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Have you ever eaten a large meal that was heavy on carbs but low in fiber, fat and protein? Even though you consumed a lot of calories, do you remember feeling hungry just a short while after that meal?

Achieving satiety, aka a feeling of fullness after eating, is critical for staying on track with a healthy weight management plan. If your meals or snacks leave you feeling unsatisfied or hungry shortly afterward, you will be more likely to add unnecessary calories to your diet – which can be a major reason why you have difficulty achieving or maintaining a healthier weight.

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“A party without cake is just a meeting.” – Julia Child

I have to say that I agree with the dear, late Ms. Child. Cake matters! Cake tastes good. Who doesn’t like cake?

However, cake is traditionally made with a whole lot of sugar, as are other desserts such as cookies, candy, pies and pastries. Until the introduction of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in the US in 1998, it was nearly impossible to successfully make my favorite dessert recipes with significantly less, or no added sugar.

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You wake up, look in the mirror and realize you’ve gained a few pounds. You tell yourself, “Time to cut back! This time I really mean it!” So, maybe you skip breakfast, eat a salad for lunch and cook a mix of veggies and chicken for dinner, nibbling on protein bars and sipping smoothies during the day. Within a few days, you may find yourself in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips.

Sound familiar? For so many dieters, the cycle repeats.

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Note: February is American Heart Month

Sugar in a variety of forms has been a part of our diet for over 2,000 years. It’s hard to believe that an ingredient which plays a number of important functions in food, went from a luxury to a public enemy when eaten in excess. Although sugar can provide more than just sweetness to our foods, such as achieving desired texture, moistness, and other important functions; there is still a need for moderation.

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It’s that time of year again. Groundhog Day.

And, oh yes. The “Big Game.” A football game that is watched by more than 100 million fans around the world. Fans gather far and wide to watch their favorite teams play, while as spectators, many of us will consume way too many calories from football party food and drinks.

You probably know the drill. It happens every year: a fun-filled sports event marked by a day of mindlessly noshing way too much, with eyes glued to a big screen TV.

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Yes, it’s that time of year again when your eyes are likely on the lookout for tips to trim pounds and to control your hunger and appetite. You may also catch come-on headlines for articles about how to control sugar cravings and sweet cravings. Be on the alert, within these reads you may spot verbiage that falsely accuses low-calorie sweeteners of causing hunger, increased appetite and/or cravings.

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As you read this, it’s a good bet that within the last few weeks you have been reading all about how to overhaul your diet in 2018. New Year’s resolutions about changes in eating seem to have become part of the modern rituals of the beginning of a new year.

This year I want to teach you something that may help you not only lose a few pounds, but also help you acquire a skill that I believe has been lost in the middle of the journey. This “lost skill” is part of the problem that got some of us into trouble with our day to day eating habits. I would like to teach you the art of menu planning, which can help you enjoy more family time and master a skill that you can pass on to the next generation.

Get organized – Planning for what you will be eating during the week will take you to new heights of organization in your household. Nothing compares to the joy your family will experience when they enter your kitchen and smell the aromas of a home cooked meal – it is like love at first sight. Spend a few minutes over the weekend or in the morning outlining your meals for the next week or day. Think about ways you can make a family favorite a little better for you; such as replacing full fat ingredients or reducing added sugars. So, let’s get to creating some meals for the week while considering these time management tips:

  • Organize your kitchen.
  • Assemble all ingredients before cooking.
  • Learn the art of multitasking. For example, while something is baking or cooking, make a side dish, a salad, or a beverage.
  • Clean up as you go.
  • Ask for help from your family members. Outsource chores like setting or clearing the table.
  • Prepare a large quantity or double the recipe at one time and freeze some for later.
  • Evaluate the use of convenience foods for when you are pressed for time.

To get you started, I have created a one-week meal plan, which includes many of my family’s favorite meals; see below. Just be sure to be mindful of portion sizes.

Creating a meal – Putting a meal together may be a challenge for some of you, so here are some tips to help you put a meal on the table:

  • Get ideas from your family members. They will be happy to share their favorite meals or have fun picking recipe ideas from magazines, cookbooks or online websites such as the Foodnetwork.com or Splenda.com.
  • Preparing a balanced meal should include a minimum of three different food groups. For example, a grilled cheese with tomato soup includes foods from the grain group (bread), the dairy food group (cheese), and vegetable group (tomato soup).
  • Want to make healthier meals? Start by utilizing healthier cooking methods – baking, broiling and grilling use less fat than frying. Swap ingredients to cut the calories, but not the flavor. You can significantly cut calories from sugar by replacing it with a low-calorie sweetener such as one of my new favorites: SPLENDA® Naturals Stevia Sweetener. This product provides a delicious sweet taste, without artificial ingredients, an aftertaste, or any calories.
  • Keep it simple. A main dish, a side dish filled with veggies, and a small beverage is all you need. A dinner could be as simple as spaghetti with meatballs, a green salad, and a glass of low-fat milk. Just pick foods from three different food groups when creating a meal; and from two different groups for your snacks.

Smart shopping – Start by keeping a running list of the staple pantry items you are missing along with the ingredients needed for the weekly meals you will be preparing. I prefer writing the grocery list on my phone notes as I often forget the pinned grocery list on the refrigerator. Keep your list wherever you prefer, and modify it as needed.

Eat meals together – The benefits of sitting down with your loved ones for a meal are priceless. Take your time eating and enjoy each other’s company.

Track your progress – As you develop weekly meal plans keep them in a notebook or in a computer folder so that they are handy, and so that you can refer to them the next time you plan your week. Next month you may just need to make a few meal modifications based on seasonality or family requests. Also, if you would like to track your weight loss progress, do your menu planning, and keep your menus at a certain calorie level, I recommend using one of my favorite apps – myfitnesspal.com

Small steps – You don’t have to sprint to win the race; with small steps you too can master the art of meal planning. A little planning and with a mighty commitment, you and your family will be on the path to improved eating together.

Sample Meal Plan for Menu Planning (view PDF)

 

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