16 Easy Diet Tips That Really Work

Lizzie Fuhr from PopSugar says exercise plays an essential role in any weight-loss journey, but how you fuel your body is just as — if not more — important. If you’re ready to embrace new lifestyle changes and even more ready to stop feeling like food is a constant struggle, here are the straightforward tips we live by that really work.

  1. Lose the mind-set that foods are off-limits: According to trainers Chris and Heidi Powell, “anytime you deprive yourself of food . . . all you want is what you can’t have!” Take your mind-set away from sacrifice, and allow yourself everything in moderation.
  2. Keep it clean: Replace processed foods with clean (whole and natural) items. Not only are natural options more nutritious, you’ll find that their flavors are more satisfying.
  3. Opt for whole grains: Refined and processed carbs weigh you down and muck up your progress. Fiber-rich whole grains keep hunger at bay, support healthy digestion, and are a crucial part of a long-term weight-loss success.
  4. Greek yogurt is your best friend: Instead of sour cream, dollop this protein-rich yogurt on your burrito bowl. Make it into a creamy pasta sauce that satisfies any Italian cravings. Honestly, is there anything this protein-rich dairy option can’tsub for?
  5. Make your snacks smarter: Instead of a snack that includes just one food group, go for two — even three. The winning combination of protein, fiber, and carbs fuels workouts and keep you full.
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Summer Vegetable Kabobs

My recipes shared this great summer treat:


12-inch-long wooden skewers
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup honey
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon salt
16 cups assorted cut vegetables


1. Soak skewers in water 1 hour.

2. Whisk together wine and next 6 ingredients until well blended; reserve 1/4 cup. Combine remaining white wine mixture and vegetables in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Remove vegetables from marinade, discarding marinade.

3. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high). Thread vegetables onto skewers, and grill according to directions in “Guidelines and Cook Times for Vegetable Kabobs” below.

4. Transfer skewers to a platter. Remove vegetables from skewers, if desired. Serve with reserved 1/4 cup white wine mixture.

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Satisfy Your Craving in 100 Calories or Less

snackingThe YMCA of the Triangle asks, “When the hunger pangs hit, do you crave sweet or savory?” 

Great news! You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite treats in order to eat healthy. In fact, a well-balanced nutritional snack can pack in the taste of its high-calorie counterparts, leaving your appetite satisfied and your waistline slim.

Aim for 100-calorie snacks (like the ones below) that ideally provide a mix of protein and fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer. 


1. Mini Quesadilla (100 calories)
You might not expect quesadillas to top the list of low-calorie foods. But try this: Sprinkle 1 ounce of grated low-fat cheddar on half of a whole-wheat tortilla. Fold in half and microwave for 20 seconds. Instant appetizer! 

2. 3 Crackers with Cheese (100 calories)
Top 3 whole-grain crackers with 1 ounce of sliced, low-fat cheese (your choice).

3. 8 Baby Carrots with Hummus (90 calories)
Craving something crunchy? Dip large baby carrots in 2 tablespoons of hummus (pick your favorite flavor to add variety). This high-vitamin snack serves double duty by packing in the protein.

4. 14 Almonds (98 calories) OR 6 Pretzel Sticks (96 calories)

A serving of almonds provides high fiber, healthy fats and protein for longer satiation. For those who don’t like nuts, pretzel sticks offer a convenient alternative on-the-go (just be sure to choose whole-grain!)

5. 6 Cups Microwave Popcorn (100 calories)

Need a bigger snack? Popcorn can feel like an indulgent mini-meal because it takes longer to chew. Choose a light brand (check the nutrition facts). 

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Bring them back to life

wilted veggieCarol Bylmire from the Washington Post shared that somehow, that bunch of bright carrots has lost its snap, shoved to the back of the crisper where it lay forgotten. Do you toss them or attempt a little veggie rehab?

She tested and found that the following methods work best for reviving each individual vegetable, although times may vary slightly depending on exactly how dry or wilted your produce is. As specified here, cold water means from the tap. Ice water means a combination of three parts cold water and 1 part ice cubes. Use the refreshed vegetables within 24 hours.

ASPARAGUS: Cut ¾ inch from the bottom of each spear. Refrigerate for 1 hour, stored upright in 2 inches of water in a glass. (It’s OK to store the spears this way for up to 24 hours before using.)

BROCCOLI: Cut into florets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, soaking in ice water. (The florets might float; that’s OK.)

CARROTS: Cut ½ inch from both ends. Refrigerate for 1 hour, soaking in ice water (peeled or unpeeled).

CELERY: Separate into individual ribs; trim 1 inch from the bottom of each. Refrigerate for 1 hour, stored upright in 2 inches of water in a glass.

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Creating Healthy Family Food Habits

family eatingKate Bowler from Picabo Street suggests that we all know that making sure our kids eat healthy is important, but it can also be a challenge. Picabo Street, Olympic Gold Medalist and busy mom, talked with us about the importance of helping her kids develop healthy eating habits, how she teaches her family why eating healthy is important, and her tips and tricks for even the pickiest eaters:

  • Lead by example. “I care a lot about whether or not my children have good eating habits. It’s very important to me. So, one of the first things I do is have good eating habits myself, to set the right example.” Picabo says she tries to ‘walk the walk’ and eat a balanced diet to show her kids how it’s done. Another trick? Using their favorite athletes as a good example. “I’ll ask my kids what they think one of the best athletes we’ve recently seen on TV eats, and then we actually go look up online what they say their diet is, and they go, ‘Ohh!'” Showing the kids that the athletes are eating good foods to make them stronger helps them understand how important healthy food is.
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The Surprising Benefits of Cutting Back on Sugar

sugarDon’t be alarmed—but something’s hiding in your food. From the cereal you had for breakfast to the dressing on your salad to the ketchup on your fries, an addictive substance is lurking in many foods that you’d never suspect.

Far more loathed than fat or cholesterol these days, sugar has become public enemy No. 1 when it comes to the health of America. In fact, in our effort to listen to doctors’ orders (andgovernment guidelines) to consume less fat and less cholesterol, Americans turned to “healthy” low-fat foods that were actually loaded with sugar.

In its recent report, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee cited sugar as one of our biggest health concerns and recommended that sugar make up 10 percent or fewer of our daily calorie intake. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of your daily discretionary calories comes from added sugars (about 6 teaspoons or 100 calories for women, and 9 teaspoons or 150 calories for men). But we’re eating way more of the sweet stuff than that: The CDC reports that the average American eats between 13 and 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day (around 230 calories for women, and 335 for men).

In its natural state, sugar is a relatively harmless—even necessary—carbohydrate that our bodies need to function. It’s found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy as a compound known as fructose or lactose. The problem comes when sugar is added to foods during processing for added flavor, texture, or color. This is more common than you may realize—you don’t have to be in the candy aisle to be surrounded by added sugar.

Eating too many of these empty calories has many health effects, the most obvious being major weight gain. Added sugar drives your insulin levels up, messes with your metabolism, and causes those calories to turn right into belly fat. And while losing weight is well and good, that’s just the beginning of the health benefits of cutting back on the sweet stuff. Below are 21 more legit reasons—besides fitting into skinny jeans—to tame that sweet tooth for good.

1. It can lower your blood pressure…

Obesity, one of the main consequences of excessive added sugar intake, is a major risk factorfor high blood pressure. New research shows that added dietary sugars—independent from weight gain—can also raise blood pressure. And this is no small thing: High blood pressureincreases the workload of the heart and arteries and can cause damage over time to the whole circulatory system. Eventually, this can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, kidney damage, artery disease, and other serious coronary conditions.

What’s more: People who have diets where at least 25 percent of the calories came from added sugar are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who have diets where added sugars make up less than 10 percent of the food they eat .

2. …As well as your bad cholesterol.

People who consume a lot of added sugar are more likely to have lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, higher levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and higher levels of triglycerides, or blood fats. Bad cholesterol and blood fats clog up arteries and blood vessels, leading to heart disease.

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12 Foods That Sabotage Sleep

celeryNissa Simon, AARP, shared that the foods you eat for dinner or shortly before bed can prevent you from getting some much-needed zzz’s. Here’s what to shun for up to several hours before turning in if you want to sleep better and wake rested — from tomatoes and chocolate to cheddar cheese.


Steer clear of celery just before bed. Celery and other foods with a high water content (cucumbers, watermelon, radishes and such) are natural diuretics that may cause you to wake in the middle of the night with a full bladder.


Tomatoes are rich in tyramine, an amino acid that triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, a stimulant that boosts brain activity and delays sleep. Other tyramine-rich foods include eggplant, soy sauce, red wine and aged cheeses, such as brie and Stilton.

Cheese Pizza

Foods high in fat and fried foods take longer to digest and can cause discomfort that interferes with sleep. They can also reduce the effectiveness of some medications taken at night, says Alon Avidan, a neurologist and director of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine Sleep


Although a nightcap or a glass of wine before bed may help you doze off quicker, it disrupts sleep later in the night and robs you of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Lack of REM sleep harms concentration, memory and motor skills

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Quick Post-Workout Snacks Under 150 Calories

Quick Post-Workout Snacks Under 150 CaloriesJenny Sugar from POPSUGAR shared that just as important as it is to fuel up before you exercise, don’t forget to eat a little something once your workout is complete. Your body needs a combo of protein and carbs to build and repair muscle and quickly recharge lost energy. Don’t go overboard and consume so many calories that it cancels out the ones you burned while sweating it out. Here are some ideas for post-workout snacks, all under 150 calories.

  1. Half a medium apple smeared with a mixture of two ounces of vanilla Greek yogurt, half a tablespoon of peanut butter, and a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon and topped with sliced grapes: 151 calories
  2. Four ounces low-fat cottage cheese (82 calories) mixed with three-quarters cup fresh blueberries (63 calories): 145 calories
  3. One extrasmall apple (53 calories) with one tablespoon peanut butter (94 calories): 147 calories
  4. 20 baby carrots (70 calories) with two tablespoons hummus (70 calories): 140 calories
  5. One organic mozzarella cheese stick (80 calories) and 20 grapes (68 calories): 148 calories
  6. 5.3-ounce container organic vanilla Greek yogurt (110 calories) and seven cherries (36 calories): 146 calories
  7. One small banana (89 calories) with eight raw almonds (55 calories): 144 calories
  8. Eight ounces organic low-fat chocolate milk (150 calories) or eight ounces Silk Chocolate Soymilk (120 calories)
  9. Half a Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt Bar (100 calories) and eight medium strawberries (31 calories): 131 calories
  10. Trail mix made with 18 peanuts (97 calories) and a mini box of raisins (45 calories): 142 calories
  11. Three-quarters cup shelled edamame: 150 calories


Resources to Create Change

EKH_Logo_TMAction for Healthy Kids has school breakfast grants available to Illinois schools to increase breakfast participation utilizing free breakfast and alternative models. Each school can receive funding for equipment along with technical assistance to support an alternative model like breakfast in the classroom, grab and go, or other models that move breakfast out of the cafeteria, after the bell. Grants close May 31 to allow for funding to be awarded in June for implementation in 2015-2016 school year.  Find out more information here or contact Ryan Monroe, Illinois State Coordinator, with your questions. 


Cooking a Healthy Meal