Have a Sugar Free Valentine’s Day

If Valentine’s Day conjures up images of heart-shaped candy boxes, cupid cupcakes and other sweet treats, you are not alone. We grew up with the commercialism and the traditions of this holiday just like all the others. One of the challenges after bariatric surgery is to redefine the holidays—to shift the emphasis from food. It is freeing to lose the images of sugary treats and replace them with new images. Rather than a sense of deprivation, this transition can bring with it a deeper, more satisfying experience for you and your family. Just think of yourself as the vehicle for change—the one to impart a healthier lifestyle to future generations. Learn new traditions, give simple gifts, and increase your use of loving words and actions. Maybe your kids will automatically carry on the tradition of a Valentine’s tree (see below) with their own families rather than lavishing their children and spouses with chocolate.


Find new ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day or challenge yourself for the entire month of February to focus on expressing love to the people who mean the most to you. Blow off the sweets and start some new traditions that build relationships and truly express your love. After you’ve redefined Valentine’s Day, you might be ready for family birthdays—how could you celebrate without the traditional cake and ice cream? I bet you can come up with some more meaningful ways to celebrate those special days.

Cut out red, pink and white hearts. Give every family member enough hearts to write one thing that they appreciate about each family member.  (They can fill out a heart for themselves too.)  Post the hearts with loving sayings on each family member’s bedroom door. You can do this for just one day, a week or each day for the entire month. Think about the environment of love this exercise can create!

Cut down a tree branch and place it in foam inserted in the bottom of a planting pot. You may want to paint the branch red/pink/white or just leave natural.  Cut red/pink/white hearts out of construction paper and punch a small hole at the top. Have family members think of words that mean love to them.  Write these on the hearts. You may want to have children decorate the one side of the hearts with glitter, ribbon, doilies or paint. Hang the hearts from the tree with yarn.

Purchase small gifts and place them in red bags with white tissue paper. Attach a heart shaped name tag on each one.

Let the love extend beyond your family by reaching out to others. It may be as simple as making a Valentine’s Day card for an elderly neighbor and delivering it as a family. You may consider sponsoring a child through one of the great established organizations (about a dollar a day).  You have the idea…it isn’t hard to find someone who has a need.


Keep gift giving simple and meaningful this year.

Write love notes and leave them in places where they will be found throughout the day (in the car, on the bathroom mirror, on the bed pillow, in the backpack, in the purse, in the lunch bag, near the toothbrush). How about a note like, “You drive me crazy!” placed on the steering wheel?

Write down and present your Valentines with 100 reasons why you love them.

Put together a CD or playlist of their favorite songs or romantic songs.

Get a babysitter every Friday.

Create a jar or basket filled with love coupons for hugs, kisses, back rubs or foot rubs to be redeemed over time.


Make an extra effort to show family members that you love them through the words you choose to use:

You mean the world to me. I like the way you handled that. Wow, you really thought out the solution to that problem. I have faith in your ability. I appreciate what you did. You are really showing improvement. I trust you. It must make you proud of yourself when you accomplish something like that. You’re special. Well done. You’re on top of it. Hurray for you! You are a valuable part of our family. I’m proud of you for trying. It is such a blessing to be your mom (or wife, grandma, dad). You did so well at that! How smart. I admire you for ….. (a specific quality or trait). If more people were like you, the world would be a better place. It’s one of my favorite things to be with you. You’re an amazing person. I believe in YOU. You’re precious. You’re a real trooper. Thanks for what you did to help me. You did a great job. You make me happy.  What an imagination. You mean so much to me. I love your sense of humor. You’re so much fun to be with. Thank you. I’m sorry. Tell me more. You can do it. How can I help? Let’s work together. How about a hug? Please. Wow! Look at that! You did it. Super. Super-duper. Now, that’s impressive. Bravo! Excellent. Nice work. Good for you. Look what you can do! Wonderful!  Fabulous.


Below are some great ways to say I love you to all of the important people in your life—that includes you.

Use only positive words when talking about your family members, in their presence or when they are not there. Listen with your full attention. Be their biggest fan and encourager. Regularly give a toast of appreciation at breakfast or dinner. Tell them how they bring love to your life. Ask open ended questions and talk about your day during mealtimes. Read books aloud together. Say you’re sorry. Recall good and bad memories. Just hang out together. Encourage mental, physical and spiritual health. Act silly together. Refrain from the temptation to compare your loved ones to others. Ask questions about opinions, feelings and thoughts. Encourage adventures. Always give a big welcome hug when they come home. Show gratitude for them.  Compliment them in front of others. Spend time together. Ask for hugs and kisses.Take vacations together. Be honest. Practice self-acceptance. Show interest in their interests.   Accept them just the way they are. Forgive. Give the benefit of the doubt. Learn something new together. Keep your promises. Laugh together. Read a story together. End the day with loving words. Have a family hug.  Eat meals together. Compliment often. Take walks together. Do a puzzle together. Send an encouraging/loving card in the mail. Make your home a fun place for everyone.

Loving Self-Talk

Love yourself by only allowing positive, loving thoughts to circulate through your mind. Make an individual list of positive affirmations. Here are some ideas to get you started. Then when you notice a negative thought creep in, say “stop” and replace that thought with one of your affirmations.

I am competent.  I am energetic.  I can grow.  I will make healthy choices.  I am strong.  I can heal.  I will reach my goals.  I am beautiful.  I am enthusiastic.  I can make it through this situation.  I am loving.  I am smart.  I can use new ways to cope.  I am generous.  I can take risks.  I can change.  I am creative.  I am talented.  I can let go of fear.  I am a good person.  I am a good mother/father/sister/friend.  I will accept myself as I am.  I can be honest with my feelings.  I will take care of me today.  I love me.  I am growing stronger each day.  I am caring.  I am courageous.  I can succeed.  I can laugh and have fun.  I can exercise.  I am becoming healthier each day.  I am terrific.  I can solve these problems.  I will get the support that I need.  I will take time to exercise today.  I will let others take responsibility for their own lives today.

Strawberry Chocolates

2 oz unsweetened chocolate bar
6 Tbsp. cocoa butter
½ cup powdered erythritol (Swerve or other brand)
11/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, reduced-fat, softened
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 pkg strawberry gelatin, sugar-free
24 mini muffin liners

Line mini muffin tins with paper or foil liners and set aside. Make chocolate by heating chocolate bar and cocoa butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. When melted, slowly stir in powdered erythritol. Remove from heat and add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spoon ½ of the melted chocolate into the mini muffin tin. Place in freezer for 5 minutes.

Mix together cream cheese, strawberries, gelatin and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Place in a food storage bag and cut a small hole in one corner for piping. Pipe out evenly on top of solidified chocolate. Press down with a spoon to even out.

Spoon the remaining chocolate over the strawberry filling and freeze for 5 minutes. Remove from the freezer and enjoy. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Makes 24 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  52 calories, 1 gram protein, 5 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrate, 43 mg sodium.

Chocolate Muffins

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup erythritol (or other sweetener)
1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt, vanilla
1 egg
½ cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and spray 12-count muffin pan with non-stick spray or add muffin liners. In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, sweetener, flour, baking soda, and baking powder and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, vanilla extract, egg and vegetable oil—slowly stir in dry ingredients. Fill muffin cups 2/3rds full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  162 calories, 4 grams protein, 11 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 128 mg sodium.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cups

24 mini sized foil baking cups
Crust ingredients
10 full sheets graham crackers
1/3 cup stevia, erythritol, or Splenda
6 tablespoons butter, melted
PB filling ingredients
1/2 cup stevia, erythritol, or Splenda
3 tablespoons PB 2 or powdered peanut butter
3 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese

Chocolate Filling

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
1 3/4 cup stevia, erythritol, or Splenda
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a blender or food processor, crush graham crackers into fine crumbs, then mix well with 1/4 cup sweetener and melted butter. Set aside. Place peanut butter filling ingredients in a bowl and mix until well blended. Set aside.

Melt chocolate in small sauce pan over low heat and set aside. Blend cream cheese and sweetener in a small mixing bowl. Slowly add milk and mix until smooth. Add melted chocolate and stir well. Add egg substitute and vanilla and mix until blended. Set aside.

Place 24 mini sized foil baking cups on a sheet pan. Divide the crust mixture evenly between the cups and firmly press into the bottom.  Top with ½ teaspoon of the peanut butter filling. Spoon chocolate mixture on top and tap sheet pan on counter top to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until slightly firm to the touch. Chill for 2 hours. Serve and enjoy. Makes 24 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 74 calories, 2 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, and 75 mg sodium.

Mini Cherry Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes

From murraysugarfree.com

12 Murray Sugar Free Cookies Murray® Sugar Free Chocolate Chip
12 ounces  fat-free cream cheese, softened*
1 cup  small-curd, fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 cup refrigerated or frozen egg substitute, thawed
1/2 cup Splenda granular (sugar substitute)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup light cherry pie filling

Line twelve muffin cups with foil bake cups. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place one cookie in each.

In food processor bowl combine cream cheese, cottage cheese, egg substitute, sugar substitute, flour, lemon peel and vanilla. Cover and process until smooth. Spoon onto crusts. Bake at 300°F about 18 minutes or until almost set. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes. Peel away foil cups.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Spoon pie filling onto cheesecakes.  Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition Information per serving:  110 calories, 8 grams protein, 3.5 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrate, 290 mg sodium.

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How to Eat Better Meal by Meal – Dinner

It’s easy to get into the habit of stopping to get a bite to eat on the way home, but those restaurant meals come with a nutritional cost. If you’re ready to get serious about eating better, the first place to start is by preparing foods at home. With a little pre-planning and practice, you can overcome the lure of restaurant food and be a dinnertime superstar in no time.

Download On Track with Barix: How to Eat Better Meal by Meal – Dinner

Why Bother?

Although food prep may not be at the top of your “want to do” list at the end of the day, the many benefits to cooking at home are worth the effort—take a look:

Better nutrition Home-prepared meals are generally more nutritious and include more fresh fruits and vegetables than convenience meals. They are also lower in calories, carbohydrates, fat, added sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Bonus—studies find that eating home-cooked meals five or more days a week is linked to living a longer life.

Higher quality food When you prepare your own food, you can choose to use fresh, unprocessed ingredients—the key to eating better.

Right-sized portions When we’re served large portions, we tend to eat more. At home, you can get in the habit of serving right-sized portions on smaller plates and avoid excessive calories.

Family time By watching and participating in food prep activities, your children are learning skills and behaviors that will help them with a lifetime of healthy eating. Not only that, but eating meals as a family regularly is associated with happier and healthier kids, better school performance and teens that are less likely to use alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

Save moneyStudies show that eating out at restaurants costs 4-5 times more than the same meal prepared at home.

Feel better Some studies show that adopting a diet of healthy, home-cooked meals can increase your resilience to stress; reducing anxiety and depression–all while boosting your outlook.

Make the Most of Your Time

If you’re ready to start some new habits and reap the benefits of home cooked meals, we’ve got some tips to help you be an efficient cook and make the most of your time.

  • Have a plan. Start with a blank 1-month calendar and pencil in 2-3 favorite meals each week. Then think about how you can reuse leftovers from your favorites to create other meals throughout the week. For example, slow cooker pork tenderloin is a healthy meal to slice and serve with a vegetable. Make extra so you can dice and add to a quesadilla one night and add no-added-sugar barbecue sauce for another meal. Cook once for 3 meals—that’s a time saver.
  • Keep it simple. Repeat family favorites throughout the month and select recipes that don’t have a long list of costly ingredients.
  • Share the responsibility with your spouse, children, a roommate, or a friend. Cooking with others can be a fun relationship building activity.
  • Multitask: chat on the phone, listen to an audio book or watch TV while you cook.
  • Buy pre-washed bags of chopped vegetables or try a cook-at-home delivery service where the ingredients and recipes arrive on your doorstep.
  • Do some of the preparation ahead of time. For example, chop vegetables over the weekend to cut down on weekday cooking time.
  • Load a slow cooker with meat and vegetables in the morning and come home to a piping hot meal at night.
  • Make meals in bulk and freeze leftovers in single portions to eat when you don’t have the time or energy to cook.
  • Stock up on staples and keep ingredients that you use frequently on hand. Frozen fruits and vegetable can extend the time between shopping trips.
  • Use your weekly menu to create a shopping list then add in seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks. Organize your list by the path you travel through the grocery store.
  • Keep an ongoing grocery list in your kitchen so you can add items as you run out.

Get Creative

 Add an element of fun and creativity to meal planning and prep.

  • Play your favorite music and dance around as you chop and peel.
  • Create your own custom cookbook. Search for and gather new recipes for no-added-sugar treats, sides, salads and entrees while you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or during commercial breaks. Print recipes and store in plastic sheet protectors in a 3-ring binder. You can add to your cookbook or delete recipes anytime you like.
  • We eat more of the things that are in our line of vision. Notice throughout your day the foods that are clearly visible. Make a concerted effort to have fresh, wholesome foods front and center in your refrigerator, on your counter, in your cupboards and at work.

Armed with a plan and healthy foods on hand, you are well on your way to eating a better diet.

Mini Lasagna

16 oz ground beef (90% lean)
1 can Hunts Garlic and Onion Spaghetti Sauce (or equivalent)
1 tsp dried oregano, divided
½ tsp dried basil
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
24 small square wonton wrappers
2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through. Add spaghetti sauce and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, oregano, and basil. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and place a wonton wrapper into each of the 12 cups, pressing firmly in the bottom of the cup and up the sides.

Divide half of the ricotta mixture among the 12 muffin cups. Layer next with ½ of the meat mixture and then top each cup with 2 tsp of mozzarella.

Gently press another wonton wrapper on top of the mozzarella layer. Top with remaining ricotta, followed by remaining meat sauce and then mozzarella. Place in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  258 calories, 21 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrate, 535 mg sodium 

Taco Lettuce Cups

1 lb. lean ground beef (95% lean)
1 package taco seasoning, low sodium
1/2 c. shredded Cheddar
8 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 avocado, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 cup fresh salsa

Cook ground beef in large non-stick skillet. Follow instructions on taco seasoning. Serve taco meat in lettuce cups. Garnish with cheddar, onion, avocado and salsa. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving:  249 calories, 14 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 377 mg sodium.

Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie

1 lb. extra lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup Bisquick®
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup liquid egg substitute

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 9” pie plate with cooking spray. Cook ground beef and onion in skillet until beef is brown; drain. Spread in pie plate; sprinkle with cheese. Stir remaining ingredients in separate bowl until well mixed. Pour into pie plate. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 283 calories, 26 grams protein, 11 grams fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 406 mg sodium.





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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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