Tips and Tricks

I’m addicted to Trader Joe’s on the whole, but I recently picked something up at TJ’s and now there is a I-need-a-handful-every-time-I-pass-by-the-kitchen problem. Let me present to you the culprit:

They seem innocent enough – 15 cookies for 110 calories and low in fat. But, 15 cats (I mean cookies) can become 30 or 45 pretty easily and it seems pretty silly to waste that many calories on something that provides no nutritional value.

I think this is a common occurrence for snacks. The serving size just doesn’t equal the amount you need to be satisfied – think about pita chips, M&M’s, etc. Rather than throwing away the tub, I am controlling the behavior by:

  • No handfuls – take a small cup or plastic bag and count out 15 cookies
  • Limit myself to one serving size a day

Does anyone else have advice for a snack that is addicting? Or would you just throw the tub away?


Veggies are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and they are low in calories. However, its hard to get veggies on the go. They aren’t in vending machines, you can’t grab like an apple, and its not as easy as a handful of almonds.

omelet try 2

Here’s one solution: frittata. A frittata is an omelet that you add veggies, meats, and cheeses to, and cook on stovetop until its almost ready, but finish it up in the broiler. (125 Calories, more than 15 grams of protein, and 89% of your daily Vitamin C)

You might be wondering what’s “on-the-go” about that. Well you make it, divide it up, put in Tupperware and bring anywhere. Super Easy! Look below for proof.


  • 8 to 10 cups of any veggies your heart desires (I bought 3 cups broccoli, 2 cups spinach, 2 cups tomatoes, 3 cups mushrooms)
  • 6 egg whites, 2 eggs (yolk and white)
  • 1/3 cup low fat sharp cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like)
  • Spices- Italian medley, pepper, salt


1. On medium heat, in a skillet, add all vegetables and spices and cook until they almost done. You should be able to get away with cooking spray and a few splashes of water rather than using oil.

step 1 2. Add beaten eggs and beaten egg whites. I like to beat the egg whites separately to get more fluff.

3. Add cheese.

4. Break up mixture and stir until some eggs are cooked but there is still liquid remaining.

step 2 5. Place in broiler until the top gets golden brown (5-10 minutes).

step 3

Break it up into portions. I made this into 6 meals, but you could make them smaller. You can throw into the freezer and nuke it, or just keep in the fridge and grab with you on the go for a morning (or anytime) fix. I keep a few in the fridge at work…much healthier, satisfying fix in the afternoon than vending machine crap.

step 5Just waiting in my fridge to be grabbed. Nutrition information above is per portion (I made 6 portions).

all natural labels

Walking down the aisles of a grocery store we’re bombarded with healthy claims: “All Natural”, “May reduce cholesterol”, “20% of your daily fiber”, “No artificial flavors” – AHHH! What does all this mean? I am relieved to eat a minimal amount of packaged goods, because I think the claims would overwhelm me.  However, from a learning perspective, I love reading the labels and understanding what legitimates the health claims. For example, when a brand of margarine tries to set itself apart with “Cholesterol Free” or “100% less cholesterol than butter”, the claim is true because cholesterol can only come from animal products. So remember this next time you are thinking of paying a mark up for a margarine product over another – any margarine you buy is cholesterol free and that’s not a reason to pay more.

Not all claims are as easy to understand. “All Natural” is a tricky one for me to digest (pun intended). Compared to the pain-staking (albeit imperfect) process a product goes through to earn the label “Organic” there is little documentation needed to meet the “All Natural” label requirement. Thus far, the only requirements are that a product is minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients or added colors. Please don’t doubt that these are easy guidelines to bend…especially if you have the budget of Kraft, Dole, or Perdue. So, what’s the solution?

  1. Determine what natural means to you. For me it’s a whole food (apple, oats, almonds, honey) and if that collection of ingredients makes another food than I will accept it as natural. A “natural flavor” still goes through a chemical lab process – vanilla or almond extract doesn’t actually come from the tree it has to be processed. In short, draw your own line.
  2. Read the ingredient label – if there’s a bunch of words you can’t recognize its not natural (excluding the bacteria found in yogurt).
  3. If you do recognize all the ingredients – ask yourself why the company need to put an advertisement on the product in the first place? For Kraft’s All Natural Cheese product line the ingredients list looks fine, but what do we know about the cows that the milk (cheese) came from? Are they grass-fed? Raised with artificial hormones? The All Natural label would not address either concern – it only refers to how the cheese was processed.
  4. If it’s a dairy product (yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese) I think organic is worth the money over All Natural.
  5. If its something you buy every week, say a cereal, spend 5 minutes online one day and just see what you’re putting in your body. What are people saying about the product? What kind of sugars, wheat, and oils are being used?

I think the most important thing to remember is not whether a product is all natural but what nutritional value you are trying to get from that product. Natural, just like “low-fat” “fat-free” or “cholesterol-free” doesn’t equal healthy. For example, in place of the apple juice labeled as “All Natural” with unknown amounts of added sugars, just eat an apple! The more whole foods you eat the less you have to worry about labels and claims.

How many times have you heard someone say “I travel too much to eat healthy”, “I’m always on the go”, “I don’t get to choose what I eat”?

Try this for on-the-go: I stay in a hotel an average of 120 nights a year. That’s a lot of time spent on the road and navigating through all of the unhealthy choices. If I can do it, so can you. Here are my top do’s and don’ts when away from home.

1. Do Plan ahead. Know where you are going and what is there. This is dependent on how long you will be there and what your work hours are like, I understand that. Personally, I am not a super pleasant person if I can’t get a workout in. I always look-up the hotel gym, if it looks like it was last remodeled in 1989, then I check out the running trails around the hotel or gmap pedometer. This means getting up an hour before everyone else, but I know that I will be more alert and less cranky if I break a sweat. On the upside, its such a great way to see a new area.

2. Do bring snacks. You know what though, this doesn’t have to be a granola or power bar. You could just as easily bring small zip-lock bags with an ounce of nuts, some seeds, and dried fruit. If you don’t even feel like doing that though – many companies now make a ~200 calorie back of high energy nuts/seeds/fruits. I love the one pictured from Trader Joe’s.

trader joies handful

Or if you like the idea of customization for a packet but are short on time check out  You Bar. Its AMAZING, as you pick the ingredients the nutrition label per packet gets filled out. Here’s mine:

nutrition label for you bars

You’ll pay about$2 per pack. I don’t have anything against granola bars or power bars, but I prefer homemade packets. I also carry fruit in computer bag – very easy to take from a hotel in the morning.

The key point – if you don’t bring snacks, when you go out for the inevitable team dinner, you will eat a lot. You will attack the bread, along with an appetizer, a huge portion of a main course, and maybe dessert. Keep your blood sugar in check with your snacks, and then dinner will not be a disaster.

4. Don’t be a follower.  Don’t eat or drink something just because everyone else does. Wine is a passion for me, but in moderation. I reserve my wine drinking for nights with good friends. On a night out with clients, I sip on sparkling water. Similarly, if I treated every time I went to a restaurant as a trip to a restaurant, I would be fat. Instead I tend to look at company dinners as a place to find a meal. I don’t need to eat something unique and amazing. I mean seriously- its some random Tuesday night in a random city…before I read the menu I know I am looking for a lean protein with vegetables. PERIOD. I don’t get distracted by all the additional information. As soon as I hit a word like cream, potato, breaded, I stop reading and move on.

4. Do Be Picky. Again, counter-intuitive from what you always hear. But, shhh, here’s a secret, sometimes when I am traveling, I tell my clients I am a vegetarian.  I’m much closer to a flexitarian, but it helps to get the message across that fried chicken is not what I will be eating for lunch. Seriously, people expect you to conform when you are traveling and most meals are ordered for the group. By explaining specific dietary “constraints” no one gets offended when I am searching for a salad. I mean what would someone say to me, “you have to eat this fried animal?” I’ve used other crazy excuses like “lactose-intolerant, might be allergic to gluten, sorry that’s not kosher!”

I travel more than the average person and I know the airport is a likely place for a me to eat more than I need. I know it can’t be just me or there wouldn’t be a million temptations around – salty, sweet, cold, hot, its all there.

But, I’d rather save my splurges on a good bottle of wine and dinner with friends than on some mindless munching in the terminal. Here are some tips to avoid disaster:

  1. Come hungry BUT prepared– I know that seems counter-intuitive from what you always read. Most people say to eat a healthy meal at home in order to avoid airport food. My advice is to bring a healthy meal to the airport. Or find a place that you know has healthy stuff. Business requires me to fly out of Newark (EWR) frequently and I have a “safe” place at each terminal! Truth is, waiting for a flight leaves me idle, and idle is not something I’m good at, so I tend to grab stuff to mindlessly eat while flipping through a junky magazine. Since I know that’s going to happen, I come hungry BUT prepared that way I’m just eating a normal meal at an abnormal location. Ok, that cuts out 30 minutes of the idle time.
  2. Keep your mouth busy – If you still feel the need to mindlessly snack get some gum or suckers.
  3. An Apple a Day – It’s hard to get healthy food at the airport, but you have to admit that even an airport in the deep south will have apples. When you learn that your flight is delayed an additional hour instead of comforting yourself with ice cream you can munch on that granny smith!
  4. Avoid bags of “healthy food”– Trail Mix is nutritious right? Or that box of Wheat Thins that says “Reduced Fat”? Take a closer look at the portions size and do some math. One of those Trail Mix bags has 3.5 servings of 180 calories, that’s ~630 calories!

Hope that helps! What works for you?

Cooking for one combined with an “on-the-go” lifestyle makes eating healthfully and economically challenging. Here’s the simple approach I take:

Step 1: Take a few days at a time, look at your calendar, and determine what meals you will eat at home

meal count chart

In the chart above, I see that I need:

  • breakfast food
  • 3 portions of a healthful meal (2 dinner and 1 lunch)
  • Something that is easy to assemble to make another lunch and snacks

For the healthful meal, I try to keep it easy…time and ingredient wise. I have tons of recipes bookmarked in my favorites, so I tend to scan through and see what appeals to me. I just took a look and fajitas sound great! For breakfast, I alternate between whole grain bread with almond butter and a yogurt parfait. My favorite snack is hummus, salsa, and veggies, and to make it a lunch I add whole grain flatbread. EASY!

Step 2: Make a shopping list of what to buy (some items you will already have at home)

  • Chicken Breast (or portabella mushrooms to keep it vegetarian)
  • Peppers (red, green, yellow)
  • Vidalia Onion
  • Mexican Spice Pack
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce (use leaves as the shell instead of tortilla wrap)
  • Hummus (I heart SABRA Original Hummus)
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Almond butter
  • Apple
  • Nectarines
  • Whole wheat bread

TOTAL COST: #35.00

Hummus with Veggies (~190), Chicken and Veggie Fajitas with Lettuce Shell (~360)

Hummus with Veggies (~190 cal), Chicken and Veggie Fajitas with Lettuce Shell (~360 cal)

Nutrition Labels are super easy to create on Calorie Count.