Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sneaking Healthy into Your Life: Meal Tweaking not Twerking

Tweaking NOT Twerking
Last week I wrote about getting healthy without resorting to kale smoothies, so I thought I'd share the best weight loss/weight management baby-step I ever learned: I don't need to give up most of the food I love in order to lose weight.

Seriously. Isn't that fracking awesome?! Instead of suffering through hard boiled eggs (GACK!) and dry toast, I've learned how to tweak (not twerk) my favorite recipes to make them healthier and waist-line friendly... and maybe twerking friendly, but I wouldn't know. *whistles while inspecting shoes*

Here's how I do it (tweaking not twerking, just to be clear):

I enter my favorite recipes on MyFitnessPal or the Weight Watchers app, then tweak the ingredients in the app to see how I can improve it. For example, this Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli and Rice recipe is 12 WeightWatchers points per serving AS IS. That's a lot, for those of you who don't know the Points Plus system. It's not terrible, but consider this: the base line amount of points per day in order to lose weight is about 26. Yes, 26. Some people get more, a few may get less, but that's the starting point.

So, 12 points for a serving of casserole that doesn't include wine or side salad with my favorite dressing or a sweet treat later...yeah, not going to work if I want to wear my favorite blue jeans in the morning.

Over the years, I've tweaked all my favorites, but when I see a recipe like this (that I know the family will love), I plug it into the recipe builder feature of the app to find out what the total points are, then I play with each ingredient until I get the points down to something more reasonable. I really like WW Points Plus system because its simple. They've done all the math to steer its members toward less refined carbs, moderate amounts of fat, and a healthy portion of protein. By the way, most veggies are 0 points and a limited amount of fruit is also 0 points.

I tweaked the Cheesey casserole down to 7 points! Woot! Woot! And my family loved it. Win! Win! How'd I get it down? By increasing the broccoli to 3 cups, using either skinless/boneless chicken breast or canned chicken breast instead of rotisserie chicken, light mayo, and reduced fat cheese. I've been doing this for years so its kind of second nature for me, and that's because while I wasn't looking, I developed some basic tweaking strategies.

Here are my rules of thumb for making a recipe weight loss friendly:

1. Increase the veggies. 

And by veggies I mean broccoli, green beans, dark leafies, etc. NOT potatoes or corn. For nutrition and weight loss purposes these are starchy CARBS NOT VEGGIES. (yes, I am yelling it).  Also, be careful with peas and carrots, they are higher in sugar and starch than other veggies.

And stick to the 0 points veggies for this trick. Do not try to do the same with fruit. 1 serving of fruit is 0 points on the Weight Watchers plan; 10 servings is not.

2. Get light or reduced-fat versions. 

 Of mayo, cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, milk, etc. I dislike fat-free because of the taste and the corn syrup they often use to recreate the creaminess of fat. Also, get the leaner and lighter cuts of meat, as well the leaner ground beef or swap ground beef for 99% fat free lean ground turkey. Or mix them.

My family does NOT like ground turkey breast in their spaghetti. They draw the line there, so I mix some ground turkey in with the ground beef. I have to be sneaky because they'll pick it out. They say the white ground turkey looks like worms in the red sauce. But they have no problem with it when I mix it in the meatloaf, shepherd's pie, chili, etc.

3. Reduce ingredient amounts. 

For example, this recipe originally called for 1/2 cup of mayo, but I find I can often trim that to 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup and still enjoy the flavor and texture of the recipe, especially in casseroles that for some reason load up on the high-salt, high-fat creamy ingredients. They are NOT necessary to have a tasty casserole. Having said that, be careful about trying to change ingredient amounts for BAKING. Often, you need those amounts to make the science happen. You could end up with some funky, space alien type baked goods.

Normally, when I increase the veggie amount, I decrease the starch(es), but I left the rice alone in this recipe because my family eats....a lot.

Also, remember you can bulk up the recipe with added veggies to retain the volume so you and your family will feel satisfied.

4. Swap ingredients.

If a recipe calls for white rice, try brown. Same for pasta. Or try something entirely different. I made this Cheesy casserole with spaghetti squash, once, chopping the squash so it felt like rice in your mouth. NO ONE said, "Okay, Mom, what did you do with the rice? What IS this??" And believe me, my family speaks up about these things because they know I'm always trying to slip them a health mickey. The key to ingredient swapping is thinking about the texture. Swapping eggplant for the rice wouldn't work as well and your family may stage an intervention (not that that's happened around here...lately.)

The possibilities are endless. So go twerk tweak your heart out and report back. What recipes did you tweak? How'd they turn out? Did your family give you the stink eye or did they plow right through without even noticing? Are you already doing this? What are some of your favorite tweaking strategies? Let me know how you're doing out there.

Much love and light!


  1. It is extremely nice to see the greatest details presented in an easy and understanding manner.facebook weight loss group

    1. Thanks! My goal is to make healthy living less confusing and overwhelming. Simplify.