I am on my period?  Seriously, though.  I think about that, and then I enter in a presumptive amount of calories I may eat because of those things, and then I see how many I have left for the day.  And if I am going out to eat, where?  If so, can I plan my order ahead of time by using an online menu?  All of these things –being proactive –that will help so much.

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my weekly average

Another thing about being proactive with My Fitness Pal is something I do if I did overindulge.  I use a free feature that gives me my weekly calorie average, and I can use it to figure out if I’ve done okay overall (because maybe I overindulged today but barely ate yesterday…if so, it’s probably okay).  So you’ll have your daily calorie goal, and set it to something realistic –don’t set it at 1000 or something crazy –I’m 5’10’…I’d wilt if I only consumed 1000 calories a day.  Basically, let’s say your goal is 1600 calories.  Maybe today you ate 2000 calories, so your weekly average calorie intake is over what it should be.  This feature can help you figure out how much you should cut back, and for how many days, to get back on track!  Isn’t that awesome?  You can go day by day ahead and project your intake –or what you plan to eat –then go back to the weekly average and see how long you’ll need to do that to get back on track.

This may seem obsessive to some of you, but I really hope it’s helpful.  Losing weight is hard, and it is personal.  If you’ve had kids or any other major life change, it’s even harder!  Right now, I’m still working out my Christmas weight!  I lost 24 pounds last year –from 173 to 149.  Now I’m 156, and I’d prefer to be about 145.  I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d love to talk about this more –either in more posts, in the comments, or privately.

Now!  On to some little tricks and easy meals I learned to make when I was a true “working mom.”  When I worked in an office, I had to really plan ahead.  I was a secretary for doctors, and we had so many meals catered by drug reps, plus all kinds of treats brought in all the time, and the cafeteria, and people wanting to go out to eat!  The temptation is everywhere to splurge all day.  Every day.  People used to make fun of me for snacking on “weird” stuff throughout the day, but you know what?  I was happier feeling good about what I ate.  Here are some of my favorite snacks and meals for the office:

  • String Cheese
  • Raw almonds (about 24)
  • A Ghiradelli chocolate square
  • Thomas Multigrain English Muffin with 2 pieces of Canadian bacon (for breakfast)
  • Fiber One Bars
  • A make-ahead, gourmet “anything” salad: In an 8 cup Tupperware container, add a few handfuls of your favorite salad greens.  Top with any dry veggies or add-ins, like bell pepper, onion, carrot, or cheese.  Separate any wet veggies like sliced cherry tomatoes or cucumbers.  Add a small container of protein, like some shredded rotisserie chicken or some salmon (be honest about how much, because salmon is calorie-dense).  If possible, keep salad dressing at work in the fridge.  If not, put some in a Tupperware ramekin.  At lunchtime, add the extras to the large container, seal, and shake to toss!  You can literally have a restaurant quality salad at work without paying $10 plus a tip.  Not to mention, you can control exactly what you put in, how much, and proactively add it to My Fitness Pal.
  • For chillier months, these were my 2 favorite soups to take to work. Roasted Winter Veg is really filling and can be made in batches and frozen ahead of time.  Chicken Noodle is an easy short notice soup because you can have the whole thing done in 30 minutes.  If you want more soup recipes, most of mine are pretty healthy because I don’t like cream-based soups.

 


Vegan Italian Eggplant Sauté + My Favorite Fast Meals Under 200 Calories

Vegan Italian Eggplant Sauté + My Favorite Fast Meals Under 200 Calories

I’m doing a quick post to share my current favorite recipe, plus a few extras that are barely recipes, but great if you (like me) are fighting stubborn Christmas pounds off.  The older I get, the less I can eat and still be thin.  Living with 4 hungry kids and a 6 foot tall, 200 pound husband leaves me feeling a little left out sometimes.  They can all literally eat whatever they want and stay thin.  Tonight, they’re eating a pasta dish I made earlier, and I’ll be eating an Anything Scramble.  It is what it is, but I refuse to give in to the scale, so here are a few of my super low calories meals and snacks I’ve been eating to get back to my goal.

Vegan Eggplant Sauté (pictured):  You’ll need cooking spray; ½ a medium sized eggplant, diced; a pinch each of cinnamon and dried oregano; 1 ice cube (just wait); 1 Original Vegan Boca Burger; ½ cup marinara sauce; and fresh basil.

  1. Add a quick spray of cooking spray to a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the eggplant, cinnamon, and oregano.  Sauté for a minute or so.  Add the ice cube, and cover.  Let it steam for 6-8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the Boca Burger until warm, about 1 minute. Dice into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Remove the eggplant from heat. Add the Boca Burger and marinara sauce.  Mix together.
  5. Serve with fresh basil.
  • Notes: The ice cube sounds weird, but it helps to steam the eggplant, which cooks it without adding extra fat and calories.  This entire dish has 180 calories, 3 grams of fat, 17 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fiber (that’s half a day’s worth).  It’s also vegan and gluten free.

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The rest of these aren’t really recipes, but they’re quick, easy, filling, and perfect for weight loss:

  • Anything Scramble: With 1 whole egg plus 3 whites and your choice of veggies, it’s has less than 200 calories.  It also has 22 grams of protein and virtually no carbs.
  • Whitefish Over Greens with Vinaigrette: Toss the greens (I like baby spinach) with a light vinaigrette.  My favorite is sesame ginger.  5 ounces of cod only has 115 calories and 25 grams of protein, and most whitefish are about the same.  Steam the whitefish using this method.
  • Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding: This has about 250 calories, and it may seem like a lot for a small pudding.  But you’re getting 9 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber.  This is essentially a homemade meal replacement shake.  If you want it to be drinkable, use 2 tablespoons of chia instead of 3.  This will leave you at 200 calories 6 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fiber (still enough for a small meal).
  • Whole Grain Egg McMuffin: Use Thomas Multigrain English Muffins because they have only 100 calories, and 8 grams of fiber.  I make a microwave scrambled egg to go on this.  All you do is spray a small bowl with cooking spray.  Add one egg, salt, and pepper.  Whisk lightly with a fork.  Microwave for 1-2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds for doneness.  The egg will slide right out and fit the sliced English muffin for a little sandwich.  I like topping the egg with a tomato slice to brighten it up.  This meal has 180 calories, 6 grams of fat, 8 grams of fiber, and 11.5 grams of protein.
  • I also love snacking on pickles because they’re almost calorie free, and vinegar actually curbs your appetite. I eat at least one Oats and Chocolate Fiber One Bar per day—usually 2.  I’ll have one as my breakfast, and I’ll eat one after dinner if I need something sweet.  Each bar has 9 grams of fiber and tricks me into thinking I’m having a chocolate chip cookie.  Pears are my go-to fruit in the winter because 1 small pear has 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber, much more than most fruit.  In the summer, I go for watermelon because it’s very filling, but very low calorie.

Spiced Pear + Coconut Oats

Spiced Pear + Coconut Oats

(vegan, gluten free, elimination diet-friendly)

This is not turning into a health food or vegan blog.  I love cookies and cheese way too much. However, you may have noticed I’ve done a few healthy recipes lately, including Grain Bowl Basics and Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding Cups.  I actually do eat really healthy most of the time, but I don’t like to say a certain food group is totally off-limits.  Even as a write this, I’m thinking about the Turkish Delights I’ll be making in a few days for another post.  I try not to eat too much junk, white carbs, red meat, etc.  Over the holidays, though, I gained about 7 pounds back of the 20 I’d lost!  But with just about a week of healthy eating, I’ve already lost 4 of them.  It’s not too hard, but it does take discipline, and I know it’s a lot easier to catch myself now than it would be to wait until I’d gained 10 more pounds.  So there’s that.
There’s also me reading about and preparing for the Elimination Diet to see what is giving me stomach troubles (I talked a little more about the Elimination Diet in the last 2 posts).  The Grain Bowls, Chia Puddings, and this oatmeal are all Elimination Diet-friendly.  Certain things, like the chocolate shavings on the pudding or the grape tomatoes in the grain bowls are not, but I really did those more for the camera.  You can always add those to your food of course, but it won’t be Elimination Diet-friendly. 

I never realized that oats weren’t gluten-free on their own.  I figured that because it was just oats, it was naturally gluten-free.  To do the Elimination Diet, I only had to get a few things at Whole Foods, but most of it is available at any grocery store these days.  I did get some gluten-free quick cooking oats (by Red Mill), some unrefined coconut sugar, white quinoa, almond butter plus some red lentil and chickpea pastas all at WF, but that’s about it.  The reason I got the quinoa and almond butter there is because I like WF’s generic brand 365 Everyday Value.  I think the quality and price are both better than at a regular grocery store.

I added some ground flax to the oatmeal too.  I order it from Amazon in whole seeds and grind it up in one of these.  Once it’s ground, I store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Flax seeds are full of Omega-3 fats (great for brain function and also found in foods like salmon and eggs).  One tablespoon of ground flax has 37 calories, 3 grams of fat, 57 grams of potassium, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein. 

So here’s my take on a gluten-free, nutrition-packed, vegan, Elimination Diet-friendly –yet still warm and satisfying –oatmeal breakfast.

Total Time:  15 Minute1.jpg

Serves:  1

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients

2/3 cup water

½ cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 pinch of salt

½ cup gluten free quick cooking oats

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 fresh diced pear (shown sliced only for photographic purposes)

1 ½ teaspoon coconut oil

Toasted Coconut (see below)

Directions

  1. Bring the water, coconut, and salt to a gentle boil.
  2. Add the oats, flax, cinnamon, and ginger, and reduce heat.
  3. Once the oats have begun to absorb the liquid, add the diced pear.
  4. Turn off the heat, and stir in the coconut oil.
  5. Top with toasted coconut.

For the toasted coconut, you’ll need:

A handful of unsweetened flaked coconut

Directions

  1. On a toaster oven-sized sheet pan, add a handful of unsweetened flaked coconut.
  2. Place it in a toaster oven, and turn on.
  3. Watch it carefully for 2-3 minutes and pull out of the oven just as it starts to brown.

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding Cups

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding Cups

This recipe is another during my Elimination Diet. I’m writing this the day before I start the diet…I had plans to take pictures this morning, but the fog is so dense, I’m afraid I won’t get any good ones.  The reason I’m trying the Elimination Diet is because I get a lot of stomach irritation, and I’m curious to see if there’s any one food group that’s affecting me. 

The Elimination Diet is no dairy, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, nightshades, white carbs, beef, pork, shellfish, processed food, soy, peanuts, eggs, and certain fruits like grapes and bananas.  It’s pretty extensive, but not exhaustive.  You can still have meat, most vegetables, and non-white non-gluten carbs. 

I made a similar pudding last year, but with regular cow’s milk.  I tasted this version along the way and adjusted the flavors to get it as rich-tasting as possible.  Just because you’re on a special diet doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to feel indulgent.  This recipe makes four 8 ounce portions, and each portion has about 260 calories if you follow my recipe exactly.  These are vegan free, gluten free, and Elimination Diet-friendly.  The puddings set up in 6 hours and will keep for about 5 days. 

Chia seeds are interesting little things, aren’t they?  Remember back in the 90s, Chia Pets?  It’s the same thing, except this time, we’re eating them.  Each serving of this pudding has 3 tablespoons of chia seeds.  The seeds are what helps the pudding become pudding.  For every 3 tablespoons, there are 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, 180 mg of potassium, 15 grams of fiber (!), NO SUGAR, 9 grams of protein, plus 24% of your daily Vitamin A and 18% of your daily Iron needs.  Pretty impressive.

When I made these last year, I stored them in glasses with plastic wrap, but that was before I got my half pint mason jars.  I keep finding new reasons to love and accumulate mason jars.  I started using them for salads, but have since used them for homemade beauty products, salad dressings, and now for these puddings.  It’s homemade portable pudding cups tailored exactly to your specifications.  Plus– they’re spill-proof. 

You can top them with anything you like—I suggest toasted unsweetened coconut, almonds, fresh mint, or chocolate shavings (though chocolate shavings are not vegan or Elimination Diet-friendly).

 

Total Time:  6 hours, 15 minutes (hands-on time 15 minutes)

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Serves: 4best

 

Ingredients

3 cups of cold unsweetened coconut milk

3 tablespoons of unrefined coconut sugar

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

12 tablespoons of chia seeds

toasted coconut

  1. Add the coconut milk to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Sift the unrefined coconut sugar and cocoa powder together to remove any lumps. Add them to the milk.
  3. Add the chia seeds to the milk mixture.
  4. Use a whisk to mix everything together thoroughly.
  5. Using 4 half pint (8 ounce) mason jars, add the mixture evenly to each jar.
  6. Put the lids on the jars, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  7. Garnish with toasted coconut, mint, almonds, or chocolate shavings (non-vegan, not Elimination Diet-friendly). Puddings will last about 5 days in the fridge.

 

 

For the toasted coconut, you’ll need:

A handful of unsweetened flaked coconut

 

Directions

  1. On a toaster oven-sized sheet pan, add a handful of unsweetened flaked coconut.
  2. Place it in a toaster oven, and turn on.
  3. Watch it carefully for 2-3 minutes and pull out of the oven just as it starts to brown.