Portion Control Your Thanksgiving Feast

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Thanksgiving comes around once a year and is a day we dedicate to tradition, family, and eating!  It can be hard to keep your nutrition goals in focus when surrounded by a feast of calorie-rich options. Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite holiday foods in order to stay healthy and avoid weight gain.  Use the portion size references below and the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines to enjoy your favorite foods without overindulging, because the only thing that should be stuffed on Thanksgiving is the turkey.

Follow the USDA’s MyPlate Strategy!

How to Measure Serving Sizes of Your Thanksgiving Favorites:

  • Turkey – White meat = 3 oz. cooked or one deck of cards
  • Mashed Potatoes = ½ cup or a Scotch Tape roll
  • Cranberry Sauce – canned =  ½ inch slice; homemade = ½ cup or spool of thread
  • Sweet Potato or Green Bean casserole – ½ cup or an Altoids box
  • Stuffing – ½ cup or a bar of soap
  • Dinner roll – a medium roll or a tennis ball
  • Gravy – 2 tbsp. or a golf ball
  • Cornbread – a combination lock
  • Pumpkin pie – 1/10 of a 9 inch pie plate or a light bulb


For more information on portion control ideas, go to www.choosemyplate.gov.

Meghan Rath

Meghan Rath

M.S., CSCS, HFS is a HealthEase Fitness Manager with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from West Chester University. She is also ACSM and NSCA certified.

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Meal Prep Time Savers

Busy schedules, low energy levels, and not knowing what to do for dinner all lead to ordering off the takeout menu or eating less than healthy options during the workweek. Check out the tips below to help make healthy cooking a breeze.

Prep Work Shortcuts:

  • Buy precut, prepackaged veggies or buy the toppings from the grocery salad bar and throw into stir fries, omelets, quesadillas,  or use for kabobs
  • Use frozen veggies – try them roasted or sautéed straight from the freeze or steam them according to package directions
  • Use beans or tofu as a no-cook protein source for your meal
  • Buy pre-portioned chicken breasts, pre-formed ground beef or turkey patties, precooked shrimp, etc. to cut down your meat prep

Embrace Kitchen Tools and Gadgets:

  • Use your Crockpot to do the cooking while you’re at work:
    • Cook chicken or turkey breasts and shred them to add to salads, quesadillas, pizzas, burritos and wraps, or sandwiches and burgers
    • Cook ground beef, chicken, or turkey to use in tacos, sloppy Joes, burritos bowls, or add to lasagna
  • Use a food processor or mandolin to chop and slice your veggies, herbs, and fruits in no time
  • Use tools such as cherry pitters, apple slicers, egg slicers (also great for mushrooms), garlic presses, and other time savers to cut down on tedious chopping and dicing

Use convenience foods when you can:

  • Buy a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking your own to add to your favorite recipe.  Just be sure to remove the skin
  • Layer frozen raviolis (with spinach!) with pasta sauce, lean ground beef or turkey, and low fat mozzarella to make a super quick lasagna
  • Buy precooked whole wheat pizza crust to make homemade pizzas
  • Use frozen, microwavable rice as a side or to add to casseroles, stir fries, burritos, or soups Try these combinations to get your creative juices flowing!
  • Add shredded chicken and black beans to rice and prepared salsa for a Southwestern quick meal (omit chicken for a vegetarian meal).  Bump up the fiber with frozen corn and bell peppers!
  • Toss precooked shrimp with lime juice, cilantro, and prepared mango salsa.  Wrap in a whole wheat tortilla and top with pre-sliced red cabbage for easy shrimp tacos.
  • Cook ground turkey meatballs in your Crockpot and serve on a whole wheat roll with chopped spinach, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and Greek yogurt for a Mediterranean take on a meatball sub.
Meghan Rath

Meghan Rath

M.S., CSCS, HFS is a HealthEase Fitness Manager with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from West Chester University. She is also ACSM and NSCA certified.

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Focus on your food: Prevent weight gain caused by mindless eating

We have all been caught up reading emails or watching TV while eating, only to look at our plate and notice we’ve finished our meal in what felt like no time at all. Mindlessly eating throughout the day can lead to overeating. Check out these tips to start focusing on your food and prevent unwanted calorie build-up.


What is Mindful Eating and How to Practice It


Mindful eating is when we put our full attention to the experience of eating and/or drinking – such as, the appearance, taste, texture, and aromas. When we don’t focus on the act of eating, our brain does not always “connect” with our body and recognize that we are full; or that we even ate at all!


To truly enjoy your food, and still lose or maintain a healthy weight, try these small changes:


Before opening your pantry or taking a bite, ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?”


If you are physically hungry you should fuel yourself properly with healthy calories. If not, you may only be craving certain foods or your “hunger” is driven by emotion.


When you are hungry, ask yourself “what do I want to eat now?


Think about what you prefer to eat now. When you follow these preferences you will be less likely to needlessly snack on unsatisfying choices.


You CAN eat mindfully.


Use the CAN method  eat foods that are Convenient, Attractive, and Normal. For example, put a colorful bowl of fruit on the counter instead of in the fridge to keep it convenient, and attractive, and be sure to fill the bowl with fruits you enjoy or commonly eat (normal).


5 Ways to Increase Mindfulness during Your Meals:

  • Look at each bite of food before you put it into your mouth.
  • Chew your food s-l-o-w-l-y (or for at least 10 seconds).
  • When multitasking, try to alternate eating with whatever activity you are doing – in other words, don’t read and eat simultaneously.
  • Try to fully focus on the first four sips of your morning coffee, tea, or fruit juice, and take in its appearance, smell and taste.
  • When eating, stop and focus on how full you feel. Try to eat until you feel satisfied, not stuffed.
Meghan Rath

Meghan Rath

M.S., CSCS, HFS is a HealthEase Fitness Manager with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from West Chester University. She is also ACSM and NSCA certified.

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Chuck the Diet, Change Your Daily Habits

I believe that you should not have to give up on food you love when trying to lose weight.  Instead of depriving yourself, think moderation or even just improving your favorites with healthy swaps! I guarantee that if your mindset is in the right place then you will improve your daily choices instead of struggling over a diet.


So what does this change in daily habits entail?


The basic difference between a diet and daily habits is your mindset or, better yet your perspective on food, exercise, nutrition, etc. It makes your goals achievable, and if you are truly dedicated to a healthy lifestyle you really won’t miss out on anything at all.  The best part about this transformation is that it is not temporary, like dieting.


A diet is all about numbers—the number on the scale and the number of calories you eat and burn. Success is defined in terms of how well you stick to your numbers.


Changing your daily habits is all about you. It’s about lining up your eating and activity with your real desires. Success is defined in terms of how these changes make you feel about yourself.


A diet assumes that reaching a certain weight is the key to finding happiness and solving other problems. That’s why messing up the numbers on any given day can be so upsetting—it means you’ve failed.


A lifestyle approach assumes that being overweight is usually the result of other problems, not the cause. Addressing these problems directly is the best way to solve both the problems themselves and your weight issues.


Going on a diet involves obsessing over your exterior self and making a temporary change to your eating habits. You start counting and measuring, and you stop eating some foods and substitute others, based on the rules of whatever diet plan you are using. Maybe you throw in some exercise but that might just be so you can eat a few extra calories. You assume that it’s the technique – not you – that produces the results.


The results of a diet are external; if you’re lucky, you may change on the outside—but not on the inside. Once you reach your goal weight, you don’t need the technique anymore, and things gradually go back to “normal.” But then so does your weight—and then some. And, of course, all the problems you hoped the weight loss would solve are still there!


Changing your daily habits involves looking inward and making permanent changes in how you relate to food, eating, and physical activity. You recognize that the primary problem isn’t what you eat, or even how much you eat, but how and why you eat. Eating mindlessly and impulsively (without intention or awareness) and/or using food to manage your emotions and distract yourself from unpleasant thoughts—this is what really needs to change.


Learning to take good care of yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually—so that you don’t want to use food to solve problems it really can’t—is a lifelong learning process that is constantly changing as your needs and circumstances change.


Start this new attitude today by looking away from the mirror and looking into what really matters and what you can control. Soon you’ll notice a healthier, happier self!

Liz Reichel

Liz Reichel

works for HealthEase as an Exercise Specialist and Assistant Manager of a corporate fitness site. She has a degree in Exercise Science as well as an extensive background in personal training, group exercise, health coaching, nutrition, and post rehab exercise.

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Get creative with pumpkin consumption

My favorite part of the fall season? It’s making pumpkin a big part of my diet. Pumpkins are low in calories and loaded with nutrients like Vitamins A, B6, C and E as well as potassium and folate. This delicious fruit (pumpkin is not a vegetable!) is primarily thought of as a favorite pie ingredient and aspiring Jack ‘o Lantern. But it can be incorporated into your meals without adding sugar, as is the case in many pumpkin recipes. Here are a few health-conscious suggestions you can try:


Pumpkin-Inspired Meal Ideas:

    • Add canned pumpkin into a pot of hot oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon.
    • Add canned pumpkin into your pancake mix.
    • Make a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie in a blender using:
      • ½ cup pumpkin puree
      • ½ banana
      • 6 oz.  nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
      • ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
      • ½ Tbsp. honey
      • 1 cup crushed ice
    • Make Pumpkin Mac n’ Cheese:
      • Box of whole wheat penne pasta
      • 2 tsp. olive oil
      • 1 medium onion, chopped
      • 3 cups spinach
      • 1 can of pumpkin puree
      • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
      • ½ cup water
      • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
        • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
        • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to directions on package minus 2 minutes, and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water when done.
        • Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet. Sauté onions and spinach until softened.
        • Stir in canned pumpkin and ricotta cheese. Empty drained pasta plus 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water into skillet and mix well.
        • Spoon pasta into 11 x 7 baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!
Amanda Jackson

Amanda Jackson

Amanda has been with HealthEase since January of 2012. She is the Assistant Manager at the De Lage Landen Fitness Center in southeast Pennsylvania. Her favorite part of the job is motivating people to reach their health & fitness goals. Amanda holds a Bachelor of Science from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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