Friday, June 26, 2009

Dieting Without Sauces: A Great Way to Lose Weight!

Sauces, salad dressing, dips, and condiment intake
Many Americans don’t appreciate real food (e.g. food in its natural form). We not only super-size our meals but also put
sauces and condiments on everything.

* Note

  • Some sauces, salad dressings, dips and condiments are good to use, such as salsa; marinara sauce; low-sodium, no-wheat soy sauce; olive oil; Balsamic vinegar; low-fat salad dressing; mustard; and horseradish.

* Sauces, Salad Dressing, Dips, and Condiment Rules
  • Try to eat your foods plain—it’s much better for you.
  • If you are going to use sauces, salad dressing, dips, and condiments, use them in moderation, and choose ones that have some nutritional value.
  • Choose items that have minimal calories and ingredients.
  • Be extremely selective.
  • Watch out for sauces and dips made at restaurants and those you buy at the grocery store. Most are packed full of fat, flour, sugar, sodium, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients.
  • You can find better-quality products at some health food stores—read labels.
If you need the sauces, salad dressing, dips, and condiment, here are some much better choices (list above), however, if you want to lose weight and gain health––LESS IS BETTER!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Food Facts: Asparagus

Vegetables should be the main part of your diet due to their health-promoting value–nutrients that vegetables contain!  

Just like fruit, vegetables should be included every day because they not only provide energy and fiber, but they contain many water-soluble vitamins like: vitamin C and the B vitamins. Fruits (and vegetables) provide more of these critical nutrients than any other type of food. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D and E), which are bodies can store for future use, water-soluble vitamins are needed every day for our bodies to function optimally! 

Vegetables are the most nutrient-rich foods, (provide the most vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients for the least amount of calories), so they are key if you want to lose weight and keep it off!  

Vegetables come in many sizes, shapes and from different parts of the plant.
  • leaves:  spinach and lettuce
  • roots: carrots and beets 
  • stalks:  celery and fennel 
  • tubers:  potatoes and sweet potatoes 
  • inflorescents: flowering vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower 
  • bulbs:  garlic and onions 

That being said, lets talk about asparagus
Asparagus is often referred to as the "aristocrat of vegetables" because at the time of ancient Rome, fleets of ships were sent to gather asparagus for the emperors. 

Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin essential for proper cellular division and DNA synthesis as well as an essential nutrient for healthy cardiovascular system. Asparagus also provides health-promoting carotenoid phytonutrients, such as betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which function as powerful antioxidants that protect cells against the oxidative damage causes by free radicals. 

Asparagus promotes digestive health, heart health, fetal health, bone health as well as energy production. It is interesting to not that asparagus acts as a natural diuretic due to its mineral profile:  low in sodium, high in potassium (the opposite of the American diet)  combined with the amino acid asparagine.  

To maintain optimal health, it is recommended that you eat 3-4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables per day!  But don't overcook your vegetables–al dente is best!  

When choosing fruits and vegetables, go for colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and even white. Each color is a pigment that signifies the presence of certain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Food Facts: the Peach

Fruits are flavorful, versatile, and full of health-promoting nutrients. We need fruit in our diet every day because they not only provide energy and fiber, but they contain many water-soluble vitamins like:  vitamin C and the B vitamins. Fruits (and vegetables) provide more of these critical nutrients than any other type of food. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D and E), which are bodies can store for future use, water-soluble vitamins are needed every day for our bodies to function optimally!  Fruits are rich in health-promoting phytonutrients (plant nutrients), which act as powerful antioxidants!  

A new season has arrived (summer) and we can now add new fruits to our daily diet that are delicious, healthy and will help us with our weight-loss goals. 

Peaches (Prunus persica) and nectarines (P. persica var. nectarina) share their origins in the Orient. Peach trees were considered the most sacred plant in the Taoist religion. Even today, peaches are served at Chinese birthday celebrations as a symbol of hope and longevity. Peaches eventually made their way to Persia, then Europe, where they were considered a rare treat.

The Facts: Botanically, peaches and nectarines differ by only one recessive gene, the one responsible for--you guessed it--fuzz. However, today's peaches have little of the fuzz you may remember from your youth. It's either been bred into ...

A peach and a nectarine are very similar. Genetically, there is not much difference between the two. The main difference is that a peach has fuzz on its skin while a nectarine does not.

Peaches and nectarines are low in calories and contain no fat, cholesterol, or
sodium.  They are also rated low on the glycemic index (42). Peaches and nectarines are a good source of fiber, Vitamin A, Niacin, Potassium and vitamin C. A medium size peach or nectarine contain around 60 to 70 cals, 2g protein, 15-17g carbs, 0g fat, and 2-3g fiber.

To maintain optimal health, it is recommended that you eat 3-4 servings of fruit per day–so grab a peach or nectarine (or a few) today!  

When choosing fruits and vegetables, go for colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and even white. Each color is a pigment that signifies the presence of certain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"diet villain" ALERT Part Two: SHOOGA (artificial sweeteners)

SHOOGA: Using too much sugar, and too many sugar derivatives, and sugar substitutes (artificial sweeteners)

"Diet Villain" ALERT: SHOOGA--Part Two: Sugar Substitutes
Click here to learn about sugar PART ONE: Sugar and sugar derivatives

Sugar substitutes (artificial sweeteners)
What are artificial sweeteners? (

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals or natural compounds that offer the sweetness of sugar without as many calories. Because the substitutes are much sweeter than sugar, it takes a much smaller quantity to create the same sweetness. Products made with artificial sweeteners have a much lower calorie count than do those made with sugar. Artificial sweeteners are often used as part of a weight-loss plan or as a means to control weight gain.

Commonly Used
#1. Aspartame:
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener (the white powder in the little blue packets) commonly used in “diet foods” like soft drinks, drink mixes, gelatin desserts, low calorie frozen desserts, etc. Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), is a chemical combination of two amino acids and methanol, and has recently been linked to cancer and neurological problems.

#2. Saccharin:
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener found in “diet” products, soft drinks, sugar packets, and fountain drinks at restaurants. In animal studies saccharin has caused cancer of the bladder, uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels and other organs. In 1977 the FDA wanted to ban saccharin because of these animal studies, but congress intervened and permitted its use as long as there was a warning label. In 2000 saccharin was removed from the list of cancer causing chemicals and Congress passed a law removing the warning label. As a result, use of saccharin in soft drinks and other foods will likely increase, and so will the incidence of cancer.

#3. Splenda:
Splenda is the trade name for sucralose, a synthetic compound stumbled upon in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation. It is true that the Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar) — except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms.

According to Women to Women: A great website full of information on this topic
"Evidence that there are side effects of Splenda is accumulating little by little. Sucralose has been implicated as a possible migraine trigger, for example. Self-reported adverse reactions to Splenda or sucralose collected by the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center include skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, swelling, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain. These show up at one end of the spectrum — in the people who have an allergy or sensitivity to the sucralose molecule. But no one can say to what degree consuming Splenda affects the rest of us, and there are no long-term studies in humans with large numbers of subjects to say one way or the other if it’s safe for everyone."
#4. Stevia:
Stevia (STEE-vee-uh) is a South American shrub whose leaves have been used for centuries by native peoples in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten their yerba mate and other stimulant beverages.

Stevioside, the main ingredient in stevia (the two terms are often used interchangeably), is virtually calorie-free and hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar. “So it appeals to many people as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners,” says Mark Blumenthal of the pro-herb American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas.

Cancer. In the laboratory, steviol can be converted into a mutagenic compound, which may promote cancer by causing mutations in the cells’ genetic material (DNA). “We don’t know if the conversion of stevioside to steviol to a mutagen happens in humans,” says Huxtable. “It’s probably a minor issue, but it clearly needs to be resolved.” Read more from Nutrition Action

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that offer the sweet flavor of sugar without the calories. There is much debate on their safety and MY DIVA DIET does not recommend them.

* Notes
The long-term harmful effects of some artificial sweeteners are documented. However, as new ones come on the market, their effects will remain unknown until the harm is already done.
  • According to some researchers, nutritionists, and diabetes experts, artificial sweeteners may have carcinogenic properties and be linked to increased risk of tumors, seizure disorders, chronic headaches, and hyperactivity in children.
* Sugar Substitutes Rule
  • To become genuinely healthy and fit you should avoid unnecessary sugar and artificial sweeteners while developing a taste for foods and liquids in their natural forms.
DON'T LEAVE YOUR HEALTH TO CHANCE -- skip the artificial sweeteners and use fruit, honey, or agave nectar instead!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weight-Loss Recipe: DIVA Beet and Chicken Salad

Diva Reduction Recipes
“Fit Meals in Minutes”
“Combining quick and convenient with sound nutrition!”

Diva Beet and Chicken Salad
1 beet, cooked, cooled and chopped
3 oz. chicken breast (from a rotisserie chicken), chopped or shredded
2 cups organic spring mix salad
1/3 cup carrots, shredded
1/3 cup peas, cooked and cooled
1 tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Preparation: Place beet in small saucepan and boil for about 20 minutes or until al dente. Set aside and let cool slightly. While the beet is cooking, carve out the breast from your rotisserie chicken, cut into small pieces and set aside. Mix together spring mix, carrots, peas, and tomatoes. Add the beet and chicken (cold or warm). Toss with Balsamic vi

Makes 1 Serving
Nutritional Value: 
  • 360 calories
  • 33.2 g protein
  • 31.5 g carbs 
  • 9.5 g fat 
  • 8.3 g fiber
  • 355 mg sodium

NOTES: If you are a vegetarian or vegan, just skip the chicken! Try adding eggplant OR fresh, unsalted almonds instead!  

Poultry (lean chicken and turkey) should be organically (grass-fed) raised and always choose the lean pieces, without the skin!  Chicken is a great source of protein, niacin, B vitamins and other nutrients.  Chicken promotes optimal health, energy production, heart health, and bone health.  

Beets are high in nutrients, low in calories, and contain almost 4 grams of fiber in 1 cup!  They contain phytonutrient pigments that provide powerful antioxidant protection.  Beets are also rich in folate, which is a B vitamin that is important for a healthy heart and essential for normal growth tissue.  

This is a great summer dish, easy to make and great for weight loss!  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"diet villain" ALERT: SHOOGA (sugar)

SHOOGA: Using too much sugar, and too many sugar derivatives, and sugar substitutes

"Diet Villain" ALERT: SHOOGA--PART ONE: Sugar and sugar derivatives - part two will be "sugar substitutes"

Overconsumption of sugar is a rapidly growing problem in America today. The Center for Science in the Public Interest notes that we eat 20% more sugar now than in 1986. The average American eats twenty teaspoons of added sugar a day, aside from natural forms of sugar like lactose in milk and fructose in fruit. With so much sugar being consumed, it’s no wonder we face growing problems with obesity, diabetes, and other health issues.

Sugar primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beets and goes through a refining process. Table sugar (granulated white sugar), which is stripped of all vitamins, minerals, fiber, amino acids and trace elements during the refining process, is pure sucrose. Sugar can affect health in a myriad of ways–suppress the immune system, cause free radical formation in the bloodstream, produce a significant rise in triglycerides and increase in total cholesterol, cause hypoglycemia, kidney damage, produce an acidic stomach, overstress the pancreas, increase risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, increase the amount of fat in the liver, cause hormonal imbalance, increase in the body’s fluid retention, lead to many mineral deficiencies, speed up aging, cause headaches, including migraines, promotes tooth decay and periodontal disease. Sugar also contributes to hyperactivity, anxiety and depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, weight gain and obesity. And this is the abbreviated list.

Dietary sugar is primarily comprised of refined sugar cane or sugar beet. Table sugar (granulated white sugar) is pure sucrose and is stripped of all vitamins, minerals, fiber, amino acids, and trace elements during the refinement process.

* Notes
  • One level teaspoon of table sugar contains 15 empty calories, which means that these calories have little, if any, nutritional value.
  • Beyond the sugar we add to our coffee or tea, we consume sugar in a myriad of packaged foods where its content is disguised by other names, like “high fructose corn syrup”, which can cause fat gain and health problems.
  • Read the ingredients panel on just some of the hundreds of cereals currently on the market today. See my blog "Food Facts: Cereal"
  • Just because you don’t use table sugar or eat high-sugar cereals doesn’t mean you are avoiding sugar in your diet. Just read the labels on other packaged, man-made food products.
  • Be aware of other sources of sugar, like molasses, syrup, jams, etc.
* Total Daily Sugar Intake Rules
  • Avoid eating or adding table sugar to your food.
  • Since there is plenty of sugar occurring naturally in some foods (e.g. dairy products, fruits, vegetables), try to keep your extra sugar intake to no more than 50 grams per day.
  • Be very selective in your extra sugar sources.
  • If you need sweet, use honey (1 Tbsp. = 17 g) or agave nectar (1 Tbsp. = 8.2 g).
  • Begin to read labels on packaged foods—you will be truly amazed at how many products contain sugar and/or sugar derivatives--IT IS EVERYWHERE
  • Train your taste buds to start enjoying the natural tastes of whole food and liquids, and you will reap the rewards of a leaner body, better health, and a more vibrant look. And, you will avoid many potential health issues.
Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup:
Fructose is one of three simple blood sugars that are primarily found in honey, fruits, and some vegetables. While fructose is a very important source of energy for many body processes, over-consumption can overwhelm the body’s ability to process it, causing the excess to be converted to fats in the bloodstream (triglycerides). The presence of excess triglycerides has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, appetite de-regulation (feelings of dissatisfaction or hunger which may lead to weight gain), and potential insulin resistance (which leads to the onset of type II diabetes).

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is pure corn syrup (100% glucose–another simple sugar) added to glucose, which has undergone a process that increases the amount of fructose in the final product. There are different grades of HFCS, each primarily for a different purpose.
• HFCS 90: 90% fructose, 10% glucose (used in baked goods),
• HFCS 55: 55% fructose, 45% glucose (used in soft drinks), and
• HFCS 42: 42% fructose, 58% glucose (used in sports drinks).

If you are serious about losing weight and gaining (re-gaining) your health, sugar is one "diet villain" you need to be aware of and conquer! It is is MOST man-made, packaged, and processed foods. So save the sugar for those rare times you want to "cheat on your diet"!

Stay tuned for Diet Villain ALLERT -- PART TWO: "sugar substitutes"

Friday, June 5, 2009

Food Facts: Cereal

Cereal is a commonly consumed food item, however, did you know that most cereal contain sugar, salt, flour (usually white or wheat), corn starch, and artificial ingredients.  So, before you trust Tony the Tiger with your dietary advice and that of your children, you better think twice!  In fact, take a look at some of the cereal you may have in your cubboard, and just count then number of ingredients–if there contain more than five then it is probably not a good choice! There are a few exceptions like cereal found at Food For Life.  Read more at the end of this blog!   

Diva Reduction Safe Cereal List 
Here is a list of cereals (hot and cold) MY DIVA DIET endorses...they:
  • Are all gluten-free.
  • Have no trans fats, saturated fat, or cholesterol.
  • Are very low in or have no preservatives or additives.
  • Contain less than 2 grams of sugar.
  • Are very low in or have no sodium at all.
  • Are made from the whole grain–most are not from processed grains.
  • Are not made from white or wheat flour.
  • Are not made from any flour at all.

#1 -- Arrowhead Mills Organic Steel Cut Oats - Organic, Wheat-Free, Vegetarian  -- ¼ cup = 160 calories; 6 g protein; 27 g carbs; 3 g fat; 8 g fiber; 0 mg sodium; 0 g sugar

#2 -- Old Fashioned Quaker Oats - 100% Natural -- ½ cup dry = 150 calories; 5 g protein; 27 g carbs; 3 g fat; 4 g fiber; 0 mg sodium; 1 g sugar

#3-- Ancient Harvest Quinoa - Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Organic -- ¼ cup dry = 166 calories; 
5 g protein; 30 g carbs; 3 g fat; 3 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 1 g sugar

#4-- Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes - Organic, Gluten Free Kosher -- .33 cup = 134 calories; 4 g protein; 23 g carbs; 0 g fat; 2.6 g fiber; 4 mg sodium; 1 g sugar

#5-- Lundberg Cream of Rice Cereal - Gluten Free, Organic, Vegan -- ¼ cup dry = ½ cup cooked = 150 calories; 3 g protein; 32 g carbs; 1.5 g fat; 3 g fiber; 0 mg sodium; 0 g sugar

#6-- Pocono Cream of Buckwheat - Wheat & Gluten Free, Organic -- .25 cup = 140 calories; 2 g protein; 36 g carbs; 0 g fat; 1 g fiber; 0 mg sodium; 0 g sugar

#7 -- Nu-World Foods Amaranth Berry Delicious Gluten Free, Milk-Free, Corn-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Kosher, Organic -- 1 cup = 86 calories; 4 g protein; 18 g carbs; 1 g fat; 3 g fiber; 3 mg sodium; 1 g sugar

#8 -- Erewhon Organic Crispy Brown Rice – Gluten-Free, Organic, Kosher -- 1 cup = 110 calories; 2 g protein; 25 g carbs; 0.5 g fat; 0 g fiber; 160 mg sodium; 2 g sugar

Paw Guide for Choosing Healthy Cereals
It is always best to choose cereals that:
  • Have 5 ingredients or less
  • Contain no trans fats, cholesterol, or saturated fats
  • Contain no preservatives or additives
  • Contain no white flour
  • Are gluten-free (with some exceptions like oats and rye)
  • Are made from the whole grain
One serving size should:
  • Have less than 5 grams of sugar
  • Have less than 50 grams of sodium
  • Have 3 to 10 grams of fiber or more

You can find some great cereal that is not gluten free at Food For Life, and is great for when you are on a Maintenance Plan and are not gluten intolerant (celiac disease)!  Their cereals contain no flour, no refined sugar, no preservatives, no fat or shortening, no cholesterol, and no artificial colors or flavors.  Ezekiel 4:9® Sprouted Whole Grain Cereals are made from freshly sprouted certified organically grown whole grains and legumes. This natural combination provides unequalled nutrition as a complete protein.

Food for Life products are made with filtered water and are kosher-certified. Their products are made with whole grains,  sprouted grains, and they are low glycemic, high in fiber, and they do offer gluten-, wheat-, and yeast-free foods.  They include cereal, breads, tortillas, and more!  The best part is you will find food items based on scripture, Genesis 1:29 and Ezekiel 4:9!  And they are in your local supermarket!  

To learn more about gluten free, you can read my blog, Gluten Free: How it Can Help You Lose Weight.

Have a great weekend!