4 Tips to Increase Fruit & Veggie Intake

spring-produce

It’s spring time! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and nature is waking up again after it’s winter hibernation. We are on the cusp of summer and the grocery stores and markets are filled with beautiful new fruits and veggies. It’s the best time to jump back on track if you let your health slide over the winter.

Most people are aware that you should consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but did you know that studies show only 20% of Americans are meeting this goal? Fresh produce is at its peak right now and the gorgeous, colorful harvest will be available through the fall so it’s the perfect time to make a goal for yourself to consume more plants.

One of the first recommendations I have for clients wanting to lose weight and gain health is to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Not only are plant foods packed with nutrients and antioxidants but that they are also packed with fiber–which plays an important role in digestive health and can even lower cholesterol. Many people that are trying to start living a healthier lifestyle tell me they don’t know where to start and my answer is always this: eat more plants!

So how can you increase your intake? Here are 4 tips for packing your plate with fruits and vegetables.

  1. Add 1 serving to every meal. One rule of thumb to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is to add one serving to each meal. Are you a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast eater? Add berries to your oatmeal or smash a banana on toast (and don’t forget the protein to keep you full!). Do you eat sandwiches for lunch? Add slices of tomato and onion or a handful of spinach to your plate. Have a small side salad of arugula with dinner and you’ve increased your plant intake by three servings for the entire day!
  2. Make a smoothie. Making a vegetable and fruit smoothie is an awesome way to max out your intake for the day. Add together greens, fruit, and a nut milk for a morning on the run or for a post workout snack. Check out my post on building your own smoothie.
  3. Try one new vegetable or fruit each week. You have your favorite vegetables on rotation but it’s good to branch out and try something new. We can easily get in a rut when trying to eat healthy, but it’s important to get a variety of fruits and vegetables because each offers different benefits. One rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow,” or try to eat fruits and vegetables of different colors. Aim for greens every day and add in reds (bell peppers, strawberries), oranges (carrots, peaches), blues/purples (blueberries, eggplant), and whites (cauliflower, mushrooms). 
  4. Eat seasonally. Have you ever tasted strawberries in the winter and they just didn’t have that ‘fresh from the bush’ spring taste? We are lucky in the United States to have fruit available to us year round, but eating seasonally and from our geographic location can not only make for better tasting produce but can also be better for the environment (less fuel to carry produce to stores). Frequenting farmer’s markets and keeping an eye (and tastebuds) on when produce is in season will make for tastier meals and will keep you more in tune with mother nature and where your food is coming from. Which in turn will make for better health all around!

Want to learn more about fruit and its impact on health and aging? Check out my book Positively Ageless for this and more tips on living a healthier and happier life.

Ask Cheryl: Quinoa, Cleanses, & Fiber

Another roundup of your burning nutrition questions from our weekly Facebook chats, courtesy of American Pistachios! Each week I host a live Q&A session on Tuesdays at 8pm EST, following Monday night’s newest The Biggest Loser episode. Make sure to join in for a chance to win prizes, this week’s winners won Lodge Cast Iron cookware!


 

Question: I finally found a exercise video that nudged my weight loss to start again. I am also drinking a weight loss drink once a day. Do you think weight loss drinks are OK for short term?

Answer: I think that SOME shakes are ok once in awhile, but they need to have really clean ingredients – no artificial sweeteners or sugar

 

Question: I always though quinoa was a protein, then read somewhere that it is more carbohydrate. Which is right?

Answer: Quinoa is a whole grain that has both protein and complex carbs. It a really great source of plant protein and very versatile to use

 

Question: Hi, wondering if any supplements are recommended to assist with weight loss. Not diet pills, just good things to have enough of in order to facilitate losing

Answer: my answer would be no. I believe that supplements are supplemental and you should be able to find the nutrients you need in whole foods. That said, many women could benefit from a Calcium supplements, a multiple vitamin is ok to cover any deficits and I am also a big fan of high quality Omega 3 supplements, especially for those who don’t enjoy eating omega 3-rich fish

 

Question: What are your thoughts on doing a cleanse to jump start weight loss and curb cravings?

Answer: Not a fan of cleanses – if you eat a good amount of fresh produce and whole grains you will have plenty of fiber in your diet which will help keep things moving through!

 

Question: How much fiber should i have daily?

Answer: You should aim for a range of 25 to 35 grams per day

 

Question: What do you think about low carb diets? Is it the way to go to lose weight?

Answer: Very low carb diets will not provide long term success as they are not sustainable. We use a modified low carb eating plan The Biggest Loser and it’s much easier to stick with!

 

Question: I love rice. What one is healthier brown rice or wild rice?

Answer: They are both great choices because they’re whole grain. Personally I favor wild rice – I grew up in Minnesota and we had that a lot growing up. Just be sure that you’re portion sizes aren’t too large. Many people tend to go overboard with rice!

 

Question: What are your top lean choices for protein?

Answer: I love egg whites, edamame, lean dairy, lean beef, pork, bison as well as the white meat of poutry and of course fish!

 

Ask Cheryl: Curbing Craving, Roasting Veggies, & The Dreaded “Brussels Sprouts Smell”

Wow! It seems like yesterday we were gearing up for our weekly Twitter chats but now we are we are about to enter Week 5 of The Biggest Loser. Last week’s chat was another one for the records and I am always so glad to answer your nutrition questions. Keep joining in for chances to win weekly prizes, not to mention the prize of better health!

Here’s a recap of this week’s questions:

 

Question: I keep seeing that coconut oil is supposed to be much better for you than even olive oil. Is this factual?

Answer: Not in my opinion. I think coconut oil is a nice option for occasional use but I favor grapeseed and olive oil

 

Question: What are the best foods to help beat the “I’m hungry” feeling all the time?

Answer: The important thing is to not snack on carbs alone – they will satisfy your hunger for a limited time and you’ll be hunger again. Be sure to have a balance of carb lean protein and good fat.

 

Question: I’m trying to curb my sweet tooth, what tips do you have for me?

Answer: If you really have a bad prob with sugar you may need to go cold turkey for awhile and eliminate it – it’s very addictive for some people. Try to enjoy the sweetness of a bowl of fresh berries : )

 

Question: What are some creative roasted vegetables recipes?

Answer: I love Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, fennel, root vegetables. All you need is a hot oven, a little oil and your favorite seasonings. Be sure they are cut uniformly so they will cook uniformly : )

 

Question: Is there a way to cook brussels sprouts without getting the smell in the house? I absolutely love brussels sprouts but my husband hates the smell makes when I cook them

Answer: Unfortunately that comes with the territory of cruciferous veggies. If I have a lingering cooking smell in the house, I boil water and add cinnamon and sweet spices to infuse the air. You might also want to close the kitchen door if you can to contain the smells in the kitchen area : )

 

Question: How many times do you recommend eating eggs for breakfast? I’ve seen in health news that they’ve increased the recommendations for how often it is okay to eat them during the week.

Answer: If you don’t have issues with your cholesterol, it’s ok to have an egg every day. I am blessed with wonderful chickens and I very often start my day with two delicious poached eggs L: )

 

Question: It always seems like I do a good job for like the first week of eating better and exercising…any tips on how to keep pushing through and not get so discouraged when something throws you off course?

Answer: Excellent question ! first of all, write your exercise down on your calendar just like a conference call or business meeting and stick to it!! Also plan ahead and you may find you need to prepare all of your meals and snacks for the day the night before.


 

Tune in to The Biggest Loser on Mondays at 9/8 Central

THEN…

Join me on Facebook for a Nutrition Q & A on Tuesday at 9/8 Central for a chance to win prizes!

Thanks to American Pistachio Growers!

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Ask Cheryl: Water Woes, Frozen Food Nutrients, & Kid Friendly Pistachio Recipes

Wow, another great Facebook chat in the books! You guys are amazing and I’m so glad that so many of you showed up for our weekly nutrition chat, my fingers were typing up a storm the entire time! Remember, I’ll be answering your pressing nutrition and weight loss questions every Tuesday night at 8pm EST following on my Facebook page. Each week every participant is entered into a drawing for a prize valuing up to $500! Make sure not to miss out this week, you could win a Ary Vacmaster. Thanks to American Pistachio’s for sponsoring this weekly chat!

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Let’s get into the recap of what we talked about last week:


 

 

Question: I am not a water drinker. Are there other healthy options? I am getting tired of drinking ice tea!

Answer: Not really except milk! Try to remind yourself of the health benefits of water and it may taste better! Helps hydrate our skin, helps us feel full, helps maintain body temperature, helps carry nutrients throughout our body

 

Question: What type of oil is best to use for salad dressings?

Answer: I favor grapeseed and olive oil : )

 

Question: When I make freezer meals for busy week nights is my family getting the same nutrition/vitamins as if I cooked it right then?

Answer: Yes as long as you freeze it right away – you have minimal nutrient loss – and be sure not to overcook it when you reheat!

 

Question: My question is processed foods. Is everything I buy if not fresh considered processed. In other woods..a bag, a can, frozen. Except veggies..thanks so much.

Answer: Some of those things are minimally processed; you really want to avoid things that have lots of preservatives and/or things that have been milled to remove most of the nutrients like white flour!

 

Question: My husband refuses to eat veggies, except for lettuce and corn. What can I do to make sure he gets the right nutrients that comes from vegetables?

Answer: You may have to sneak them in without telling him – if the dishes are well seasoned he may not notice. My book Flavor First is loaded with recipes like this. It’s on sale on my website good luck!

 

Question: is it true the heavier you are the quicker you lose weight?

Answer: Kinda sorta – on the show we find that some of the largest people lose a lot of weight in the beginning – but it’s really subjective. sometimes it’s because they were eating so much processed salty food before the show that they lose a ton of water weight

 

Question: What are some recipes with pistachios that kids will enjoy?

Answer: I have some great easy recipe in my new book – a salad with smoked turkey and chopped pistachios; a delicious quinoa dish with pistachios and a yummy balsamic dressing, I could go on and on ….


Make sure to check out my latest book, A Small Guide to Losing Big, for more answers to your pressing nutrition and weight loss questions!

 

Ask Cheryl: Your Nutrition Questions Answered!

NewYear

Happy New Year!

I hope your holiday season was happy and healthy! My new year kicked off with a bang with the start of the new season of The Biggest Loser on Monday January 4th at 9 EST/8 CST. Every Tuesday while the show airs, I will be hosting Facebook chats at 8pm and answering all of your nutrition and health questions. Each week I’ll also be recapping some of the main tips to keep you motivated and on track for your goals in the new year.

 

Ask Cheryl: Healthy oils and fats, breakfast ideas, and easy recipe ideas

Question: What do you find to be healthy cooking oils for baking and sauteeing?

Answer: I have been cooking with grapeseed oil lately. I really like it because it has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor profile that doesn’t compete with the flavors of your spices or delicate ingredients

 

Question: Is avocado healthy?

Answer: Yes, it’s ok! Avocados, nuts (like pistachios), seeds and plant oils contain healthy fats

 

Question: I have chicken but don’t’ have a lot of ingredients, what is an easy recipe?

Answer: I think you could grill the chicken (maybe on a big green egg) and make a nice sauce with the stock, a little orange, lime, cilantro, onion, and garlic. Yum!

 

Question: I feel like I have so much start in my diet. What are some good, quick other snacks that will stay during the day and don’t’ have to be refrigerated?

Answer: Be sure to have protein with your snacks—very important—apple or orange with pistachios will do. Greek yogurt with berries, half sandwich on whole grain bread, veggies with hummus, the possibilities are endless

 

Question: My daughter and I are vegetarians and she is a picky eater. What are some alternatives for proteins that are not too high in fat?

Answer: Quinoa, beans, legumes, and certainly eggs and greek yogurt if you are open to eggs. Egg whites are the purest protein, totally lean.

 

Question: I need a healthy breakfast option besides oatmeal, any suggestions?

Answer: You can sprinkle some dried berries and chopped pistachios on top of Greek yogurt and you might also have a poached or hard boiled egg for protein.


Join us next week on Tuesday January 12th at 8pm EST. One lucky participant will win a KitchenIQ Suite, pistachios from American Pistachios, and a copy of my book A Small Guide to Losing Big!

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My Best Weight Loss Secrets

Final-Front-Cover-217x300-2The Small Guide to Losing Big, is getting some serious press! After 16 seasons as the chef and dietitian for The Biggest Loser, I have finally compiled the best of the best nutrition tips, menus and healthy, yet scrumptious recipes into one small handbook—and just in time for holiday gift giving and New Year’s resolutions! Here’s what personal trainer Jillian Michaels has to say:

“The Biggest Loser’s chef and nutritionist has created a no-nonsense handbook that outlines a simple plan in an easy-to-read, entertaining style. I watched Cheryl coach Biggest Loser contestants for 10 years, and her sensible approach to healthy and sustainable weight loss really works! This is a must-have book for anyone looking to lose 10 pounds–or 100.”    Jillian Michaels

I also have some very exciting projects coming up that coincide with the premiere of Season 17 of The Biggest Loser which starts Monday January 4th on NBC.  In anticipation, I now have my book on sale for $12.99 for a short time so that you can gear up for the New Year and new season along with our contestants! You can purchase it here or on Amazon.

More information coming soon on how you can join me as the show unfolds and get answers to your cooking and nutrition questions in real time. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!

Cheryl

Your Guide to Healthy Holiday Happy Hours

Healthy Holiday Happy Hours

Holiday parties means holiday cocktail hours, but how do you navigate the bar when you’re committed to a healthy holiday season? These 7 tips will be your guide to wet your whistle without the dreaded holiday hangover.

1. Have a Plan: Decide how many drinks you will have before arriving to the party—and stick to it! Drinking 1-2 drinks throughout the entire party will feel much better the next day than 1-2 an hour.

2. Choose Wisely: Choosing wine, champagne, or a spritzer will mean less calories. Avoid heavy beers and cream-based drinks, and DO NOT order the martini!

3. Make sure to eat: Happy hours often carry over until dinner and can mean overindulging if you allow yourself to get too hungry. Make sure to eat something small before and/or during the party to keep the alcoholic effects at bay.

4.Hydrate! Drinking plenty of water between drinks will prevent you from inadvertently telling your boss what you really think, and will ensure you have a job to come back to!

5. Opt for a “Mocktail.” Forgo alcohol completely by choosing a non-alcoholic drink instead. Ask for sparkling water with lime and mint for a “mock mojito”.


 

Don’t miss these and other tips in my latest book A Small Guide to Losing Big!

5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Diet-Busters

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With Thanksgiving comes the official start to the holiday season, and that means holiday parties are right around the corner. How will you navigate the smorgasbord of food without going overboard? If you are determined to stay on track throughout the holidays, there is only one way to approach celebrations: with a plan! These 5 tips will be your go-to for sticking to your health goals…even in the face of pumpkin pie!

 

1. Eat & Exercise Before You Arrive

As the holiday season gets under way, the invitations to parties start rolling in. How can you stick to your guns even before you arrive? Break a sweat! Make sure to get in a sweat session before the party and eat a small snack before leaving the house to ensure you do not overeat on fatty party foods. Like they say, if you fail to plan then you should plan to fail!

 

2. Stick to small bites

When faced with a long table of high calorie and high fat foods, it’s best to stick to smaller bites to avoid overeating. Don’t overload your plate and make sure to include a vegetable to round out richer dishes. Small sized appetizers will limit your intake and prevent unnecessary overindulgence.

 

3. Mingle!

One of the best ways to avoid the diet-busting dessert table? Mingling! Stand up and work the room, don’t hunker down in a corner with your plate. You will soon realize that one plate is enough to satisfy you when your mind is on interesting conversations—and not on seconds.

 

4. Watch beverages

Don’t be fooled, alcohol–yes even vodka and white wine–has calories. A 4oz serving of wine has about 100 calories, but do you remember the last time you were served only 4oz? Today’s serving sizes are sometimes double that, so it’s best to be mindful of libations going in. Also, alcohol has a pesky way of lowering your inhibitions—and your willpower to stay away from the dessert table!

 

5. Know when to indulge

While it’s important to stay mindful of diet bombs during the holidays, it is also important that you treat yourself from time to time. A mindful holiday partygoer will know what is worth the indulgence in the spirit of celebration. Your mother’s pumpkin pie or your annual glass of egg nog will not hinder your goals in the long run, but half the pie and 3 glasses will! Knowing what treats will satisfy you most and planning to enjoy them is part of becoming a more mindful eater overall. So go ahead, have your treat and enjoy!

Ask Cheryl: What are Antioxidants & What Do They Do?

Antioxidants Nutrition

We’ve all heard about the protective properties of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, but what exactly are they and what do they do? To understand this, first we must dig deep and do a little biology and chemistry lesson…it will be painless, I promise. Let’s get to it!

The Science

To understand antioxidants, first we must explain free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen molecules with one or more unpaired electrons (have I lost you yet?). Why is this a problem? The free radical with its unpaired electron zips around your body and tries to steal an electron from another molecule to neutralize its negative charge and once it does this, it creates another free radical from the molecule it stole from. This ongoing process results in damage referred to as oxidation or oxidative stress and can ultimately damage DNA, which in turn can cause mutations that inhibit protein production in your body and lead to cancer and other diseases.

How does this process start? Well, sorry to say, but it’s a part of the normal aging process. As we breathe in oxygen, about 2% of it is said to make free radicals. Other lifestyle habits such as smoking, sunlight radiation, and pollution exacerbate this problem. Luckily our bodies have natural defenses against free radicals, but these processes slow with aging. Would you like to know another way to fight free radicals? Nutrition!

What Can You Do?

There are many foods, in particular fruits and vegetables, that are packed full of antioxidants. Antioxidants circulate in your body and donate their electrons to free radicals, which stops the damaging chain reactions that free radicals create. Some of the most important antioxidants from food are vitamins A, C, and E, minerals that support your body’s natural antioxidant defenses, and plants properties called phytochemicals that give fruits and veggies their vibrant colors.

So, the lesson of the day? Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are bright colors such as green, red, and orange.


 

What’s the best way to get a variety of antioxidants in one sitting? A smoothie! Smoothies, especially those packed with greens, can be the prescription you need to boost your body’s natural free radical defenses. Below is a recipe for a Create-Your-Own Green Smoothie, utilizing this fall’s seasonal produce for an antioxidant punch!

 

Create-Your-Own Green Smoothie

Antioxidant Smoothie

The Formula: Greens + Liquid + Fruit + Extras

Choose 1-2 cups of greens:

  • Kale, spinach, chard, romaine, or any other green

Choose 2 cups of liquid:

  • Water, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk

Choose 2-3 cups of fruit:

  • Banana, apple, pear, persimmon, avocado, oranges, etc

Extras:

  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne, chia seeds, flax seeds, yogurt

 

Want to learn more about healthy aging? Check out my book, Positively Ageless!

Pistachio Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pistachio Cheesecake

This week officially kicked off holiday season on the blog, and I’ve featured a different pistachio-inspired, gluten-free, and diabetes-friendly recipe each day. Our final recipe is what everyone has waited for, the dessert! This pumpkin cheesecake is not only a healthier alternative, but it’s also pistachio powered!

I hope you have been inspired for the holidays and I’d love to if you tried any of this week’s recipes. Enjoy!


Pistachio Pumpkin Cheesecake

This can be made one day ahead of time and refrigerated.

Makes 16 thin slices

 

//INGREDIENTS//

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups (6.5 ounces) roasted unsalted pistachio kernels
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

 

For the filling

  • 1 3/4 cups (1 15-ounce can) plain pumpkin puree
  • 8 ounces low fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek style yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch salt

 

//INSTRUCTIONS// 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

For crust:

  • In the bowl of a food processor, chop nuts to very fine meal.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. 
  • Mix in the agave and vanilla with a fork.  The dough should be cohesive but not wet. 
  • With a rubber spatula, pat dough into a nonstick 9-inch spring form pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about ten minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. 
  • Remove from oven.   Add 2 cups hot water to a round or square cake pan. Place pan on lower oven shelf*.
    • *The steam will minimize cracking of the top of the cheesecake

For filling.

  • In the bowl of a food processor or jar of a blender, combine all of the filling ingredients.
  • Process or blend just until smooth. Pour into crust.
  • Spread out evenly and place in oven on shelf above the cake pan and water. (The steam will help to minimize cracking of the cheesecake top).
  • Bake cheesecake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the filling is just set. Turn off oven.
  • Open oven door halfway and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven.  (This will also help to minimize cracking top).
  • Remove cheesecake from the oven.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving

 

 

Nutrition Analysis for one slice Pistachio Pumpkin Cheesecake

  • Calories 170
  • Calories from Fat    70
  • Total Fat 8g
  • Sat Fat 2g
  • Trans Fat   0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 70mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 18g
  • Fiber    2g
  • Sugar 11g
  • Protein 5g
  • Vitamin A 4%
  • Vitamin C    0%
  • Calcium 4%
  • Iron     4%

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© Cheryl Forberg 2016