of sun, sand and fun. In my early
twenties, vacation usually involved guzzling fruity mixed drinks under the sweltering
sun while stuffing myself with fried food from the buffet. And
exercise? Umm…does doggie paddling ten
feet to the pool bar count? And sure, it’s fun while it lasts but there
is nothing more annoying (or defeating) than returning home from vacation heavier,
craving junk food and foggy. After all,
what’s the point of working so hard before
vacation to get in shape just to blow it when you finally get there? Why not live
it up while maintaining your health goals?
Now that I’m a little older, I’ve learned how to have fun
without packing on extra weight and feeling as though I need another vacation.
Here’s how to stay fit without sacrificing the fun on your
next vacation. Be
honest with yourself and your goals!
Unless you’re going away to a spa or fitness retreat, your goal
should never be to lose weight while on vacation. Think about it…how many people really
lose weight while veering from their everyday routine? Instead of focusing
on losing weight and progressing, shift your mind set towards maintaining
your body and goals. Success is
coming home from vacation close to the way you went in! Now you just have to pick up right where
you left off.
Be prepared. Staying
fit on vacation begins before you
even get there. To prevent cravings
and bingeing, it’s important to eat frequent, balanced meals every three
to four hours throughout the day. Pack balanced, portable options like protein
bars, protein powder, dried fruit, nuts, and turkey jerky to munch on in
between meals or whenever it’s just not possible to sit down to eat. The goal is to prevent hunger and
over-eating. And always pack more than you think you
need; I find I go through these snacks fast while on vacation!
your plate with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Start with a hearty portion of lean
protein (think chicken, seafood, pork) and then add a small portion of
carbohydrates. More than likely,
there will be plenty of fat hidden in the meal so no need to add more.
Load up on H20. This
one’s obvious; particularly, if you drink alcohol. Being hung over or bloated on vacation
is never a good idea!
Take advantage of your surroundings. Try a new activity like yoga on the
beach, snorkeling, shopping the markets or even a brisk walk in the sand
(the unstable terrain engages all of your balancing muscles and helps you
burn more fat). The key is to get moving and have fun
while doing it.
Get back on track. It’s
fine to indulge here and there, especially while on vacation. The key to
success? Get right back on track at your next opportunity with a balanced
meal to re-stabilize blood sugar and feel your best!
See? Staying on track while away from your everyday routine doesn’t
have to be difficult. So relax, already!
Real life will be waiting for you when you get back.
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
How much sugar is
recommended, and how much do most Americans usually get?
The bigger question is how much carbohydrates do Americans consume? And the answer is too many. You see, all carbohydrates (even healthy ones
like fruit, oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables, etc…) are broken down by our
digestive system into glucose (sugar).
Since excess carbohydrate intake is largely to blame for our society’s increase
in obesity, the real question is how many carbohydrates should you consume per
meal to prevent the negative results of excess sugar intake?
The answer is blood sugar stabilization.
Let’s begin by explaining blood sugar’s role in your body. You see, glucose (or sugar) in your
bloodstream is responsible for fueling your nervous system and creates the bulk
of your body’s energy source: ATP, the
same energy required for every movement you make.
By stabilizing blood sugar levels with the right nutrition,
you create balance (homeostasis) within your body. Your body then releases what it doesn’t need
like stored body fat, toxins and excess sodium and protects your lean muscle
mass to ignite your metabolism.
Here’s how it works. Whenever you over-eat or indulge in a
carbohydrate-heavy meal, your blood sugar spikes (above 120 mg/ dl) and your
body stores fat. Just the opposite
happens whenever you skip a meal, eliminating the carbohydrates and calories
that your body needs to thrive or
work out on an empty stomach. Blood
sugar levels drop too low (below 80 mg / dl) and your body is forced to burn
lean muscle mass for fuel in place of body fat.
This loss of lean muscle slows your metabolism and makes it nearly
impossible to reach your goals.
The fact is that though many people eat “healthy,” they fail
to eat “correctly” and inadvertently spike and crash their blood sugar levels
all day long!
Stabilizing your blood sugar (keeping levels between 80 and
120 mg/ dl throughout the day) will naturally help you look and feel your best. You’ll optimize your workouts by giving your
body the fuel it needs. You’ll burn
body fat, protect and increase lean muscle mass, eliminate sugar (carbohydrate)
cravings, boost your energy and continually break through stubborn plateaus. In short, stabilizing your blood sugar will
help you to achieve your goals permanently!
The 3 Factors to
Stabilize Your Blood Sugar:
So how many carbohydrates should you have
per meal? This varies per individual,
but overall a balanced meal of 35% protein, 35% carbohydrates and 30% fat will
keep your blood sugar stable and give your body the right dosage of sugar to
achieve optimum results.
- Meal Intervals –
Your body is a “refuel as it goes” machine and needs to be fed
consistently! Eat one hour within
waking (before exercise) to kick start your metabolism and then every 3 to
4 hours throughout the day until bedtime. Your last meal should fall
within one hour of going to bed to help prepare your body for
fasting. Frequent meals will keep
blood sugar levels steady and help to prevent you from overeating and
spiking blood sugar or skipping a meal and causing blood sugar to drop too
- Nutrient Ratios -
Each meal should have a balance of complete protein (animal or soy
protein), with a small amount of healthy fat and a small amount of
carbohydrates to keep blood sugar levels stable. It is critical to get the correct
nutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) in every meal.
- Meal Size - Your
body can only process a certain amount of food at once and eating smaller
meals every few hours will keep blood sugar levels steady. Each meal
should be roughly the same size (same amount of calories).
What are the
health risks of too much sugar or the equivalent?
Anytime your blood sugar spikes above 120 mg/dl, your pancreas over
releases the hormone insulin. When this
happens your body shifts into fat storing mode.
So the more blood sugar spikes you have, the more fat you store. This can lead to an onslaught of health challenges
including obesity, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
Let’s discuss Type 2 Diabetes. Type
2 Diabetes has a genetic component to it, but the main trigger of the onset of
this medical challenge is years of over consuming carbohydrates and spiking
blood sugar levels. Eventually the cells
that respond to insulin (your hormone that lowers your blood sugar) become
insulin resistance and this causes your blood sugar to stay elevated, leading
to Type 2 Diabetes.
The solution is to start
stabilizing your blood sugar now and you can most likely prevent the disease
and if you already have Type 2 Diabetes, start following the 3 principles above
to get your blood sugar levels back in balance.
Mark Macdonald- Creator of the Venice Nutrition System, MonaVie Nutrition and Fitness Expert and Author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence
As January comes to an end, unfortunately so do our lofty
New Year resolutions. Why is it so hard
to make Near Year resolutions stick? As
a Certified Nutrition Coach with Venice Nutrition for ten years, I have learned
that lasting resolutions stem from real determination, preparation and most
importantly, being honest with yourself.
Want to make it happen for real this year? Keep reading!
Before setting any goals for 2013, ask yourself:
Am I being realistic?
One of the most common mistakes we’ve all been guilty of is creating an
unrealistic goal that simply won’t work with our lifestyle. For example, do you consistently work 70
hours a week and take care of a family?
Perhaps, the goal of cardio for one hour a day, six days a week just won’t
work for you and setting a goal that unrealistic will only lead to
Take a moment to truly evaluate your goals, lifestyle, job,
and family obligations. Look at your
calendar and schedule in a realistic exercise routine that you can adhere to,
such as cardio 4 to 5 days per week for 45 minutes. And remember to get creative with your
solutions. Perhaps getting dressed and
driving to the gym every one of those days will cut into your actual work out
time. Instead, invest in a fun workout
tape for home or take a brisk power walk in your neighborhood. Like any goal in life, you want to make sure
that it is realistic, do-able, and works with (not against) your current
Of course, it’s important to aim high and stretch outside of
your comfort zone to achieve anything important in life….. and it’s just as
important to know yourself! For
example, if you know that chocolate is your absolute weakness, avoid making the
mistake of setting a “no chocolate ever again” policy. Better yet, allow yourself to have your
favorite indulgence once or twice a week.
Being honest with yourself and what’s important to you keeps you happy
and leads to a “balanced” lifestyle…..and that eventually leads to achieving
your goals permanently!
Know the difference between Short Term and Long Term Goals (and
make sure to set both).
“I’m going to lose 50 pounds!” Sound familiar? Sound daunting? That’s because it is! In fact, if this is the type of goal you have
set for yourself in the past without success then you know just how daunting
and unattainable a goal like that can seem.
This is an example of a Long Term Goal and without Short Term Goals to
make it happen, Long Term Goals can seem next to impossible. So what’s the solution? Create realistic and small Short Term Goals
along with your ultimate Long Term Goals.
Both are critical to your success.
Short Term Goals are daily, attainable goals that you should
set for yourself on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Because they are relatively small and
realistic changes, these goals are easy to achieve. This sense of achievement leads to daily
healthy habits and a huge source of motivation (“Yes! I did it!”). Best of all?
Continually achieving your Short Term Goals leads you to finally reach
your Long Term Goals (such as reaching your ideal weight or gaining the
endurance and stamina to run a marathon for example). Need some ideas on how to set your own Short
and Long Term Goals? Here’s a great example:
Let’s say Jim, a member of Venice Nutrition, is already
stabilizing his blood sugar by eating balanced meals and working out
regularly. His Long Term goal is to lose
45 pounds and reduce his blood pressure with the intention of getting off of
his blood pressure medication permanently.
Here’s some examples of Short Term Goals he could set for himself in
order to achieve his Long Term Goals.
Short Term Goals for week 1 & 2:
Drink 10 glasses of water every day by bringing a large
refillable water bottle to work.
Avoid adding table salt to meals, particularly at dinner
Read the Quality of Food Chart in the Handbook and adjust my
shopping list so I can start replacing 2 of my lower quality carbohydrates per
day with higher quality carbohydrate choices.
Add interval training into my weekly exercise routine 1 time
per week to start
Short Term Goals for week 3 & 4:
Reduce alcohol to 2 drinks per week. I will do this by having 2 drinks on Saturday
night while out to eat and avoiding alcohol with dinner throughout the week.
Replace one protein bar per day with a higher quality meal
(such as turkey, fruit and nuts) that I can pack with me the night before work
Increase interval training to 2 x per week
Each week, Jim can continue to set realistic, attainable
goals for himself. And remember Jim’s
Long Term Goals that seemed so hard to reach?
Now that he’s created daily, healthy habits by achieving his Short Term
Goals, it’s only a matter of time before Jim loses the 45 pounds and reduces
his blood pressure!
Always remember to write down your goals on paper (along
with the “how to” achieve them where necessary; notice how some of Jim’s goals
include how he’ll achieve them as well).
Keep your goals on hand as a daily reminder and for when those moments
of weakness occasionally creep in. It’s
also very important to re-evaluate your goals and create new goals weekly or
bi-weekly to achieve.
If you find that you are having challenges creating or
sticking to realistic goals for yourself, consider working with a personal
Certified Venice Nutrition Coaches in one of our centers or through our Phone
Coaching programs from the convenience of your own home! Your personal
Certified Nutrition Coach will help you to create and stick to your goals, and
provide the support, motivation and tools you need for success. To learn more
about working with your own personal Certified Nutrition Coach, click here.
Set yourself up for success.
Perhaps you set the Short Term Goal of including more high quality
carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, brown rice and sweet potatoes into your
daily life instead of bread and pasta.
Now’s the time to create a game plan to make it happen. An example would be to make a batch of brown
rice or a salad in bulk for the week so you can easily “grab and go” come meal
Is your goal to have a cheat meal only once or twice a week
instead of on a regular basis? Well,
take a walk through your kitchen and hide the junk food so there’s less
temptation. Want to reduce your alcohol
intake but get sick of regular water?
Stock up on flavored seltzer water or lemon slices to jazz up plain H2O
to have on hand instead. It’s all about
creating solutions! Remember, if you
take the time and prepare a bit, it will be a lot easier to actually achieve
the goals you set for yourself.
And a few final pointers to reach your goals:
Enlist a “buddy” or share your goals with friends and
family. You’re more likely to succeed
with the support of the people who are around you the most.
Catch yourself doing something right. Acknowledge your successes every time you
achieve a Short Term Goal, no matter how small.
Did you drink all 8 glasses of water today? Have you added an extra 10 minutes of cardio
on to your daily routine? Excellent!
Making a big deal out of even the smallest successes makes you feel good
(great actually!) and sets a positive tone to motivate you to keep going.
Start journaling again, if only for a few weeks. Though not every one of our clients and
members journal, we have found that our most successful ones do! Journaling keeps you focused and
informed. For instance, if you notice
you’re always craving carbs around 4 pm, take a peek at your journal. You may find that the reason you are crashing
is because you’re going too long between meals or eating low quality food. This knowledge is powerful because now you
can create a solution.
Be patient. It takes
about 3 months before new habits start to stick so stay the course.
Most importantly, you have to believe. Any goal is possible if you set your mind to
it and believe that you can achieve it.
Every year I am amazed and thrilled by the success stories I
have witnessed with thousands of members and my own personal nutrition
clients. I invite you to use the above
guide as your “blue print” to success in 2013.
Set realistic and attainable goals.
Stay the course. Believe in
yourself. The rest will fall into place.
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
Between the holiday parties, braving the overcrowded malls
and preparing decadent meals, it can be hard to find the time to take care of
YOU. The following “To-Do List” is packed full of sneaky (and effortless) ways
to make yourself a priority this season.
Start today and say goodbye to holiday weight gain and fatigue for good!
While Shopping or
- Opt for low calorie coffee sweetened with Stevia, cinnamon
and low fat milk in place of Starbuck’s holiday coffee drinks and save hundreds
- Always pack a balanced, portable snack like a protein bar to
avoid a stop at the food court
- Dress comfortably and wear sneakers to turn your shopping
day into a cardio workout
- Consolidate your gift shopping into one or two days and use
the extra time to get in a workout
- When holiday food shopping, buy only what you need and don’t
forget your VN Grocery List (pull it up on our mobile site or print it ahead of
time) to help you stay on track
- Give the gift of good health. Consider asking for or
purchasing healthier gifts this year like a gym membership, massage gift
certificate, our Body Confidence book or a membership to Venice Nutrition
While at Home:
- When cleaning, focus on engaging and tightening your
abdominals for a quick core workout
- Designate one day a week to prepare high quality food in
bulk like chicken, brown rice or a salad for quick grab and go meals all week
The holidays are busy enough. Make sure to take the time for
YOU this season…your waist line will thank you.
The Venice Nutrition Team
If there is any day of the year that I get a craving for candy, Halloween is it! And while one piece certainly won’t derail your results, bingeing all day on Halloween treats will. Just a few pieces of candy can leave you tired, cranky, bloated and craving more sugar. Worst, the effects of an all-out binge fest can last for a few days. So here are a few tips to stay on track tonight and for the next few days until the Halloween treats are gone.
1. Remind yourself of your goals. I recommend that you read your goals out loud and post them in a place where you can see them (even if it’s on the inside of the front door while you hand out candy!). When your goals are literally staring you in the face, they are a lot harder to ignore. You’ll also think twice before mindlessly reaching into the candy bag.
2. Keep up with your meals. Whenever you skip a meal or eat a meal that is not balanced in protein, carbohydrates and fat, it’s only a matter of time before blood sugar drops and cravings kick in. Add a bowl full of accessible candy to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster! Keep the physical cravings in check by eating frequent balanced meals to stabilize your blood sugar.
3. Hide it! One of my favorite tricks to avoid over-eating high fat and high sugar treats is to hide them. It's the old, "out of sight, out of mind" trick... and it works! I prefer the basement but at the very least store extra candy up high (not at eye level) and preferably in a cabinet where the shiny colorful packaging can't tempt you. Whatever you do, don’t keep a bowl for “guests” (yeah, right!) out on the kitchen counter. I’ve learned the hard way that the “guest” bowl of candy always seems to end up on my thighs!
4. If you want a piece of candy, choose your favorite and have it with a balanced meal (go light on the carbohydrates in the meal to make up for the extra sugar in the candy). Better yet, skip the candy altogether and plan a real "off meal" like Saturday night dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant. Sometimes a measly piece of candy just isn't worth the spike and dip in blood sugar but your favorite meal always is!
I can remember as a kid my parents always had to “test” the candy to make sure some stranger hadn’t “poisoned” it. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to re-think your Halloween strategy and implement the tips above!
I'm curious....do you have any tips to avoid the dreaded Halloween hangover? Please share!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
Well, it’s time to kiss summer good bye and say hello to
fall. So hello fallen leaves, hello sweaters,
and oh yeah…hello traffic (haven’t missed you one bit). Okay, so I miss the summer. I miss beach days, long lazy nights with
friends and that laid back vibe that is slipping through my fingers faster than
Despite school busses clogging the roads and the need for warmer
clothes (I’ll take a strappy tank over an itchy sweater any day), this season
does have its benefits. Fall is the
perfect time for all of us to re-group after a long and lazy summer, re-focus
our goals and re-vamp our schedule to actually make these goals happen.
Here’s how to get back on track after a season’s worth of
BBQ’s and calorie busting fun. Because this season should be all about making
the commitment to yourself!
Tip 1- Re-evaluate
your personal goals. And by this I
mean, what is your WHY? Now if you’re a VN Member, you know what the WHY is. If
you’re not or you’ve forgotten, your WHY is your deepest reason for trying to
lose weight, get fit and healthy..whatever your goal may be. Your WHY is NOT “I just want to lose weight”.
It’s got to be something meaningful and long-standing to get you through the
hard times. A great example would be, “I
want to look and feel my absolute best to be an example for my kids” or “I want
to live the highest quality life and be as healthy as I can”.
After you’ve figured out your WHY, it’s time to create
realistic short and long term goals. Goals provide direction. Without them,
you will be like me when I attempt to drive without my trusty GPS …utterly lost
and confused. It’s really easy to say, “I’m
going to lose weight”. The problem is it’s not very effective. Get specific
with your goals.
For example, a great short term goal would be, “I will pack
my gym back each night to take with me in the morning.” Or, “I will get to the
gym after work 4 days per week for 45 minutes.” These specific short term goals are attainable and become daily habits, which
then help you to achieve your long term goals.
of long term goals, a great example would be to fit into a size 4 in 3 months
or to lose 20 lbs. of body fat by December 1st. Notice though how it’s the short term goals
that you set for yourself first that will help you to achieve the long term
goals. Long term goals can feel over whelming and unattainable to most of us
and there for become unreachable unless we set those realistic short term goals
Tip 2- Set up a new routine based on your
new fall schedule. The key to success is being prepared. It’s easy to skip the gym when your gym bag
isn’t packed or you haven’t gotten everything done at night that you were
supposed to in order to get up early for your morning run. We all
have the ability to work with our
schedules and adjust them to meet our goals to the best of our abilities. Here are some easy tips to work into your
schedule each week:
1. Pick 1 or 2 nights per week to prepare basic,
healthy food in advance such as chicken breast, one healthy starchy carbohydrate
like sweet potatoes or instant brown rice. I also recommend whipping up a big colorful
salad for the week. If you have high
quality staples on hand you WILL eat them and never run out of options.
2. Stock your work drawer, car, briefcase or
purse and home with balanced protein bars so you can always keep your blood
3. Figure out where your pitfalls are and plan
accordingly. For instance, if you know
you are too busy in the morning to prepare breakfast, have a bar or smoothie
ready or maybe some Greek yogurt and fruit prepared from the night before and
ready to go in the morning.
4. Plan your workouts into your weekly schedule.
My work outs are as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth and this is for
two reasons. First, I’ve made a commitment to myself to work out (it’s a
priority to me) and second, I love the way I feel after during and after exercise. Make the commitment to exercise regularly and
factor it into your schedule like you would any other non-negotiable (you
wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth, right?)
5. Keep your supplements in a handy location
like on your kitchen counter or anywhere you will see them and remember to take
them. You know the saying, “Out of
sight, out of mind”? Well, the opposite works too; keep your supplements in
plain sight and you’ll be more likely to take them
Tip 3 - get back to
journaling (even if it’s just for a short period of time).Your online journal will not only keep you
accountable to yourself, it will also keep you focused and inspired. Seeing a week’s worth of healthy meals and
exercise recorded is a fantastic source of motivation and visual reinforcement
of a job well done. Also, a journal
helps you to discover where you may be falling short or struggling, which then
helps you to adjust accordingly.
Tip 4- Make it fun. Each week make it a goal to try one new fruit
and one new vegetable at the grocery store. Is your broccoli blah? Try sautéed bok choy! Sick of apples? How about a
pomegranate? Next, aim to try one new
recipe from our recipe collection (see your Recipe Tab inside your software)
each week to keep your meals fresh and exciting. When’s the last time you had something
exciting for lunch like our Spicy Turkey Club Sandwich or Turkey and Cheese
Melt? Remember, boredom is the kiss of
death when it comes to eating healthy. It’s up to you to make it fun!
Got some Fall tips of your own? Share with us here or on our Facebook Fan Page
Happy Fall my friends!
Lead Nutrition Coach & Head Chef
If you are anything like me, you’ve been waiting all year
for the summer! The sun is shining on your morning walk. The balmy nights are perfectly
relaxing. And there’s nothing better
than joining your best friends and family for delicious food and a cold drink
at a summer cookout. So why is this
blog titled “Surviving” Summer BBQ’s?
What’s not to love?
Well, for many people who have made the effort to eat right,
a BBQ can cause anxiety. You may worry
that you’ll fall off the “health wagon” and lose the habits that you’ve worked
so hard on all year long. After all,
BBQ’s involve loads of not- so- healthy food, tons of alcohol, and friends and
family who may not live the lifestyle that you and I do. Not to
worry! Below are some tried and true
tips, as well as a few smart recipe ideas to help you enjoy your next BBQ
without compromising your healthy lifestyle.
1. Remember, balance is the key to a healthy
lifestyle. There will be times in life
when you may overindulge; an extra glass of your favorite wine, a heaping scoop
of ice cream or maybe even a pile of fall –off- the bone ribs at a cookout. Taking part in the occasional treat is normal,
in fact it’s great! Because if you can
live a healthy lifestyle while still allowing yourself the occasional treat,
you’ve truly mastered balance and that leads to permanent change! The lesson to
be learned here? A little indulgence is
good for you and keeps you from craving or feeling deprived. Just make sure to get right back on track
with a balanced meal at the next opportunity to get your metabolism moving in
the right direction again.
2. Plan for the
event. If you know that you have a
summer cookout planned for this Saturday, aim to be extra consistent with your
nutrition and fitness routine all week long.
Acknowledge the fact that you may overindulge at this Saturday’s BBQ,
and actually plan the “off” meal into your week. Use this “system” of acknowledging the “off”
meal and planning it to help you to make extra effort all week to eat clean,
balanced meals every few hours. Let the
fact that you’ll be indulging on Saturday spur you to kick butt at the gym and
make the most of every workout all week long.
The process here is both physical and mental. By working extra hard all week to make room
for this Saturday’s fiesta, you’ll physically be in prime fat burning mode by
the time the party rolls around.
Mentally, you’ll be able to let go of any guilt you may normally have
(see Tip #1 above as a reminder about the importance of balance). After all, you’ve worked hard all week and
you’ve planned to relax and indulge a bit with your friends and family. It’s a win, win situation!
3. Believe it or not,
it’s a bad idea to deprive yourself all day Saturday to save “room” and
“calories” for the big event. If you
walk into a BBQ with every type of food imaginable at your fingertips and you
haven’t eaten all day, you are heading for disaster! Always eat balanced meals one hour within
waking and every 3 hours before a cookout.
This way your mind is in control of your food choices, not your empty
stomach! It’s a smart idea to also eat
one hour before the event. Try snacking
on a protein bar before the party to help keep blood sugar stable and allow you
to make conscious food choices when you arrive.
4. It doesn’t hurt to
bring along some healthy and delicious choices, or at least know how to
identify them at a cookout. Do your
best to build a balanced plate with some protein and carbohydrates and keep in
mind that most dishes offered at a BBQ will have more than enough fat (way more
actually!). Whether you are hosting the event or
attending, the following list makes for delectable (and healthy) party food
that everyone will enjoy.
-Try Marinated or BBQ grilled chicken breasts, shrimp, pork
tenderloin, salmon steaks or filet mignon (the leanest red meat) on the grill. Meat, poultry or seafood and vegetable kabobs
are also healthy and a fun change of pace.
-Instead of regular hamburgers, try using 97% lean ground
beef. Serve with all the regular
toppings and whole wheat buns.
-Chop a mixture of your favorite vegetables in large chunks
(corn, tomato, zucchini, red onion, bell peppers) or try whole asparagus with
the bottom of the stalk cut off. Toss in
a bowl with quality extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black
pepper. Grill until slightly charred to
really bring out the flavors.
-Instead of plain old pasta salad with a few veggies tossed
in for good measure, go in the opposite direction. Use your favorite pasta salad recipe only
make a few adjustments. Triple the
vegetable content (and vary it up- grape tomatoes, fresh bell pepper, onion,
cucumber, banana peppers, etc.) and use the pasta as the filler, not the main
event. Use a reduced fat version of your
favorite dressing such as low fat Italian dressing in place of regular. If using a mayo based dressing, try cutting
the amount of mayo in half and replacing the rest with plain, low fat yogurt-
it will add a little tang and a lot of flavor.
Lastly fresh herbs like parsley or basil really make a dish stand out
from the crowd.
-Try whipping up a low fat dip like hummus or mango salsa
(combine chopped mango, red onion, a small amount of minced garlic and jalapeno
with a splash of lime juice and good olive oil.
Toss with fresh cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper). Serve with home -made baked whole wheat pita
chips. (Hint- Mango salsa also works beautifully
on grilled meat, poultry and seafood.)
-Fresh fruit platters are always well received and a
perfectly sweet way to complete a meal.
Try serving a variety of fruit with a home-made dip of Plain Yogurt,
vanilla extract, honey and lemon zest or try our Pina Colada Dip found in your
Recipe Collection inside your software!
5. Speaking of, check
out some of these BBQ friendly recipes found inside your software in the Recipe
Creamy Shrimp Salad, Boca Burgers, Shrimp and Pasta Salad,
Restaurant Worthy Steak on the
Grill, BBQ Shrimp Kabobs, Grilled Fish w/ Tomato and Herbs,
Pina Colada Dip w/ Fruit,
Strawberry Lemon Frozen Yogurt (try turning these into
frozen pops for easy serving!), Greek
Brown Rice Salad, Cheesy Zucchini (an odd choice for a BBQ
but it’s really good, promise!),
6. Stay hydrated
with plenty of water to beat bloat, fatigue and headaches. If you’re the host, try serving homemade
lemonade with ice water, freshly squeezed lemon and lemon slices sweetened with
Stevia or Truvia.
7. Get creative with
your alcohol. I like Skinny Girl Margarita in a glass with a ton of flavored
seltzer water which adds fizz and extra fluid to make the drink last. Light
beer or wine is also a good choice. The rule of thumb with alcohol is, use the
drink to replace the starchy carb in the meal.
So basically you would have your protein and fat with some light
carbohydrates like grilled veggies or salad plus a drink or two. If you must splurge on both carbs and
alcohol, go for a lighter drink like the ones described above and keep it to a
2 drink maximum if possible.
8. Do something active!
At my house we play “bags” (also known as Cornhole to all of you in the
South) or go swimming with my nephews.
The point is, if you keep mingling and keep moving, your less likely to
hover at the dessert table and this means less mindless munching!
9. And my last tip? I
find that after a day cookout, I’m exhausted by 5 or 6 pm, which is frustrating
because clearly it’s much too late for a nap and I’m pretty sure I can’t get
away with going to sleep at that time!
So I take a power walk outside after the cookout. It helps me to burn off some of the treats
from the cookout but most importantly, it rejuvenates me enough to stay awake until
Remember, the summer is all about having fun, enjoying the
weather and family and friends and relaxing!
The great thing is, you can absolutely do all of that while sticking to
your goals with the tips above. Cheers
to an amazing summer!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
If you’re stabilizing your blood sugar, you know how
important it is to have high quality protein prepared in bulk for the week. I
like to make our “Everyday Chicken” (find it in your Recipe Tab). It’s fast, super easy and gives you tender,
roasted chicken that you can toss in any of your favorite dishes for a boost of
To keep my meals fresh, I’ve been using the Everyday Chicken
in a variety of fun dishes. Here are a few quick single serving combinations
I’ve come up with recently that take only minutes to make if you’ve got chicken
1. In a pan coated
with fat free cooking spray, combine chopped cooked chicken, a handful or two
of spinach and any other chopped veggies you have on hand. Cook until
vegetables are slightly tender. Stir in
your favorite tomato or marinara sauce and seasonings like fresh basil or
oregano. Top with parmesan cheese.
2. Saute chopped cooked
chicken with shredded carrots, snow peas, mushrooms or any other veggie you
have on hand with some fat free cooking spray.
Add freshly minced garlic and a splash of low sodium soy sauce and sauté
until garlic is soft (not browned). Drizzle
with toasted sesame oil and top with fresh cilantro.
3. Okay, admittedly
this combo is not the highest quality (hello sodium) but it sure is good! And
it’s got the balance of protein, carbs and fat to stabilize your blood sugar. If you’ve ever had buffalo chicken dip, you’ll
like this one. Just refer back to this one sparingly so you don’t bloat from
all the sodium! Chop or shred cooked
chicken very small. Put the chicken in a small bowl, add a dash or two of Frank’s
Red Hot Sauce and microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir in a scoop of low fat cream cheese, a pinch
of garlic powder and another dash or two of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Microwave again for 20 seconds or until heated
throughout. Stir again and serve with
carrot and celery sticks. Add some fresh
fruit on the side if you need extra carbohydrates.
Chicken doesn’t have to be boring- the key is having tender,
cooked chicken on hand for the week so
you can quickly create a variety of dishes on the fly! Make sure to use your “Add Meal” feature in your
Venice Nutrition Online software to create the dishes described above according
to your nutritional parameters. For
more information on how to create balanced meals according to your nutritional
parameters, check out the How to Create Your Own Meals video in your Help
Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach of Venice Nutrition
A few days ago, a friend of mine (who swears she’s allergic
to her kitchen) called me in a panic.
Her in-laws were coming to dinner and she had promised to impress with a
gourmet meal. The trouble was, the only
“gourmet meal” my friend knows how to cook is instant brown rice and ground
turkey (hey, she’s a health nut!).
Needless to say, her lack of culinary skills had her sweating. And that’s why she called me.
As Head Chef for Venice Nutrition, and a Certified Nutrition
Coach for many years, my goal has always been to teach our members how to
create food that helps to stabilize blood sugar, tastes absolutely delicious,
and most of all…….is simple enough that anyone can make! I have had so many wonderful clients over the
years that stick to the same boring food over and over (hello, baked chicken!)
because they claim they “just can’t cook”.
What I have come to find is anyone can cook a great meal….the key is
learning the basics and stepping outside of your culinary comfort zone to try
So , how did I get started?
Yes, I did go to culinary school but I’m truly convinced that though I
learned some wonderful skills there, I have learned just as much on my own! The confidence I possess today as a cook is
not from my formal education, but from the experiments and culinary endeavors
(and disasters!) that took place in my very own kitchen. Below are some tips that have helped me to
become a confident cook and create meals that I’m proud of.
Start by practicing with a basic recipe that can help to
teach you proper seasoning, different cooking techniques and flavor
profiles. A great example would be to
find a recipe for a soup or chili that appeals to you. Soup and chili are very easy to make, and you
can experiment without worrying about drying the dish out or overcooking
it. You can slowly add seasoning and “taste-test”
it as you go to make sure it’s to your liking.
You’ll also gain a great understanding about different flavor
combinations of herbs and spices that work well together. The other bonus about soups and chilis is they are usually on the lighter side and if they are not, they can be with a little tweaking (swap ground beef for lean ground beef, lower the oil to saute the vegetables, etc.)
Once you have
successfully made one chili or soup, it will help to give you the confidence to
make some adjustments. Perhaps in place
of a roasted butternut squash soup, you decide to use sweet potatoes instead. Maybe you add a little diced apple to the pot
to add a subtle sweet note. Or maybe you
toss in a few pinches of cayenne pepper to add some heat. Maybe in the next chili you create, you skip
the ground beef and black beans and try ground chicken and white beans
instead. Noticing a pattern yet? By successfully managing a basic soup or
chili recipe, you’ll have the confidence to switch it up and make it your own,
or try a new soup or chili recipe altogether.
Other simple, basic recipes that I would recommend you try
to master? Roast chicken stuffed with
lemon, garlic cloves, onion and fresh herbs like thyme is sure to impress and
will feed an entire family. Salads are
simply chop, toss and serve and the options are endless. Vegetables drizzled with olive oil and
seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and roasted or grilled go with
everything. A baked or grilled fish like
salmon with lemon, fresh herbs (dill, parsley, etc.) and olive oil is a great starter
recipe for all seafood. Find a recipe
for that particular dish and then use those culinary techniques to explore and
master new recipes.
If you are a Venice Nutrition member, I invite you to check out our database or recipes in the Recipe Tab. I promise that even the most intricate looking recipe has been broken down into easy, basic steps and the end result will be simple but delicious. I'm not into fussy food and when I design recipes for our members and clients, I like to keep it simple.
I like to find culinary inspiration in many sources. After all, we can all learn something from
somebody. When I go to a restaurant and enjoy a creative or delicious dish that
stands out, I’ll try to remember what was in it and re-create it at home. For example, I once had a butter lettuce,
pistachio, cheddar and sliced apple salad with vinaigrette at an upscale
restaurant in Boston. I was able to re-create
this dish at home and give it a healthy spin by reducing the amount of cheese
in the recipe and preparing a low-fat vinaigrette. I served it with grilled fish on the side and
enjoyed my simple but restaurant-worthy meal without the big check and tip!
I’m also a huge fan of the Food Network. If you’ve never watched this channel before and
have any interest in cooking, I highly recommend that you tune in. It’s fun and designed to teach home cooks how
to well…..become cooks! The Food
Network has truly changed the way people view the culinary world, myself
included. Because there are so many
types of culinary professionals teaching their point of view and techniques
they’ve developed and perfected over the years, these shows appeal to so many
home cooks. It’s an unintimidating and
inspirational way to learn to love to cook.
I have learned so much and helped to perfect my own culinary skills and
point of view from watching the Food Network.
When I see a recipe I love, I’ll brainstorm on ways to lighten it up and
many times figure out how to simplify it as well. I’ll then test the dish in my kitchen at home
and put a creative spin on the recipe to make it my own.
Other ways to find inspiration? When you are done reading this blog, stand up
and head to your kitchen. Open up your
kitchen cabinet. I can guarantee you
have a few cookbooks on hand that have collected dust over the years. Peruse the pages and keep an open mind. What recipe catches your eye? What picture makes your mouth water? That’s the recipe you should create
next! Book mark that page, copy down the
ingredients to your grocery shopping list and get cooking!
Do you have a friend or family member who always manages to
wow his or her dinner guests? You know
who I’m talking about. The friend who
makes the stickiest, fall –off- the bone BBQ chicken on the grill or the aunt
whose famous pasta and meatballs are to die for. Ask them to teach you one or two of their
favorite recipes in your kitchen. Offer to purchase all of the ingredients and
invite them to stay for dinner. People
that love to cook also love to show off their culinary skills and would more
than likely be happy to help. Observe,
take notes and ask a lot of questions.
Pretty soon it will be your dish everyone is raving about.
Cooking is a skill that can be learned, perfected and
mastered. The key is putting yourself
out there and trying something new. The
old saying, “practice makes perfect” may be a cliché but it’s true, especially
when it comes to being confident in the kitchen. Try something new and before you know it, you
will be a confident cook who is not afraid to wow your own dinner guests. Eat well! And don't forget to be adventurous..you may just surprise yourself!My best,
Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach
We all know that starting a new nutrition or health plan isn't easy. It takes time, education, support and some mental planning. There are road blocks that can trip anyone up and derail even the most dedicated person from reaching their goals. Here Mark Macdonald, creator of Venice Nutrition and author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence, reveals how to move past any obstacles when embarking on a healthier lifestyle.
What are some of the concerns people have when beginning a
Time is by far the biggest concern. We are all looking for more time, and the
difficult part about taking on a solid nutrition plan is that it takes
time. Think about anything you do in
life that fulfills you; building a
business, being in a relationship, raising children, etc…the list is
endless. My point is that everything you
want to be great at takes time and your health is no different. Most
people start a nutrition plan without any idea of how they are going to work it
into their world and this is a big reason why so many people fail.
You must carve out time in your life, make room for your
health and treat it like all the other core parts of your life. Making your health a priority is not the
easiest thing, but what you get from it is everything….
What are some mistakes people often make when starting a
The biggest mistake is setting unrealistic goals. It goes back to the feeling of being at your
“tipping point”, you emotionally cannot take it anymore and need to get the
weight off. The challenge with this
mindset is that your current lifestyle is why you put the weight on in the
first place. So you set a goal based on
emotion and forget to look at the effort it will take to achieve that
goal. As you begin the plan, you
progress but not fast enough in your mind, then you become de-motivated and
choose to abandon the plan.
This can easily be avoided by simply setting goals based on
the effort you can initially put into your health. Each week you can re-address your effort and
results and then make the necessary adjustments to either increase your effort
or change your goals. The reality is
that with the right plan all health goals can be achieved, the only unknown is
the time frame in which you will achieve your goals. Everything in life is an ever evolving
process and your health is no different.
There are many variables that determine the pace of your results. Staying present with your goals and evaluating
them on a weekly basis keeps your emotions in check and sets you up to win.
by Mark Macdonald, creator of the Venice Nutrition system and author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence