Healthy Ways to Enjoy National Hot Chocolate Day

Today is National Hot Chocolate Day! 

What a perfect reason to sit down and sip on a warm cup of hot chocolate. Make it right and you’ll get a big boost of protein too!


Start with 1 cup milk and heat:

Fairlife fat free milk (80 calories, 13 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate)

Kroger Carb Master chocolate milk (80 calories, 11 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrate)

Skim milk (83 calories, 8 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrate)

Soy milk (80 calories, 7 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrate)

Almond milk (35 calories, 1 gram protein, 3 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrate)

Coconut milk (45 calories, 0 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrate)


Add chocolate (to warm milk):

Nestlé’s Quick, no-added-sugar (2 Tbsp.=40 calories, 1 gram protein, .5 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate)

Chocolate syrup, no-added-sugar (2 Tbsp.=10 calories, 0 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate)

Swiss Miss Reduced Calorie (1 packet=35 calories, 3 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrate)


Top it off:

Sugar Free Marshmallows (each=30 calories, 1 gram protein, 0 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrate)

Whipped topping (2 Tbsp. =15 calories, 0 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 1 gram carbohydrate)

Make it from scratch:

1 cup Fairlife fat free milk
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ Tbsp. stevia, Splenda or erythritol
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. whipped topping

Heat milk, whisk in cocoa powder and sweetener. Once well-blended, add in vanilla. Top with whipped topping and enjoy. Makes 1 serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 115 calories, 14 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrate.


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Enjoy the Superbowl with these Healthy Treats!

It’s time for the big game! Enjoy some healthy treats while you watch the game.

White Chicken Chili

1-1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz) chicken broth
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper sauce
2 cans (15.8 oz size) great northern beans
1 can (15.25 oz size) corn (chickpeas may be substituted)
2 Tbsp. Fresh cilantro, chopped

Place chicken, onion, garlic, broth, cumin, oregano, salt, and red pepper sauce in a large pot. Add water to cover chicken. Cook on medium heat until chicken done. Use a meat thermometer in the largest part of the breast to insure that a safe temperature of 180° is reached. Remove chicken from the pan, shred and return to the pot. Add beans, cilantro and additional water if needed. Cook for an additional 20 minutes and serve. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 23 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 17 grams
carbohydrate, 466 mg sodium.

South of the Border Lettuce Wraps

3 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup salsa
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1 can (4 oz) green chilies, chopped
¼ cup sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
12 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves

In a large bowl, combine the first 11 ingredients.  Refrigerate until serving.  Stir in avocado just before serving.

Place ½ cup chicken mixture on each lettuce leaf.  Top with 2 teaspoons of sour cream.  Fold lettuce over mixture to make a wrap.  Makes 12 small wraps.

Nutrition information per serving:  130 calories, 13 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 239 mg sodium.

Roasted Chickpeas

1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry the chickpeas. In a small mixing bowl, combine seasonings and oil.  Add the chickpeas and mix until evenly coated. Place chickpeas in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes stir and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until golden and slightly brown.  Turn the oven off, open the door a crack and let the chickpeas continue to cook another 20 minutes. Cool and eat. Makes 4-1/4 cup servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  118 calories, 11 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 35 grams carbohydrate, 317 mg sodium.

Kale Chips

1 large bundle curly green or purple kale
1 tbsp. olive or avocado oil
Seasonings of choice
pinch sea salt, or
1 tsp chili powder, or
1 tsp curry powder, or
1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Rinse and thoroughly dry kale, then tear into small pieces, discarding large stems. Place dry kale in a large mixing bowl, toss with oil and seasoning(s) and mix with hands to evenly coat.

Spread the kale in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Keep the pieces from touching each other as much as possible. Bake for 15 minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn. Lightly toss the kale and continue baking for 5-10 minutes until kale is crispy and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Enjoy immediately. Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving without seasoning: 69 calories, 2 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, 32 mg sodium.

Dark Chocolate Blondies

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup almond butter
1/3 cup sugar-free maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Add the chickpeas, almond butter, sugar-free maple syrup, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla and egg to a food processor or blender. Pulse 5 to 10 times and then process on high until smooth. Stir in the dark chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly in the lined baking pan. Sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cut into 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  173 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 147 mg sodium.

Apple Chips

2 apples, Honey-crisp
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wash and then thinly slice apples, discarding seeds. Arrange apples in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake for 1 hour. Flip apples and continue baking for an additional 1-2 hours, flipping occasionally. Bake until the apple slices are no longer moist. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  66 calories, 1 gram protein, 0 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrate, 0 mg sodium.

Layered Mexican Salad

2 ½ cups plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup unsalted canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 1/2 cups rotisserie chicken breast, shredded
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup prepared guacamole
2 ounces tortilla chips, lightly crushed
1/4 cup sour cream

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, cayenne, and 3 tablespoons lime juice in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together beans, cumin, and remaining lime juice.

Spoon ¼ cup of the tomato mixture into 4 large glasses or pint jars. Layer with romaine, chicken, corn, guacamole, tortilla chips, black bean mixture, and remaining tomato mixture. Garnish with 1 tablespoon sour cream and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 305 calories, 18 grams protein, 11 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrate, 478 mg sodium.

Pizza Chicken Bake

14 oz pizza sauce, look for one without added sugar
16 oz chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
6 oz. part-skim Mozzarella, sliced thin or shredded
1 oz. sliced pepperoni

Preheat oven to 400 F. Reduce the pizza sauce (to prevent a runny dish) by heating in a small saucepan over low heat for about 20 minutes until it is reduced to 1 cup.

Trim the chicken breasts and place one at a time inside a heavy plastic bag; pound to flatten the chicken. Sprinkle oregano and garlic on both sides of chicken.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet or an electric griddle. Add the chicken and cook 1-2 minutes on each side to brown the chicken.

Spray a glass casserole dish with cooking spray and add chicken in a single layer. Top chicken evenly with reduced pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices. Bake uncovered about 25-30 minutes–the cheese should be melted and starting to brown.  Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving:  283 calories, 31 grams protein, 14 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, 649 mg sodium.

Burrito Bowl

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1 pound lean hamburger
1/3 cup Old El Paso Medium Thick n’ Chunky Salsa
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can corn, drained
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 4 oz can Old El Paso diced green chilies
1 cup jasmine rice (or any long grain)
1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Optional toppings:
sour cream, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, avocado

In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and red peppers. Add in hamburger and cook until browned. Stir in salsa, black beans, corn, tomatoes, green chilies, jasmine rice, taco seasoning and chili powder. Pour in chicken stock and then bring to a light boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is all the way cooked.

When rice is done, add salt and pepper to taste. Top with your favorite toppings. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 185 calories, 13 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 864 mg sodium.


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Move More to Warm Up and Boost Energy

Shorter days and cold weather have taken over and it’s tough to get motivated for a brisk outdoor walk. Instead of curling up on the couch with a blanket to stay warm, ramp up an indoor exercise program. You’re sure to warm up and get a good energy boost.

Look for fun indoor exercise classes at your local gym or stay home and workout. There are more home programs available than ever, from cable TV, DVDs, subscription apps, or free YouTube videos.  You are sure to find some that are tailored to your fitness level and interests.

Download Healthful Habits: Move More to Warm Up and Boost Energy

Kickboxing builds endurance and all-body strength.

Yoga tones muscles, increases flexibility and helps with relaxation.

Dancing is a fun way to get in shape. There are so many different types of dance, try something new.

Indoor cycling can burn hundreds of calories and strengthen your core and lower body. Don’t be intimidated, you control the resistance and intensity.

Resistance train with small hand weights, your own body weight or resistance bands. Start with lighter weights and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re ready for more.

Tai Chi is a Chinese low-impact exercise that improves cardiovascular health, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves balance.

Pilates moves can be modified to fit different fitness levels. It strengthens the core and improves balance.

Stair stepping to an online program, to music or while you’re watching your favorite show is an all-around good workout. You can buy adjustable steps to increase the intensity as your fitness improves.

Mall walking provides a climate controlled environment to get in some major power walking. Many malls open in the morning before the stores open to accommodate community walkers.

Play your way to fitness.

Who said exercise needs structure. Sometimes the best way to get a workout is to play.

Laser tag is a fun way for the whole family or a group of friends to get in a workout without even realizing it.

Join a sports league— bowling, soccer, basketball or another sport. Strengthen your social ties while you strengthen your body.

Look for open gym times at your local schools. Gather a group of friends and family for a robust game of dodge ball, basketball, broom hockey or volleyball.

Trampoline parks are popping up all over. Jumping is a great low-impact exercise that is as fun as it is effective.

Crank up the tunes and bust out your best moves or dig into housecleaning with new vigor. No structure needed and the combination of music and movement is sure to lift your mood.

Jumping rope will get your blood flowing and challenge your coordination. It’s easy to do with a jump rope and a little space. You can find plans that help you to build from 10 seconds bursts of jumping up to 5 minutes of continuous jumping.



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It’s Time to Conquer Destructive Habits

You know that making better food choices and getting to the gym more often will help you reach your goals, but you cannot seem to do it. You’ve tried, but time and again, resort back to old familiar ways. What is going on here and is there any hope to change?

Download On Track with Barix: It’s Time to Conquer Destructive Habits

You’re not alone–we all settle into patterns of learned behavior, or habits, which become comfortable. This allows the brain to complete routine tasks on autopilot–freeing up mental capacity for thoughts, decisions, creativity, and actions. Habits, good or bad, tend to stay stable over time until there’s a motivation to change.

If you decide that a particular behavior or set of behaviors doesn’t serve your best interests, you can change it. Keep in mind that it usually takes repeated efforts to break out of autopilot and replace the habit with a new, healthier automatic behavior.

What’s the purpose?

Behaviors become routine for a reason—they serve a purpose. If you’ve identified a problem behavior, say eating ice cream in the evening, think about the underlying cause or purpose of the behavior. In this case, ice cream may be a reward or a comfort; it may soothe your stomach or give you a quick boost of energy. Knowing the why can help you find a healthier behavior that still addresses your need. If you’re craving ice cream because you’re tired and are looking for a quick energy boost, an earlier bedtime may be a good replacement behavior, but that won’t do the trick if it is a reward you need.

Find a better way

Rather than trying to simply stop a behavior, which leaves you with an unmet need, replace it. Armed with an understanding of why the behavior you’d like to change has become a habit; consider other behaviors that will fulfill the purpose in a more positive way. If you eat to wind down after a long day, instead, sip on a cup of green tea or no-added-sugar cider. If you snack out of boredom, instead, find something interesting and active to do during that time. If you’re a stress eater, instead, learn new deep breathing exercises to calm down.

Alter the behavior chain

A behavior chain is a series of events that lead to a specific behavior. By understanding the behavior chain, you can make alterations that lead to a different outcome.

Trigger. The behavior chain starts with an emotional, mental, social, or biological trigger. Examples of triggers include being tired, feeling stressed, seeing a particular food, driving by a favorite restaurant, going out with friend, a birthday celebration or watching a TV commercial.

Thoughts. Triggers lead to thoughts. Thoughts may justify a poor choice, “It’s my birthday so I’m going to eat everything I want.” Thoughts can also empower healthy choices, “I’m going to celebrate my birthday with a slice of sugar-free cheesecake this year—let me find a good recipe.”

Behaviors. Triggers and thoughts lead to actions or behaviors. Repeated actions become automated habits and don’t require an active decision. That means that you don’t think about many behaviors and are probably not consciously aware of the triggers or thoughts leading up to it. This is where stepping back and looking for the trigger, the purpose, and the thoughts surrounding the situation can help.

Consequences. Behaviors have natural consequences. Some of them are immediate and others not apparent for many years. Immediate consequences are more likely to help you with behavior change. For example, the immediate consequence of eating a bowl of ice cream and feeling sick would help in choosing a different action the next time there was a trigger. In comparison, a diet full of added sugar and highly processed foods typically does not produce an immediate negative reaction and the health consequences cannot be seen often for years.

Thankfully, for situations in which the natural consequence is long-term, we can create our own positive consequences to help with behavior change. Do this by creating an immediate reward for choosing the new behavior that you’re working on. This could be a dollar in a jar each time you walk on the treadmill and a penny for each squat to be used towards a new outfit you’ve been wanting.

Stay focused

It takes repetition to rewire the automatic pathways in the brain. You’ll need to be diligent and focused to practice the new behavior until it becomes routine and automatic. Log your progress to help you maintain focus for at least the first 30 days.

Don’t expect a smooth ride

You will have the tendency to go back to the original behavior, that’s normal. Changing the automated wiring in your brain is not easy, but the more you persist, the easier it will become. Be as consistent as possible, but don’t expect perfection.

Set up your environment for success

Set up the environment around you to tilt the odds of make the new behavior stick in your favor. For example, if the behavior you’re trying to change is to go to bed earlier instead of eating a bowl of ice cream; keep ice cream out of the house. Also set up a bedtime routine, turn off electronics, and cut back on evening activities. Think through the obstacles you’ll face and prepare ahead of time.

Learn from failures

You may find that despite your best efforts, you’re not changing the behavior that you want. Perhaps you didn’t correctly identify the behavior’s purpose. Maybe you weren’t eating ice cream because you were tired, but because work was making you feel so stressed. A better replacement behavior may be meditation, going for a walk, talking with a friend, or taking a hot bath. View a lack of behavior change not as failure, but as a learning opportunity that takes you one step closer to where you want to be.

Bottom line

We all have behaviors that no longer serve our life goals. Changing those behaviors is possible, but will initially take significant effort. As time goes on, those behaviors will become more automatic and we will no longer need to put forth the same level of effort.

First, you’ll need to discover why you’re doing what you’re doing—what purpose is the behavior fulfilling? Next find replacement behavior and set up the environment in your favor—make it easier for you to choose the replacement behavior. Look for triggers and be very aware of your thoughts around the behavior—you can change your thoughts to be more supportive and empowering. Finally set up a reward system to help firmly establish the new behavior. Practice the new behavior over and over. If you mess up, good—go back to the drawing board and come up with an even better plan.

Step by step you can form better habits that support becoming the person you want to be.


Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

4 center cut boneless pork chops, pounded to 3/4 inch thick
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2 T olive oil
2/3 c balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Splenda®

Trim fat from pork chops and pound each chop to 3/4 inch thickness. Season chops on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic.

Heat pan 1 minute, add olive oil, heat one minute more, then add pork chops and cook over medium high heat until well browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Place pork chops on a plate. Lower pan heat slightly; add vinegar and Splenda; cook until slightly thickened–about 2 minutes.

Put pork chops back into pan with any liquid which has collected on plate, and cook about 4 minutes, turning several times to glaze pork chops with sauce. Serve hot. Pour remaining sauce over pork chops. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 302 calories, 29 grams protein, 17 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrate, 315 mg sodium.

Black Bean Chili

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
10 fresh mushrooms, sliced
6 roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 (15 oz) cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cup chicken broth

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sautee onions, red bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes and corn for 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil.

Remove 1 ½ cups of the soup and puree. Stir back into saucepan of soup. Enjoy. Makes 8 servings. Using canned organic black beans eliminates 387 mg of sodium per serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 173 calories, 9 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 124 mg sodium.

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Merry Christmas


Wishing you and your families a very blessed and peaceful Christmas and Holiday Season.

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