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8 Ways to Amp Up Your Yogurt 

Light, smooth and versatile, yogurt is the perfect foundation for endless flavor profiles at any time of day! Create a satisfying breakfast, post-workout protein boost or an after-dinner treat in minutes without ever having to stand over the stove, toaster, oven or microwave.  

Because yogurt lends itself to a wide variety of add-ins and toppings, you can go far beyond the traditional fruit, nuts and granola.  

We recommend using plain, non-fat Greek yogurt as a base because it has about 12 grams of protein per serving, no fat and relatively low carbs and calories. If you prefer non-dairy, there’s plenty of alternatives such as soy, almond, coconut, cashew and more. However, nutrition may vary by style and brand, so look for Greek-style options that are higher in protein and compare calories, carbs, fat and sugar content. 

Whether you go with Greek or dairy-free yogurt, by choosing plain versus flavored, you can get creative with what you add and how much. Sweet or savory? You choose! 

Here are 8 ways to amp up your yogurt, your way:  

Add Your Own Sweetener

Skip the added sugar from flavored yogurts and add in your own Stevia, monk-fruit, honey or maple syrup to get your ideal level of sweetness.  

Make Your Own Flavor with Extracts 

A few drops can bring powerful flavor without the additives alternative flavors include. Beyond vanilla, there are so many readily available extracts to choose from online and in-store, including marshmallow, coconut, almond, and caramel. 

Use Cocoa Powder to Reimagine Chocolate Pudding 

Satiate your love of chocolate with a healthy take on traditional chocolate pudding by simply mixing in cocoa powder. Get the amazing taste without the added calories of chocolate syrup or chocolate chips.  

 

Whip up a PB+Y Dip 

Mix-in peanut butter powder to get the PB flavor and creamy texture. Plus, the powder is easier to stir! This combo provides a solid source of protein with lower fat than traditional PB and serves as a great fruit dip. 

Pack a Punch with Protein Powder 

Trade your usual protein shake for protein pudding by adding your favorite protein powder to yogurt. Enjoy as is or top with coconut shavings, fruits, nuts or granola.  

Create an Upgraded Cereal Bowl 

Pair the smoothness of yogurt with the satisfying crunch of protein cereal for a winning combo of rich texture, high fiber and extra protein. Find protein cereals and granolas in most grocery stores and online.  

Sprinkle in Superfoods 

Chia seeds can take your yogurt game to the next level by providing a good source of fiber, omega 3-fatty acids (an essential fat that benefits heart health) and about 6 grams of protein per serving. Great to incorporate with any flavor profiles! 

Give it a Savory Spin 

Who says yogurt must be sweet? Blend your yogurt with juicy roasted veggies, zesty spices and flavorful condiments to create your own dips, sauces or dressings.  

 

For even more ideas and personalized tips, join the Stronger U community and get paired with an experienced coach who can help you achieve your goals. Get started here.  

Why Your Low-Carb Diet Might be Sabotaging Your Success

As you amazing SU’ers already know, carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates fuel our body with glucose which is converted to energy used to support our brain, kidneys, heart muscles, and central nervous system.

How many forms can one diet take? As many that will sell. The Atkins diet, the keto diet, the bullet proof diet are just a few of many diets that likely come to mind when you hear low carb. Wow, carbs seem pretty important, so why do we hear so much on the urgency to restrict them? Why do carbs get such a bad reputation?

Mostly because not all carbohydrates are created equal, as some offer more nutritionally than others. And our diets, in general, are relatively unbalanced. It is my opinion that the pioneers of low carb were a quick study to the US diet, that it contains too many low quality carbs. A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Americans are consuming 42 percent of their daily calories from refined carbohydrates. While only 9 percent in high quality carbohydrates such as fruit and whole grains. Please read that again. Naturally then, when the low carb diet swoops in, it instantly reduces that 42 percent of daily calories from refine carbs down to 10%. I am no math genius but that alone creates an instant weight loss for almost anyone. Carbs are easy to target because we know them, we love them, and they make up a large part of our diet.

I do believe a low carb diet has a time and a place. I work with individuals with varying medical diagnosis, nutritional needs in which greatly benefit from both short term and long term low carbohydrate diets. The study of low-carb diets has centered on weight loss in obese and overweight people but frequent usage includes type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, seizure disorders and within the athletic population as an alternative fuel for performance and health.

What is a low carb diet?

  1. A very low carb diet: 21g to 70g per day (Atkins & Keto classify as this)
  2. A moderately low carbohydrate diet: 30 to <40% of kcal as carbohydrate per day. Example, 1500 kcal diet, low carb range would be 112-146g

What it does:

A low-carb diet causes the body to burn stored fat for energy, which targets fat loss. Very low-carbohydrate diets minimize available glucose, the body’s primary and main source of fuel, causing ketone bodies to then become the major source of fuel. Low carb diets focus our attention on getting most calories from fat/protein instead. When carb intake is limited to 20 to 50g per day, Ketosis can occur. As we also know, increasing protein intake can help us stay full for longer, keeping hunger at bay which is a benefit when slashing carbs so dramatically.

Low-Carb Diets aren’t a Cure-All

While low-carb diets are popular in the diet world, there are many things to be aware of about why this style of eating isn’t healthy or sustainable. Here are a handful of the red flags that I notice when researching low-carb diet options:

Universally evidence based

The research is inconsistent. There is no concrete evidence that very low-carb intake always produces metabolic ketoacidosis. Many people following very low carb diets on their own are not actually in ketosis and may not know because they are not checking. Just like anything nutrition related, diet recommendations should not be a one-size-fits-all. Twenty to 50 g of carbs might be too restrictive for some people, but 75 to 90 g may be doable for others and still provide excellent results.

100% Effective or Safe

There’s very little evidence to show that this type of eating is effective or safe long term for anything other than epilepsy. Very low carbohydrate diets can have higher rates of side effects, including constipation, headaches, bad breath, fatigue to name a few while the diet is being followed.

Healthier

A low carb diet’s requirements can lead to missing out on many healthy foods, micronutrients and nutritive value. The high fat content of these diets has potential to lead to consuming an unhealthy amount of saturated fat. When nutrient dense foods are limited and saturated fats are increased, long-term heart health could be compromised. Many individuals are following these diets without regard to food choices. Very low carb diets have been associated with inadequate vitamin/mineral intake, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin C. We especially need these nutrients to promote healthy bones.
It is also suggested that when nutrient density is reduced, changes in the gut microbiome can occur. We know good gut health can support a healthy immune system and more.

Sustainable

While some can follow low carb for life, most simply cannot. As we know, when we stop what we’ve been doing, or discontinue behaviors that helped us achieve initial weight loss, it will come right back on. This goes the same for a very low carb diet. Our environment today with eating out, traveling, portions, can make sticking to a very low carb diet extremely challenging to follow long term.

Education

Very low carb diets do not teach us how to eat. Most diets that restrict or omit a food group prevent us from learning and practicing what a balanced way of eating should look like. It teaches many from the get go that carbs are bad and we can do without them. Which has a tendency to promote an all or nothing mentality.

For everyone

Very low-carb or keto diets are not recommended for certain people with:

  • lipid metabolism disorders
    • recent heart attack or stroke
    • women who are pregnant or breast-feeding;
    • kidney or liver disease
    • alcohol or substance abuse
    • eating disorders
    • type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes with beta-cell dysfunction/failure; and
    • people with diabetes who take SGLT2 inhibitors (eg, empagliflozin and canagliflozin), because of increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis

What next?!  

For those who are interested and motivated to follow a very low carb diet, you will have improved sustainability and outcomes by teaming up with a skilled nutrition coach and/or registered dietitian. It is helpful to have a skilled professional by your side walking you through short-term side effects of transitioning into nutritional ketosis, with meal planning, maintaining balance, gut health, reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, and meet vitamin and mineral needs. There are so many factors that go into appropriate management including adequate hydration, carbohydrate threshold, quality of fat sources, maintaining good digestion, promoting gut health, and helping individuals assess if a very low carb diet is right for them.

Action item: I challenge you to get curious this month and see where the majority of your daily carbohydrate intake is coming from. Is it mostly complex carbs or refined carbs?

References

Trends in Dietary Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat Intake and Diet Quality Among US Adults, 1999-2016. JAMA. 2019;322(12):1178-1187. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.13771

Oh R, Gilani B, Uppaluri KR. Low Carbohydrate Diet. [Updated 2021 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.  Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/

Gordon, B.What is the Ketogenic Diet?, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2019 May. Available from: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/fad-diets/what-is-the-ketogenic-diet

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines.

Go to:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/

MYTHS- https://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/a19951161/low-carb-diet-myths/

Go to:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/

MYTHS- https://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/a19951161/low-carb-diet-myths/

Creamy and Decadent Protein-Packed Chocolate Pudding

Serves: 2

Say goodbye to snack packs and hello to DIY protein pudding, sweetened to your liking! Top your favorite french toast with this pudding for a breakfast treat worth craving. We used plant-based protein powder in this recipe, but whey-based protein will result in a thinner consistency.

Ingredients:

1 cup  (240g) plain Greek Yogurt, nonfat

2 tbsp (28g) almond butter

3 tbsp (16g) cocoa powder

2 scoops (36g) protein powder, chocolate

1 tsp (5g) vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

1-2 tsp stevia, as needed

2-3 tbsp (30 – 60ml)  water, as needed

 

Preparation:

  1. Combine yogurt, almond butter, cocoa powder, protein powder and sea salt in a bowl. Add water, as needed to thin.
  2. Add stevia, as needed
  3. Enjoy!

Per serving:

Calories: 204

Fat: 13g

Carbohydrates: 16g

Fiber: 6.3g

Sugar: 6.5g

Protein: 24.7g

Sodium: 171 mg

Cheeseburger Stuffed Peppers

Cheeseburger Stuffed Peppers

Serves: 4

Get the taste of your favorite fast food… within your macros! Use brown rice for an added dose of fiber and top with your favorite burger toppings!

Ingredients:

3 medium or 4 large (350g) bell peppers

1lb (454g) extra lean ground beef

½  medium (55g)  yellow onion, finely chopped

½  cup (100g) cooked brown rice

2 tbsp (18g) finely chopped pickles

2 tsp (15g) garlic powder

2 tbsp (30g) mustard

2 tbsp (30g) ketchup

1 cup (113g)  shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Slice each bell pepper in half, removing the seeds and stem.
  3. In a large fry pan, brown the beef and onions until cooked through. Add the rice, garlic powder, mustard, and ketchup.
  4. Spoon the meat into the peppers. Bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with cheese, baking for an additional 5-10 minutes or until melted.
  6. Top with additional pickles, if desired.

 

Per serving:

Calories: 317

Fat: 14.2g

Carbohydrates: 16.7g

Fiber: 2.9g

Sugar: 6.2g

Protein: 29.7g

Sodium: 445 mg

Your New Weeknight Staple: French Onion Chicken

A hearty AND healthy chicken dish that combines your favorite, savory and cheesy soup with lean chicken! This one pan meal is the perfect dish to warm up during the winter and impress your family with something that tastes delicious! The secret to getting this on the table is a pinch of baking soda to help break down and caramelize the onions in record time! Dairy free? Substitute olive oil and vegan cheese for the butter and cheese for an equally delicious dish!

French Onion Baked Chicken

Serves: 4

Total time: 1 hour

Active time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 tbsp (15g) butter

3 medium (330g) yellow onions, thinly sliced into half moons

1/8th tsp baking soda

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 cloves garlic. chopped

1 tbsp (8g) all-purpose flour, or gluten free flour if preferred

¼ cup (60ml) dry white wine

½ cup (120ml) beef broth, low sodium

4 small (420g) chicken breasts

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp garlic granules

1 cup (85g) low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 tbsp (12g) parmesan cheese, grated

2 tbsp (7g) fresh parsley, chopped

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

 

Preparation:

  1. Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add butter and sliced onions. Season with salt, pepper, and baking soda.
  3. Let cook for 8-10 minutes or until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the thyme and garlic. Cook the onions for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400°F/204°C.
  6. Deglaze the pan using the wine. Transfer ½ the onions to a plate. Spread remaining onions in an even layer in the pan.
  7. Add the chicken to the pan, top with dried thyme, granulated garlic, beef broth, and remaining onions.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove, and top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese, baking for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.
  10. Top with parsley.
  11. Enjoy!

 

Calories: 350

Fat: 13.3g

Carbs: 12.8g

Protein: 42.7g

Fiber: 1.6g

Sugars:  5g

Sodium: 443mg

5 Myths of Dating While Dieting

Let’s have some fun here, like this is date number one, and kick things with some trivia. But before we get into it, I’ll be honest, this may be a little easier than your usual local Friends trivia that throws questions at you like “Who was the maid of honor at Monica’s wedding” or “how many seasons of Friends are there in total?” Instead, we are talking dieting-dating trivia, and my first question to you is… 

True or False? Dates at BYOB spots tend to have a higher engagement and interaction rate. 

True. Some even reported that pre-date texts about ‘what do you like to drink, I’ll grab a bottle’ sealed the deal, way before the dinner reservation. 

Were you able to guess it right? Alright, Dr. Phil! Let’s see if we can keep this streak going for two out of two here, with our final question to break the ice. 

What percentage of Americans polled agreed they would be more likely to go on a first date with someone if they mentioned they’re a good cook on their dating profile? With your guess here, just like we do with macros, you can be ‘within 5’ (percent), and I’ll accept it as the correct answer. 

2 out of 3 Americans polled (or 66%) agreed that they would be more likely to go on a first date with someone if they mentioned they’re a good cook on their dating profile. 

Here is the truth: food is such an essential component of dating, even to the extent that how someone eats may be a turn-off (loud chewer, messy eater, there are many ways that somebody can leave a wrong impression when it comes to first dates). In contrast, how much time we spend on social media, food posts, or someone’s cooking abilities, as portrayed by an IG Reel or a Tik Tok post, can be the reason why we subconsciously find someone to be more attractive. So, let’s crackdown a bit here about the impacts of dating on dieting. In what ways could dating be sabotaging your success? Or are we just looking at it from the wrong perspective? I have boiled down dating and dieting to five common myths. So, let’s make dating fun again by planning for success!

Myth #1: You Should Never Talk About Dieting on a Date

Okay, this is a half-myth. Many people might be deterred at the mention of their date being on a diet. It can create a lot of extra stress around trying to pick a place to eat, wondering if you’ll have fun, etc. But consider this: With the increasing emphasis on self-care and wellness, both attendees on a date may likely have aligning views when it comes to what you eat. However, they may both be too shy to say anything at first, with the fear that their idea will get rejected. Therefore, without dipping too far into the psychological side of dating, let’s put the first checkbox on this list of ways to conquer dieting and dating while overcoming the fear of making a suggestion that aligns with your lifestyle. Simply put, suggest what feels right and don’t hold back. 

Myth #2: You Have to Drink on a Date

Next up on the checklist are liquid calories. A sit-down dinner, face-to-face with low background noise, maybe a bit much for some first dates. Instead, meeting for drinks seems to be the option that tops the charts regarding date number one. Of course, if you focus on weight loss, you might not be willing to sacrifice those extra calories and macros on a drink. But, you also may not want to order sparkling water on a first date to a bar. 

Try to get creative when thinking about a casual meetup spot for drinks. Wind back the clock a few hours and trade the bar for the barista. There are close to 50,000 coffee shops across the US, so I can guarantee you, you’ll find a local spot that fits the mood of your first date. More importantly, swapping out a couple of cocktails and the hundreds of empty calories that come with it will keep you focused and in line with your calorie goals. Not to point out the obvious here, but coffee shops and an afternoon date will have a lot more lighting too. See what I did there? 

Myth #3: You Can’t Plan for a Dinner Date at a New Restaurant

Alright, off we go to checklist item number three. Say things took a more intimate turn, and we’ve fancied ourselves a shirt and tie to meet our date at dinner. Is that a big no-no? Absolutely not! You’ve secured yourself a first (or second) date, and that’s the bigger victory here. If you’ve already got a spot picked out, to which both of you’ve agreed, then that right there is the most significant victory. But don’t sweat if you haven’t decided just yet. We’re here to help you decide, with both your nutrition goals and your dating performance in mind:

  1. Do we feel confident about the trivia question number, to where we dwindle our options down to BYOB spots? 
  2.  What macronutrient do you find yourself having the toughest time with regarding sticking to the plan? If it’s carbohydrates, perhaps an Italian restaurant that specializes in homemade pasta is most likely not your first choice. Most Italian spots won’t be BYOB anyway, given that they’ll have an extensive list of Chianti reds. Is protein something you find yourself chasing down at the end of the day? Then take full advantage of your needs and select a spot that offers some of your favorite protein options, whether it’s fresh fish, duck, octopus, or even a signature tofu dish. 
  3. We’d be fooling nobody if we said you haven’t done a little bit of detective work on who your date is. Whether you briefly scanned their Instagram or you’ve shared text exchanges with friends of friends who know the individual, it isn’t impossible to get some background on what kind of food they may prefer. Now, given that our palate does change quite often, this may be your riskiest option, in that you are pretty much gambling based on assumption, but that’s a whole new factor of fun, in my opinion. If one of their favorite spots/frequently visited spots aligns with your nutrition goals, suggest that particular spot and let them feel comfortable since it is essentially a home-court advantage for them. 
  4. This one may vary, depending on the setup for dinner, as well as your particular nutrition goals. Similar to how you wouldn’t show up to the grocery store very hungry, it’s actually not a bad strategy to have a little fruit or a snack before you go out. If you’re wondering why you would ever do such a thing, there are two great reasons.
    1. The first is more aligned with frugality and finances, so we won’t get into that.
    2. However, the second one is that you will be less likely to overeat calorically dense foods or drinks if you pregame with some fruits and vegetables before heading out the door. Just do me a favor and make sure your mouth isn’t purplish-blue from the blackberries and you don’t have a fibrous strand of celery sticking out in between your middle two teeth. Control your initial appetite, and you will be more likely to stick to a tasting menu or a single dish. 

Myth #4: You Cannot Host a Date at Your Place

Going back to our main checklist, there should absolutely be a subsection in there around some of the dining limitations and city-specific restrictions around dining out. The solution to that may be eating in, and if you remember trivia question number two, there is a 66% increase in the likelihood of scoring a first date if you can prove your skills in the kitchen. Sure, for many of us, inviting someone into our home to cook them a meal may not be until the third or fourth date, but it’s never a bad idea to mentally prepare. Keeping this statement as PG as possible, when you’ve made it to the stage of being the dinner host and having the honor of cooking the meal, you’ve sealed the deal. What I mean by that is, as a host, you control the menu. You can create a menu that falls in line with your macros. You have the ability to chef up a lighter menu that won’t weigh you both down afterward. Plus, you don’t have to feel like you are on the clock. Take your time eating! Enjoy the conversation! And if you’re comfortable with the cooking skills involved and have fun spending time in the kitchen together, plan out a menu that features a variety of tapas. 

Myth #5: Dates Can Only Happen at Restaurants

Last but not least, realize that dates don’t have to be centered around food. Just like your Stronger U coach may challenge you with 10,000 steps or activities outside of your comfort zone, flip the script and move things along. Suggest going for walks around your favorite parts of the city or through the most relaxing parks or enjoy the riverfront for your daily dose of fresh air. If walking is not your thing, rent some shared bikes like Citi Bike and make a day out of it. Want to get more adventurous? If you’re close to where you both live, go skiing or hiking and tackle the bigger adventures. Circle back to checkbox number one on this list we’ve created, and remember that the most crucial point to all of this is overcoming your fear of making a suggestion that aligns with your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. In all honesty, coffee, and a few games of Pickleball or tennis; a round of golf or an hour at the driving range, followed by brunch; or even a hike with a picnic at the peak all sound like dates most of us will not turn down. 

Have fun, be you, and make suggestions based on what feels right. After all, dating and dieting overlap in almost every way possible. 

Get Dating!

So there you have it! Your five most common myths when it comes to eating and dieting. Bookmark this blog for the next time somebody swipes right on your picture, and you’re ready to jump into the dating pool again! Are you curious to learn more about how Stronger U coaches help members as you plan for events, just like dating? We’re ready to help! 

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