How to Avoid Foolish Food Choices

Its April Fool’s Day and the perfect time to think about the foods and habits that are still tricking you and slowing down your success. We’re offering some wise alternatives, because we like to focus on what you can add to your diet more than what you should take away.

Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.

  –Benjamin Franklin

Download: How to Avoid Foolish Food Choices 

  1. Eat fresh whole fruit instead of drinking juice. You’ll get more fiber and satisfaction.
  2. Eat at home instead of eating out. Studies show, you’ll get more nutrition and take in fewer calories.
  3. Choose darker greens for your salad in place of iceberg lettuce for a boost in nutrients.
  4. Use Greek yogurt in place of mayo for chicken or tuna salad. You’ll cut the fat and boost the protein.
  5. Freeze grapes for a cold sweet treat in place of ice cream. Roll in sugar-free Jello powder first for fun.
  6. Top pancakes with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit in place of syrup.
  7. Snack on air-popped popcorn in place of chips.
  8. Select cauliflower rice in place of rice.
  9. Out with the pasta—make mock mac and cheese with cauliflower instead.
  10. Craving some Italian? Substitute spaghetti squash for the noodles in lasagna or spaghetti.
  11. Instead of eating in the company cafeteria or vending machines, take your meals and snacks with you.
  12. Eat at the table without the distraction of the TV or computer. You’ll be more mindful, enjoy your food, and eat less.

Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.

  –Charles Lamb

  1. Instead of buying a coffee shop, make your own. Use a ready-to-drink protein for creamer or a little Fairlife milk and sweetener.
  2. Instead of a burger, make a light sandwich. Use lean meat, an extra thin cheese slice and a single slice of light bread.
  3. Instead of eating from the container, portion out your snacks into individual bags. You’re more likely to hit the stop button if you have to open another bag.
  4. Instead of staying up late for the latest episode of Tiger King, go to bed. You’ll be less likely to crave simple carbs and more likely to follow through with your exercise intentions.
  5. Snack on raw veggies or kale chips instead of chips when you need a crunchy snack.
  6. Instead of stopping for a smoothie on the way home, make your own with Greek yogurt, Fairlife milk and fresh fruit.
  7. Eat a measured amount of pistachios in the shell instead of chips.
  8. Swap the meat for a vegetarian option once a week or more often.
  9. Swap vegetable noodles for pasta.
  10. Swap out your favorite sweets with sugar free versions. There are very few foods that cannot be make without added sugar.
  11. Swap out chocolate milk with Fairlife Nutrition Plan (available at Sam’s and BJ’s shopping clubs).
  12. Use more beans in place of meat.
  13. Track your food and exercise—otherwise you’re sure to be fooled. Just try to remember what you ate over the last 2 days. It’s hard. Be in control by tracking.
  14. Add peanut butter powder, or PB2, and a pack of stevia to Greek yogurt for a tasty fruit dip.

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.

  –Mark Twain

  1. Sprinkle some garbanzo beans or edamame into your salad for filling fiber and protein
  2. Make sugar-free protein muffins or sugar-free protein cookies to keep on hand for sweet cravings.
  3. Have hard boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy, high protein snack
  4. If you have to stop at the gas station for a quick snack, look in the cooler section for meat or cheese sticks or protein shakes.
  5. Use your muffin pan to make mini egg quiches. Add veggies, low fat cheese or turkey bacon to change up the flavors.
  6. Have a list when you go to the grocery store. You’re more likely to stick to buying only what’s on your list and you’ll save money.
  7. Stay on the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping. You’ll fill your cart with more produce, fresh meats, and good high-protein dairy products instead of processed snacks foods.
  8. If you can’t find the fresh produce you are looking for used canned and/or frozen. The nutrition content in these varieties is just as good as fresh. Avoid added sauces and creams.
  9. Try dry-roasted edamame or chick peas for a crunchy, high protein snack instead of chips or crackers.



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Stress Awareness Month – Get Organized

Plan ahead and get organized. Disorganization is a breeding ground for stress.

Minimize stress by changing how you choose to respond to it. Balance your life with time for eating right, exercise, work, relationships, relaxation, and fun.

Read more: Stress Management


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The Skills You Need to Prevent Regain

When you’ve developed positive coping skills it is easier to stay motivated and on track with the consistent eating and exercise habits that are so important to maintaining a healthy weight. When life gets challenging it is natural to gravitate towards old comfortable habits that may not support a healthy weight.  Practice positive coping skills ahead of time so that you are ready for the challenges ahead.  When a challenge presents itself, you’ll have the skills you need to stay on track.

Download: The Skills You Need to Prevent Weight Gain

We all have different ways of coping when life throws us a curve. Big life changes can bring on feelings of anxiety, depression and frustration. Some of our default coping strategies, like overeating or drinking too much alcohol, provide quick relief, but may end up derailing the positive habits we’ve put in place to support a healthy weight. Healthy coping, on the other hand, helps us to both manage the stress and maintain weight loss long term. And, the good news is, healthy coping skills can be developed to deal with stressful situations, get through tough times, and even eliminate stressful situations.

Different Types of Coping Skills

Coping skills tend to be proactive, emotion-regulating, or problem-solving in focus. Sometimes a combination of different approaches works even better than a single approach. Keep in mind that what works well for one person or situation may not work for another. Trying and practicing different skills in a variety of situations is a good way to build your toolbox so that you’re best able to handle the next curve that comes your way.

Proactive Coping Skills

Coping skills are often thought of as reactive—you’re stressed so you use a strategy to cope. Being proactive, however, can help us manage obstacles sure to come our way. Instead of defaulting to not-so-healthy behaviors when confronted by overwhelming stress, we may be able to eliminate the situation from feeling stressful at all. With a little foresight and planning, some stressors, like not having the right foods on hand or being tired from staying up too late watching TV, may be totally under our control.

By being proactive, we keep distress to a minimum, and improve the likelihood we will be able follow through with healthy behaviors. Here are proactive skills you can use to keep your healthy lifestyle on track.

Special Occasions. Have a plan for the temptations and emotions that are associated with special occasions. It may be a holiday party, a wedding reception, dinner at the in-laws, a business trip, or your birthday celebration—whatever the occasion, a proactive plan will help you make better decisions. What will the temptations be for you? How will emotions play into the occasion? Is there a way to “treat” while still sticking to your plan? Have you successfully navigated a similar situation–what worked or didn’t work for you?  These are all important questions to ponder as you think through the strategies and attitudes that will best serve you.

Triggers. Specific situations or triggers tend to lead to poor food choices or grazing. You know when you’re prone to these behaviors. Make a plan—pay for the gas at the pump, avoid driving by your favorite fast food restaurant, keep the candy out of the house, chew gum while you watch TV, watch less TV, put healthy foods in plain sight, or keep your hands busy.

Have Healthy Food Available. Plan, shop, prep, and take food with you. Having the right foods at your fingertips makes eating right easy. Even if life throws a big curve, you can grab a little cooler and pack it with a cheese stick, yogurt, a 100-calorie pack of nuts, and ready-to-drink protein shake and you’re good for several hours.

Structure and Routine. Structure and routine allow you to put many decisions on autopilot. Like brushing your teeth and taking a shower, it just happens. Fewer decisions equal less stress. Get in a groove and pack lunch/snacks evening before, shop on Wednesday evenings, meal plan and prep on Sunday early afternoon, etc.

Adequate Sleep. A lack of sleep increases the cravings for carb-rich foods and weakens our resolve to eat right and move more. Set up good sleep habits and routines so you’re well rested, experience less stress and are better able to confront the stress that you do have.

Self-Monitoring. Research is clear that people who write down what they eat in a daily log are more successful at losing weight. This simple act makes you aware of everything you eat. If your weight begins to creep up, this is the first place to look for clues as to what is going on. Chances are that little extras are sneaking back into your diet. When you find an area that needs improvement—problem-solving or emotion-regulating coping skills are helpful.

Get Support. A good support network of people who understand your circumstances can help to keep you accountable.  A great therapist can be invaluable as well.

Stay Active. Boredom is not your friend. Physical activities can reduce stress and social activities can help us meet our emotional needs without resorting to unhealthy eating.

Problem Solving Skills

If you are unable to avoid a stressful situation by being proactive, then you need to decide if the situation calls for a better way to cope with your emotions about the situation or a change to the situation itself. Problem solving skills are most helpful when it is the situation that needs changing.

Increased confidence that often accompanies weight loss can help bolster a person’s ability to using problem solving skills to eliminate stressful situations. For example, rather than soothing your emotions when another person puts you down repeatedly, it may be time to sever ties and end the stressful situation altogether.

Other types of problem solving skills include improving time management, establishing healthy relationship boundaries, asking for support, walking away from a stressful situation, creating a step-by-step plan to accomplish a goal, obtaining job training and working on self-development skills that can help you move out of a situation that causes you stress.

One problem-solving strategy involves writing down the problem and as many potential solutions you can think of.  Then evaluate each potential solution to come up with a game plan. Break the plan down into individual steps: what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who will do it and where will it take place.

Finding solutions to stressful situations helps you to feel in control and boosts the confidence that you will be able to solve additional problems that arise. Problems themselves no longer have the same level of stress as this confidence builds. 

Emotion Regulating Skills

Emotion regulating skills are helpful to take care of your feelings when you don’t want to or are unable to change the situation itself.  For example, when going through a health crisis (yours or someone close to you), using emotion regulating skills can help you take care of your feelings in a healthy way. These coping skills can help you, 1) Accept your feelings and allow yourself to feel them without numbing or distracting, 2) help you change your mood or calm down, or 3) temporarily distract yourself until the distress is at a level you are better able to cope with.

It’s important to figure out what is going on emotionally while snacking, overeating or choosing unhealthy foods. If you can identify the underlying emotions, such as boredom, stress, fear, sadness, happiness, inadequacy, shame, celebration, or reward, you can work on finding healthy coping skills that make you feel better. For example, eating handful after handful of chips while bored could be replaced by listening to music, taking a walk or reading a good book. Once you have identified the emotion, you can begin to find a healthy way to cope with it.

Examples of healthy emotion-focused coping skills are numerous and include:  going for a walk, writing in a journal, drawing, listening to music, taking a bath, playing with a pet, cleaning the house, reading a book, meditating, playing with your children, working on a hobby, spending time in nature, praying, using deep breathing exercises, making a list of all the things you are grateful for, gardening, focusing on the good things in your life, progressive muscle relaxation, drinking tea, thinking about the situation differently, practicing yoga, laughing, smiling, thinking of people who bring you joy, doing something nice for yourself, or using a meditation or relaxation app.

Avoid Unhealthy Coping

Not all strategies that help you reduce distress are healthy. Some means of coping may temporarily help you to feel better, but have a negative impact on your overall health. Be sure to avoid numbing with drugs or alcohol; stuffing your feelings with food; overly restrict eating as a way to feel in control; sleeping too much; overspending; or ignoring a situation that needs to be changed.

Find What Works

There is always room for growth and improvement to continually sharpen your skills. The strategies that work for someone else might not work for you. You need your own toolkit of skills and strategies to use in different situations. When you learn and practice skills that minimize stress and regularly take care of your emotional needs, you find yourself less vulnerable to temptations and more empowered to make healthy choices.

Apple, Spring Greens, Chicken Salad

1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Cooking spray
6 cups mixed baby spring greens
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 apple, skinned and cut into 1/4-in.-thick slices
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Stir together oil, rind, juice, thyme, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Place 2 tablespoons juice mixture in a large re-closable plastic bag; reserve remaining juice mixture. Add chicken to bag and marinate for 10 minutes or longer—turning the bag occasionally to distribute juice mixture.

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Remove chicken from plastic bag and pat dry. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into thin slices.

Combine spring mix, carrots, celery, and apple in large bowl and add remaining juice mixture, tossing to coat. Divide salad mixture evenly among 4 plate and top with chicken. Sprinkle with almonds and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 317 calories, 24 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrate, 318 mg sodium.

Fresh Tossed Asparagus and Mozzarella Salad

8 ounces asparagus
1 head butter lettuce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup pistachios
6 ounces mozzarella balls

Trim the asparagus and cut on the diagonal into thin slices and set aside. Tear lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces, rinse, pat dry and set aside. In a large salad bowl, Whisk together lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and mustard.  Add the asparagus and lettuce and gently toss to coat thoroughly.

Divide the salad evenly among 6 salad plates. Sprinkle each serving with pistachios and mozzarella balls. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 162 calories, 8 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrate, 373 mg sodium.

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Celebrate National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

March 1st is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day–who knew? If you love peanut better, chances are you’ll love the taste of powdered peanut butter, like PB2. It’s great to make the switch from regular peanut butter in these recipes—by doing so, you’ll save 131 calories and 15 grams of fat in each 2 tbsp. serving. Now that’s something to celebrate! Enjoy these low fat and low sugar National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day Treats!

Peanut Butter Cookies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
2 cups oats (steel cut, quick or regular)
½ cup powdered peanut butter
pinch of sea salt
a few drops of liquid stevia other sweetener to taste
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the mashed bananas in a bowl and stir in the applesauce to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Line baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and drop dough by the spoonful onto the baking tray. Press down with a fork to form cookies. Bake for 16 minutes until golden brown, do not overcook—they will appear slightly underdone. Let cool and enjoy. Makes 12 cookies.

Nutrition information per cookie: 86 calories, 4 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrate, 44 mg sodium.

Sweet Potato Protein Bars

2 scoops (60g) of vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup PB2 powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ c sweet potato, cooked, mashed
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 egg white (about 2 Tbsp)
10-15 drops of liquid stevia

Preheat oven to 350F and coat an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Add the dry ingredients (protein powder, PB2, baking powder and salt) to a medium bowl and mix well. Add the remaining wet ingredients (sweet potato, almond milk, butter, extract, eggs and stevia) to a separate bowl and mix well.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until combined. The batter will be quite thick–add a bit of water or milk to thin it out if it is not spreadable. Spread the batter evenly into the baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Allow to fully cool before cutting into 8 bars. Wrap bars in cellophane and keep refrigerated.

Nutrition information per bar: 108 calories, 9 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrate.

Peanut Butter Apple Dip

2 tbsp. powdered peanut butter
2 tbsp. water
8 ounces fat free cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. Swerve confectioner’s sugar – sugar free alternative
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips, sugar free

Add powdered peanut butter and water to a small mixing bowl and use a spoon to stir until combined.

Add cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract and stir until well combined. (I used an electric hand mixer, but a large mixing spatula will also work).

Stir in the chocolate chips and serve with graham crackers, cookies, sliced apples, celery, or eat it straight from a spoon! Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 74 calories, 9 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 336 mg sodium.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

1/2 cup quick cook oats
1 cup fat free Fairlife Milk
2 tbsp. PB2
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
sweetener (stevia, erythritol, or other non-nutritive sweetener) to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the sweetener in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until the oats start to thicken and get soft, about 5 minutes. Sweeten to taste. Makes 1 serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 273 calories, 24 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 40 grams carbohydrates, 211 mg sodium.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

2 cups powdered peanut butter
1/2 cup Swerve confectioner’s sugar (a no added sugar alternative)
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup water
1 cup chocolate chips, no added sugar

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the peanut butter powder, Swerve confectioner’s sugar, and salt together. Add the water and stir until mixed – the batter will be very stiff. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop out 12 – 1 tablespoon portions unto a wax paper lined baking sheet and place in freezer for 30 minutes before rolling into smooth balls with your hands. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 103 calories 8 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 314 mg sodium.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

1 cup of powdered peanut butter
¾ cup water
1 cup sugar free chocolate chips
¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk, room temperature

Line a mini muffin pan with 20 mini cupcake liners and set aside. Combine the powdered peanut butter and water until smooth.

Microwave the chocolate chips for about 20 seconds. Stir and repeat until the chocolate has melted and is smooth. Gently stir in the coconut milk until the chocolate sauce is thick and smooth.

Divide half of the chocolate sauce evenly into the mini cupcake liners and let it sit for 10 minutes to set up. Top with the powdered peanut butter mixture followed by another layer of chocolate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before removing the peanut butter cups from the muffin liners. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 20 servings.

Nutrition information serving: 39 calories, 3 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrate, 40 mg sodium.

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Vitamin B 12 – Essential for Good Health

The right level of vitamin B 12 helps your body to function at its peak. Weight loss surgery puts you at risk for a Vitamin B 12 deficiency, causing sluggishness and even irreversible nerve damage if not treated. The good news is that it’s easy to keep your Vitamin B 12 within a healthy range with a couple of simple steps.

Download Healthful Tips: Vitamin B 12 – Essential for Good Health

What Does Vitamin B 12 Do?

Vitamin B 12 is important. It helps your body 1) turn food into energy, 2) make red blood cells, 3) protect nerve endings, 4) make neurotransmitters, and 5) replicate the genetic code within each cell.

Where Do We Get Vitamin B 12?

We need 2.4 mcg daily of Vitamin B 12. Vitamin B 12 is naturally found in animal products—meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and yogurt. It is generally not found in plant foods, but some foods, like breakfast cereal, are fortified with it.

Why Does WLS Increase the Risk of Deficiency? 

The body has a very specific process for the absorption of Vitamin B 12. This process is less efficient after gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, increasing the likelihood of a deficiency.

Here are the kinks in the process:

  • Less Stomach Acid. Stomach acid frees Vitamin B 12 from foods and the post-bariatric surgery stomach has less stomach acid. That means more Vitamin B 12 remains bound to food where it is unavailable for absorption.
  • Less Intrinsic Factor. Once separated from food, Vitamin B 12 binds to a compound produced in the lower stomach called intrinsic factor. It is the intrinsic factor-Vitamin B 12 compound that the body absorbs in the small intestine. Because the lower stomach is bypassed with gastric bypass surgery and mostly removed with gastric sleeve surgery, there is less intrinsic factor available to bind with Vitamin B 12.
  • Less Food. Portions are smaller after surgery and in many cases less Vitamin B12 is consumed.

Signs of Low Vitamin B 12

Symptoms of a low Vitamin B 12 may be vague or even non-existent, but can include weakness; fatigue; lightheadedness; heart palpitations; shortness of breath; pale skin; a smooth tongue; constipation; diarrhea; loss of appetite; gas; vision loss; nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking; or mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes. A deficiency of Vitamin B 12, if not treated, can lead to irreversible nerve damage—best to take steps to keep it within a healthy range.

Keep Your Vitamin B 12 in a Healthy Range

Just a few easy steps and you can be assured that your Vitamin B 12 stays within that healthy range—not too low or too high.

Step 1.  Get regular lab testing to monitor your Vitamin B 12 level. Most labs set 190 and 950 pg/mL as the reference or normal range, but these numbers vary some from lab to lab. Your Barix Clinics nutritionist will look for a minimal lab value of 400 pg/ml to insure that deficiency symptoms do not occur. Test Vitamin B 12 every 3 months for the first year and then at least once a year after that.

Step 2. Supplement as needed or as a preventative step. If your lab value dips below 400 pg/ml, supplement as recommended by your surgeon or nutritionist. Typically 500 mcg of sublingual Vitamin B 12 daily will restore levels within the reference range. This dosage can also be used to maintain levels within the reference range- a preventative approach.

Step 3. After starting or changing a supplement dosage, re-check levels and adjust as needed. If lab values exceed the high end of the reference range after starting a supplement, reduce the frequency of supplementation to once a week. Then re-check in 3 months. There is no advantage to exceeding the high end of the reference range and some negative effects of excessive Vitamin B 12 supplementation have been reported.

Choose the Right Supplement

An oral (pill) supplement of Vitamin B 12 has limited absorption following gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery. If supplementation is recommended, choose one of the following forms:

  • Sublingual (under the tongue) supplements are a cost efficient and effective solution. They are available over-the-counter in both liquid and dissolvable tablet forms.
  • Vitamin B 12 injections are available at your doctor’s office or by prescription.
  • A vitamin B 12 nasal spray is available by prescription.

Vitamin B 12 has many important roles in the body. Having weight loss surgery increases the risk of having a deficiency, but with a few simple steps, it’s easy to maintain a healthy range of Vitamin B 12.

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