Recipe: Southwestern Salad

Thursday, March 31, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

This salad isn't your traditional leafy variety—rather, it's a medley of flavorful ingredients that'll make your taste buds feel like they're cruising old Route 66 from Amarillo to the West Coast. To really let the flavors blend, you'll want to cover it and pop it in the fridge for at least an hour before you serve it.
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeño chili, minced (or cayenne pepper to taste)
  • 1 tsp. mild chili powder
Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl. Cover and chill before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving—1/8 of recipe):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
167 7 g 6 g 34 g 1 g 0 g

By Denis Faye

In a perfect world, countries would stop fighting, cars would emit rose-scented oxygen, and broccoli would taste like chocolate cake. Sadly, that's not the case. But there's always hope. Beachbody® may not be able to stop wars or global warming (yet), but we can certainly give you a few tips on getting your veggies to taste better. It's easier than you think.

There are a number of books on the subject of sneaking healthy foods into kids' meals, including a few The Sneaky Chef titles and Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. Basically, the same principles you'll find in these books apply to grown-ups. The only difference is your mind-set. Given that you're the one who'll be doing the cooking, you won't really be sneaking healthy foods into meals—you'll just be altering healthy foods to suit your tastes.

There are other easy ways to make sure you get your veggies, including taking green nutritional supplements and drinking everyone's favorite prebiotic, micronutrient-packed nutritional shake, Shakeology®, but remember that most healthy diets are supposed to be made up primarily of fruits and veggies. If you can drink your Shakeology and sneak a couple of servings of cauliflower into your Texas chili, you'll be in great shape.

The goop

The gist of the Sneaky Chef and Jessica Seinfeld's cookbooks is simply to steam veggies for 10 to 15 minutes, throw them in a blender or food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water, and puree them into a fine goop. Then you introduce the goop into foods that overwhelm its veggie-goop flavor. It's that easy.

Although the books offer a near-infinite variety of goops, I'm going to boil it down (so to speak) to two goops.
  • White goop. Most of the time, this is cauliflower, although some people throw a little zucchini in there. It's the most flavorless of the goops, and it's ideal to mix into anything with a cream- or cheese-based sauce, like pasta Alfredo or mac 'n' cheese.
  • Green goop. Anything green can go into green goop, but I find that broccoli and spinach work best. Green goop works well with red (or reddish) sauces, like chili, marinara, or pizza sauce. You can also throw a massive layer of green goop into lasagna or manicotti and have your dinner guests be none the wiser, yet all the healthier. I've never tried it in enchiladas, but I'm guessing it'll work there too.
  • Bonus pesto goop recipe! Pesto is incredibly easy to make from scratch and impresses the pants off of anyone who doesn't know how to make it. And the best thing about it is that its rich, complex flavor makes it easy to tweak, so you can sneak a little healthiness in the form of iron-packed spinach onto your unsuspecting dinner guests' plates.
    • 1-1/2 cups packed basil
    • 1-1/2 cups packed spinach
    • 1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 1/3 cup pine nuts
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
    Directions: Mix ingredients into a paste with a food processor or blender. Done!
The split

If you've eaten enriched flour pasta and white rice your whole life, it's understandable that brown rice and whole wheat pasta would taste weird. After all, brown rice and whole wheat pastas have flavor!

The solution is simple. Make a 50/50 mix. It's half as healthy, but it also tastes half as different. Once you're used to that, cut the white out and go 100 percent brown. You'll never look back.

Bonus Split Tip! Next time you make mashed potatoes, go half potato/half yam or sweet potato. You'll be adding flavor, which means less need for salt and butter. Also, you'll be adding the fiber you're probably not getting enough of, especially if you don't like veggies.

Miscellaneous strategies

While all the stuff I've mentioned works great for fussy eaters young and old, keep in mind that at your age, techniques for sneaking healthy food into anyone's daily diet shouldn't always have to be so covert. Here are a few ideas that are slightly less sneaky but effective nonetheless. Do any or all of these and you'll be adding a very subtle taste to a strong, rich food.
  • Carrot juice in your apple juice. The former doesn't taste nearly as strong as the latter, but it packs a nutritional wallop that includes vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Broccoli in your burger. Shred the broccoli florets and mix them into the meat. Yeah, you might still see them floating around, but after piling on the lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, mustard, or whatever else you add, you're just not going to taste them.
  • Whole wheat French toast. Yes, this might change the texture, but who eats French toast for the toast part? Your taste buds will be so busy dancing with the fresh fruit and syrup you put on top, they won't have time for to notice the nutritious, fiber-rich whole grains you're sneaking in.
No, we don't live in a perfect world. Pollution is a bummer, and there will probably always be countries that just can't seem to coexist on the same planet. But there's no reason why—with a little effort and a few tricks—nutritious and delicious can't live together happily on the same plate.

9 Appetite-Suppressing Foods

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Whitney Provost

If you're like most people, conquering your appetite is one of the biggest challenges you face in your fitness and weight loss journey. As soon as the word "diet" crosses your lips, you may find yourself craving all the junk you know you're not supposed to eat. The secret is eating the right foods to help calm the cravings for the wrong ones. Adding these 9 easy-to-find, tasty foods to your meal plan can help you rein in your appetite before it gets out of control!

  1. Oatmeal. This hot cereal is high in fiber and low on the glycemic index, which means it fills you up and takes a long time to digest. Research has shown that diets high in slow-burning carbohydrates like oatmeal suppress the hunger hormone grehlin more effectively than diets high in fat do. In fact, when you eat oatmeal for breakfast, you may find that your appetite is lower at lunchtime. Steel-cut or rolled oats digest more slowly than the "instant" variety do, so it's worth taking a few extra minutes in the morning to prepare your breakfast the old-fashioned way.
  2. Apples. Not only are apples nutritious, but what sets them apart from other fruits is pectin, a soluble fiber that helps regulate blood sugar, keeps you full, and sustains your energy. One medium apple with skin contains 4 grams of fiber, which is more than you'd get in an average slice of whole wheat bread. Add an apple and some cinnamon to your morning oatmeal for an appetite-suppressing breakfast.
  3. Pine nuts. These edible pine-tree seeds contain more protein than any other nut or seed, and their oil stimulates two appetite-suppressing hormones (cholecystokinin [CCK] and glucagon-like peptide-1) that tell your brain you're not hungry. Blend pine nuts with basil, garlic, and a little olive oil to make pesto, or sprinkle them on your salad or oatmeal for a delicious, nutty crunch.
  4. Salad. The fiber in typical salad vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, spinach, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, and peppers is very filling and helps slow the release of glucose into your bloodstream. Studies have shown that when people start a meal with a small salad, they eat significantly fewer calories in the meal itself. Just watch out for the high-fat dressings (or worse, fat-free dressings that are high in sugar). Try having the dressing on the side and dipping your fork into it for easy portion control, or simply add a dash of balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice for a tasty, super-low-calorie option. Bonus tip: Try to eat a vegetable at every meal to keep your appetite at bay all day long.
  5. Olive oil and other unsaturated fats. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine found that unsaturated fat causes the intestines to release a compound (oleoylethanolamide) that has been shown to reduce appetite and stimulate weight loss. Some great unsaturated fat choices include avocados, olives and olive oil, almonds, salmon, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts, and sesame seeds. These foods are high in calories, so enjoy them in moderation while regulating your appetite.
  6. Flaxseeds. Flax is one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The seeds are also very high in protein and fiber, making them excellent for appetite control. Sprinkle ground flax seeds over oatmeal, salads, or yogurt, or add them to smoothies to help stabilize your blood sugar and turn off the hunger hormones.
  7. Beans. The fiber in beans increases CCK, a digestive hormone that's a natural appetite suppressant. A research study at the University of California at Davis found that men who ate a high-fiber meal containing beans had CCK levels that were two times higher than when they ate a low-fiber meal. Beans also keep your blood sugar steady, which helps stave off hunger.
  8. Whey protein. New studies suggest that whey protein stimulates the hormones that increase the feeling of being full. In one study, researchers at the University of Surrey in England found that people who consumed whey protein felt fuller and more satisfied with less food. Whey also stabilizes blood sugar, and that can help control food urges. Make a drink with Whey Protein Powder to calm your appetite any time of the day.
  9. Spicy foods. Capsaicin, the ingredient that gives peppers their heat, can also help control your raging appetite. A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition suggests that capsaicin-rich foods may help you consume fewer calories, plus they help support weight loss by suppressing your appetite and making you feel fuller. You can add hot pepper sauce to tomato juice, stir-fry some Anaheim or Serrano peppers with other vegetables, or cook up some jalapeño or poblano peppers in your omelet. Other spicy ingredients may have similar effects, so try adding spices like hot mustard and curry to your salads and meats.

By Denis Faye

Most P90Xers rejoice when they arrive at Phase 3 of the program's Nutrition Plan. Not only are they two-thirds of the way through the boot camp from hell, but they also know they're about to ramp up their workouts by introducing more carbohydrates, the body's primary energy source, into their diets. There are, however, dissenters—those who glance at Phase 3 of the P90X Nutrition Plan and blanch. "What's with all the carbs?" they grumble.

There are several reasons a person might not embrace "The Energy Maximizer." Maybe you suffer from celiac disease, so navigating your way around 1,000 calories of complex carbs while avoiding wheat seems overwhelming. Maybe you follow one of the popular Paleo Diets and subscribe to the belief that our ancestors didn't eat grains, and therefore neither should we. Or maybe you just don't like all that pasta and rice.

Either way, Phase 3 just isn't your thing. The obvious solution would be to stick with Phase 2, which balances the macronutrients a bit more, but to quote the P90X Nutrition Guide, "Phase 3 should be tried at some point, even if you feel good in Phase 2. We've seen many people hesitate to move on to this more carb-heavy phase for fear that they'll gain weight, but surprise! They found that once they did, they had more energy, worked out even harder, and had better results."

Just because you want to avoid grains, wheat, or "starches," doesn't mean you should be denied those better results. The P90X Nutrition Plan was designed to be flexible, so with a little thought, you can easily rework Phase 3 to suit your needs. Let's make it happen.

A better understanding of everyone's favorite whipping boy: carbs

There are three macronutrients vital to your body's health: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Everything you consume (except alcohol and the petrochemicals that lace a lot of fast food), is made up of these three things—and the three are hopelessly intermingled. Even if you were to skip the plan's carbohydrates portion list entirely, you'd still get carbs from fruits and vegetables, as well as some condiments, snacks, dairy products, and even the veggie-based options in the protein list. You just can't hide from macronutrients.

But the primary difference between the carbs in the Carbohydrate list and those in the Fruits and Veggies lists is that the former are primarily complex carbs, while the latter two are a combination of simple carbs and complex carbs. What does that mean? Scientifically speaking, simple carbs, or sugars, are single molecules, which means they're broken down into glucose (the body's primary fuel) more quickly. Complex carbs, or starches, are three or more simple carbs linked together, so the body needs to break them down into simple carbs before it converts them into glucose. The benefit of this is that complex carbs can provide more of a slow energy drip because they take longer to enter the system.

In truth, complex carbs are almost impossible to avoid. Although they're denser in grains and legumes, they tend to show up in most carb-based foods. For example, 50 percent of the digestible carbs in broccoli are complex. Even the banana, long thought to be one of the most sugar-laden fruits around, contains 10 grams of digestible complex carbs in a medium fruit. But I digress. The point is, you want to keep those complex carbs down a little, so let's see how to tweak Phase 3.

The Numbers

The revised portions look like this:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Proteins 2
Dairy 1
Fruit 4
Vegetables 2
Fats 1
Carbs 2
Snacks single, bar, drink
Condiments 2
Proteins 3
Dairy 2
Fruit 5
Vegetables 5
Fats 1
Carbs 2
Snacks double, single, drink
Condiments 3
Proteins 4
Dairy 2
Fruit 5
Vegetables 6
Fats 1
Carbs 3
Snacks double, single, single, drink
Condiments 4

Revised Carbohydrates Portion List
Baked beans – 1 cup
Beans (kidney, black, etc) – 1 cup
Edamame – 1 cup (shelled)
Hummus – 1 cup
Lentils – 1 cup
Peanuts (raw) – 1 ounce
Quinoa – 1 cup
Refried beans – 1 cup

See? It's pretty simple, actually. Primarily, you replace your grains with fruits and limit your intake from the Carbohydrate list to legumes. We did add a dairy block in a couple places to help lessen the volume of produce the revised plan requires you to eat. Most low-fat dairy contains a decent amount of carbs, so it should help fill the void, but if you can handle more fruits and veggies, feel free replace that extra dairy block with the caloric equivalent in fruits or vegetables.You'll also notice the addition of a couple of items to the carb list (edamame and raw peanuts), as well as the fact that quinoa made the cut. People often assume this South American seed is a grain. In fact, it's a pseudocereal, more closely related to spinach and beets. So you're all good, Paleo people!

Remember, don't let this one modification be the end of your experimentation with the P90X Nutrition Plan. As I stated earlier, it was designed to be flexible, so get in there and start flexing. Whatever your nutritional needs, you should be able to find the way that works for you.

By Team Beachbody

Hey, cheering on your favorite team takes energy. Here's a high-protein, low-carb, no-fat hors d'oeuvre from P90X nutritionist Carrie Wiatt. You can serve these at your tailgate or football-watching party and not have any shame in your game.
  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. green onion, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • Paprika (to taste)
  • Ground pepper (to taste)
Shell eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Discard yolks. Place cottage cheese, mustard, onion, garlic, and curry powder in a blender or food processor and puree. Spoon mixture into egg halves. Sprinkle with paprika and pepper. Makes 12 servings.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
90 8 g 1 g 1 g 0 g 0 g

By Stephanie S. Saunders

Are you ready for some football? Sure ya are! As the new season kicks off, we're all rooting for our favorite team to make it to the Super Bowl®, or the Rose Bowl®, or the Whatever Bowl. But in truth, my fellow Americans, the celebration isn't all about the sport. It's about the pigskin, but it's also about the potato skins. It's about the Heisman®, but it's also about the Heineken®. In other words, it's about tailgating. Is there anything more glorious than perching on the bumper of your Explorer®, hot dog in one hand, cold beer in the other, telling everyone in earshot about the trail of destruction your team is about to make across the Pac-10? Well, that's great and all, but where your fitness goals are concerned, tailgating leaves a little to be desired. So how do we capture all the fun of tailgating without destroying all the progress we've made during our hours of sweat? Let's do some preparation for the game ahead.

  1. Work out first
    A brand new study by a team of Brazilian researchers (Public Library of Science, August 2010) concluded that exercise actually modulates feelings of fullness in the brain, causing us to reduce our intake of food. In other words, when you work out, you actually eat less. Which is good, because you don't want to spend an hour and a half working out in the morning and then destroy it all with cravings for fried food and alcohol. Now that you're doing P90X® 6 days a week, you're a more efficient machine, and you'll have fewer cravings. So before you hang out in that jersey that hides your six-pack, make sure your six-pack is intact and get a good workout in before the party. Working out will help reduce your cravings and decrease your appetite. (Besides, it's pretty unlikely you'll feel like working out after the game.)
  2. Don't go hungry
    Popular wisdom says you should never go grocery shopping while hungry. The same rings true for attending any kind of party. The worst thing you can do to your nutrition plan is wait until you're starving, then descend upon an endless supply of low-quality carbs and not-so-lean meats. It'll be 45 minutes before you realize you're no longer hungry, and you've just consumed your weight in cheese curls. Eat a clean, high-quality meal before you arrive at the gathering. You'll eat less garbage and you'll probably be a lot more pleasant to be around as well.
  3. Veggie it up
    I know, I know, you don't want to be that guy, but if you're going to bring anything to the party, your first choice should be a veggie platter. Not only can you save yourself from tomorrow's food hangover, you might actually do your body some good. Bite-sized pieces of broccoli, carrots, celery, bell peppers, cauliflower, and snap peas are all inexpensive, low in calories, and full of vitamins. Create a low-fat dip to accompany them, and you might just trump the team's QB as MVP. Just use any onion or ranch dip recipe, with nonfat yogurt, nonfat sour cream, or nonfat cream cheese as the base.

    Also, try the 5-to-1 veggie trick: for every five bites of veggies you consume, you're allowed one full-fat snack bite. You'll end up having to chew so much for that one morsel of evil, it won't really be worth it.
  4. Feeling fruity
    Another great thing to bring tailgating is a fruit platter or fruit salad. Yes, I realize fruit has a lot more sugar in it than veggies do. But fruit is a lot lower in calories than potato salad, it's loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and most people like it a lot. What's more, it's high in fiber, so you'll stay fuller longer. Fruit skewers are a big crowd-pleaser, and counting the empty sticks will show you how much you're actually eating. Aim for watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, apples, oranges, peaches, and nectarines.
  5. Pass (on) the suds
    This is the section everyone's going to want to skip, but reading on will only work to your advantage. We all enjoy an adult beverage now and again. There's nothing more refreshing than a cold beer when you're sitting in the hot sun. But, people, they call it a "beer gut" for a reason. The empty calories in beer have accounted for more spare tires than the Michelin® Man. But since most people can't or won't abstain, try switching to light beer. Sure, some taste like flavored water, but there are a few low-calorie versions out there that are actually pretty good, especially if you squeeze a little (or a lot) of lime into them. Or try a cocktail made with a low-calorie mixer, or one that mixes a splash of fruit juice with soda water and either an ounce of your favorite liquor or a few ounces of white wine.

    1 cup of light limeade, 1 ounce of tequila, and 1 ounce of orange liqueur blended with ice is roughly 100 calories—and really tasty. Crystal Light® and vodka make for some pretty yummy low-cal drinks, and will still be under a hundred calories. And remember that both white wine and champagne come in at about 100 calories a glass. Remember, a couple of drinks in an afternoon is fine, but if you're putting so much away that the dude in the body paint starts to look, well . . . sexy, it's time to cut yourself off.
  6. Get your hand out of the bag
    When you're running late on game day, the path of least resistance is to run into a 7-Eleven® and grab a few bags of chips and maybe some dip. Everyone loves 'em, right? Well, your waistline doesn't. You can easily consume a couple of meals' worth of calories by shoving your hand into a bag a few times. So plan ahead a tiny bit and replace those greasy potato chips, corn chips, and cheese curls with baked tortilla chips and salsa, seasoned air-popped popcorn, multigrain pretzels, and mini–rice cakes. You'll still get a ton of crunch and flavor, without consuming 13 grams of fat per handful.

    If you want to add a dip, try this low-fat/high-protein guacamole recipe: Take a 16-ounce container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped large avocado, 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons of minced jalapeño, and 1 small minced clove of garlic. Throw them into a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill before serving.
  7. Main course, to stay on course
    Most experienced tailgaters include a barbeque in the festivities. You can smell charcoal and propane for miles around any stadium on any given Sunday. And with the right food choices, a barbeque is a healthy way to prepare good sources of lean protein. Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to throw hot dogs on the grill. Look, if you wanted easy, you would have called for liposuction and never started INSANITY® in the first place. So forget the path of least resistance (and all those hot dog nitrates) and try a main course that'll keep you on course.

    Replace a beef or pork hot dog with a turkey or tofu dog, a 20-percent fat beef burger with a 99-percent lean beef one (or a chicken, turkey, or veggie burger), or a fatty pork sausage with the low-fat chicken variety. Place any of these on a multigrain roll, or stuff them in a pita pocket. Try a low-fat grilled chicken breast instead of those messy, fatty ribs. Skewer up some veggies for a tasty low-calorie main dish. Little pizzas made with prebaked crusts, tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and veggies grill up brilliantly on a barbeque. You can make ground-turkey-and-three-bean chili in advance in a Crock-Pot® and warm it up on the grill. Just a little forethought and some lean meat choices can make a huge difference.
  8. Just desserts
    Most of the time, dessert at a tailgate party comes in the form of beer, with an occasional Oreo® thrown in. No one puts a lot of thought into making desserts for one of these events, and they put even less thought into how many cookies or brownies they're shoving in their mouth. Instead of satisfying your sweet tooth with enough calories to fuel a defensive lineman, try replacing those high-calorie desserts with one of these ideas.

    Grill pineapple slices or spears for 1 minute on each side, baste with dark rum, grill for 1 more minute, and serve warm with mint sprigs. Make low-fat banana bread by replacing the butter or oil in the traditional recipe with applesauce. Buy a premade angel food cake, slice, and serve with fresh strawberries and either light Cool Whip® or one-third whipped cream with two-thirds drained plain nonfat yogurt folded in. In advance, bake apples stuffed with dried fruit and honey in a pan of apple juice, then heat up later on the barbeque. Make a low-fat batch of oatmeal cookies with whole-wheat flour and vegetable oil. There are lots of sweet options out there that can also be sweet to the size of your gut.
Football season is long, especially if you're a Buffalo Bills fan. In those 17 weeks, you could do a considerable amount of damage . . . or you could have the body of your dreams. Since the NFL rules the airwaves for roughly 5 weeks longer than it takes to do P90X, it's well worth it to put a little effort into your tailgating choices. And although your friends might give you a hard time, consider how their faces will look at the end of week 15, when you have a rock-hard six-pack, and they have more of a keg. Yeah, it's worth it.

Recipe: Spicy Mango Salad

Friday, March 25, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

Mangos aren't just for dessert anymore! This spicy recipe kicks this healthy fruit up a notch. Easy to make, and you can serve it as a side, a salad, or a salsa.
  • 2 medium mangos, peeled, cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 1/2 small jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 4 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups baby greens, washed and thoroughly dried
Toss mangos, onion, chile, juice, cilantro, and salt to taste in medium bowl. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend, about 10 minutes.

Place greens in large bowl. Drizzle remaining olive oil over greens and toss to coat. Add mango mixture and toss to combine. Divide salad among four dinner plates. Serve immediately. Great with veggie burgers! (Makes 4 servings.)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
126 2 g 5 g 23 g 4 g < 1 g

By Team Beachbody

Here's a terrific way to dress up a salad and really make it sing! Follow quantities as written for a thicker dressing that also makes a terrific dip. Add more yogurt for a creamier texture that makes it a little easier to toss. Either way, it's outstanding!
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. minced red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Chill, then toss with chosen salad ingredients just before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
97 4 g 3 g 9 g 6 g < 1 g

4 Facts about Fat

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

We always talk about how we want to lose weight. But that's not really what we mean. When we talk about losing weight, we're really talking about losing fat, getting rid of the spare tire, turning the keg into a six-pack. It's about more than getting ready for swimsuit season or squeezing back into your "skinny" jeans, though. More importantly, it's about having a healthy amount of body fat so we don't put ourselves at risk for myriad diseases. After all, our bodies need some fat. Fat is responsible for regulating our body temperature. It insulates our vital organs. It stores energy our bodies draw on to function. Not to mention everyone wants a few strategically placed curves, and you can't get them with just bone and muscle. So what exactly is a healthy amount of body fat?

  1. What is body fat percentage? It's simple enough. It's the amount of adipose tissue (body fat) we carry compared to our weight. A 160-pound person who is carrying 32 pounds of fat would be said to have 20 percent body fat. We all want to be working toward an ideal body fat percentage, staying within a range where we carry enough fat to feel and look healthy, but not so much that we develop the health issues associated with obesity, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. So what are the ideal ranges, and what are the best ways to get rid of unwanted excess adipose tissue, aka body fat?

    Most organizations classify a healthy body fat percentage as 20 to 25 percent for women and 8 to 15 percent for men. Women who have more than 30 percent body fat and men with more than 25 percent are generally classified as obese. There can be some variations that are still considered healthy. Athletes will tend to have less body fat, for example; however, below a certain point, low body fat can be as dangerous as high body fat.

    There are various ways to calculate body fat percentage, with varying degrees of accuracy and expense. Many clinics offer what they describe as the only truly accurate readings, derived from water displacement, ultrasonic, or X-ray tests. Much simpler than that are many home body fat scales. While simple, they are fairly inaccurate. The best home device is an inexpensive and simple test using skinfold calipers. These calipers measure folds of skin at various parts of the body and provide an estimate of body fat percentage based on those measurements.

    Inaccurate or not, most trainers recommend using some sort of body fat calculation in addition to being weighed on a scale. For most of us, though, true accuracy isn't that important, just as long as we're sure our body fat percentages are going down. We can starve ourselves and lose weight to reach that goal, but a lot of that loss will be muscle loss and won't give us the healthy look or feeling most of us seek.
  2. Muscle burns fat. One reason we want to be cognizant of our body fat loss, as opposed to mere weight loss, is because muscles burn calories, and if we lose muscle, it will make burning calories—and, by extension, fat—much more difficult. Because the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn—even when you're resting! So it's important to follow an exercise program that combines resistance activities, like weight lifting, that build muscle with aerobic cardio activities that burn calories. This combination is key to the success of Beachbody's programs, including Chalene Johnson's ChaLEAN Extreme®.

    The really good news is that when you exercise, your body begins turning stored fat into glucose for fuel before it begins breaking down muscle for fuel. This is why high-level athletes can eat so much and still stay sleek. Take Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps's 12,000-calorie-a-day training diet, for example. Because he has such a low percentage of body fat, he has to provide his body with enough fuel or his body will begin breaking down the proteins in his muscle, since it's pretty much out of body fat to use for fuel. During newsletter chats and on the Message Boards, P90X graduates often complain of an ammonia-like smell after working out. That smell is indicative of the protein breakdown that occurs when their elite new low-fat bodies have begun tapping into muscle for fuel. It generally means they need to start eating more to make it through the workouts—a problem most of us would love to have! Most of us aren't dealing with the problems of elite athletes trying to get enough fuel, though; we're just trying to get our bodies to approach that kind of shape.

    One popular exercise myth is that if we're trying to lose body fat, we should just do lots of cardio and sweat and burn fat, then build muscle later. That's a sort of "lose weight now, get in shape later" approach. There's some truth there. The more we exercise, the more calories we expend and the sooner our bodies tap into our fat stores for energy. But by building up muscle, in addition to doing cardio activity, we can burn a lot more calories, even while we're at rest, and maximize the calorie burn during cardio. Plus, when the stored fat begins to melt off, there will be lean, sexy muscle in its place.
  3. How diet affects body-fat composition. Something we've discussed before is the myth that dietary fat contributes to body fat. This is only half true. The fact is that body fat, or adipose tissue, comes from stored calories. Your body fat doesn't care whether the calories come from fat, protein, or carbs. Don't believe me? Try drinking a six-pack of fat-free beer every day—you'll have a pony keg under your shirt in no time. The "beer belly" comes by its name honestly, and beer doesn't have a gram of fat in it. Neither does soda, and it's one of the main culprits behind the obesity crisis.

    Fat does have more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein do, so it's wise to monitor the amount of fat in your diet, but if it's healthy fat, like the kind found in avocados, olive oil, fish, or nuts, there's no reason to exclude it from your diet. It's wise to avoid saturated and trans fats, but that has more to do with lipids in your blood, not the composition of adipose tissue.
  4. Can you target areas where you want to burn body fat? There's a French proverb that says that sooner or later, every woman must choose between her face and her bottom. What this means is that it's a myth that you can target one area of your body over another for fat loss. While we may mainly want to get rid of our guts or slim down our thighs, our bodies are largely democratic about where they take stored fat from—they take fat it from all over.

    If you've seen Madonna lately, you can see the results of her latest workout regimen. She has incredibly low body fat, but her face has lost the its fat as well, making her bone structure appear more prominent, with a more sunken appearance (although it looks like some cosmetic procedures may have helped her fill it out somewhat). So if you ever see advertising for any product that claims to burn fat off one part of your body and not others, it's over-promising. You can target specific muscle groups with exercise, but fat burning is a more generalized proposition.
Any activity will go a long way toward reducing body fat percentage. And health professionals advise that even a modest decrease in body fat percentage will have extraordinary health benefits. So even if achieving that ideal "supermodel" weight seems impossible, you can really enhance your quality of life by making a few minor changes in your activity level and diet. Engaging in a comprehensive program like ChaLEAN Extreme, which encompasses resistance training and aerobic exercise as well as a healthy diet, is a great place to start. Here's to seeing less of us!

By Whitney Provost

You might think that to lose weight, you need to cut the fat out of your meals. After all, fat is higher in calories than protein and carbs, and low-fat diets have been popular since the Senate Nutrition Committee first recommended them in the late 1970s. But research shows that a moderate-fat diet (with about 35 percent of calories consumed coming from fat) will help you drop pounds permanently, feel full longer, and avoid bingeing. The trick is to eat the right kind of fat to increase satisfaction and boost weight loss. Here's why it's important to eat fat—and we offer five of the best fat sources to add to your diet.

How eating fat will help you lose fat

In 2008, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that people who followed low-fat diets lost less weight than people who followed low-carb or moderate-fat diets. The low-fat group lost an average of 6.5 pounds over 2 years, but the low-carb and moderate-fat groups lost about 10 pounds. Women did especially well on the moderate-fat diet, losing an average of 13 pounds during the study.

Fat is an important element in weight loss for several reasons:
  • Fat helps your body control blood sugar and insulin spikes after eating carbohydrates. Better sugar metabolism means less fat storage.
  • Fat slows down digestion and aids nutrient absorption. You'll stay fuller longer and get more health benefits from the food you eat.
  • Essential fatty acids (like omega-3s) may boost your metabolic rate and increase fat burning.
  • Fat tastes good. It also provides a "mouthfeel" that is satisfying, which can help you be happy with less food.
Eating more fat may also help you stick to your diet longer. In a study conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, participants got either 20 percent of their calories from fat or 35 percent of their calories from fat. After 6 months, both groups had lost weight. But after 18 months, only 20 percent of the people in the low-fat group were still following the diet, compared with 54 percent of the people in the moderate-fat group. Likewise, the subjects in the moderate-fat group had maintained their weight loss, while the low-fat group participants had gained most of the weight back.

If you reach for a box of low-fat or fat-free crackers or cookies when you want to lose weight, you may actually be sabotaging your diet. Manufacturers frequently replace fat with sugar in packaged food items to make them taste better. You think you're making a good decision by eating fat-free products, but the excess sugar and refined flour can lead to fatigue, cravings, mood swings, and weight gain caused by the overproduction of insulin, the fat-storage hormone. As a snack, a sliced apple with some peanut butter or a salad with oil and vinegar dressing would be a better weight loss choice. The complex carbs and healthy fats will maintain your blood sugar levels, boost your energy, and keep you satisfied longer.

What kind of fat should you eat?

To get lean, you need to eat the right kind of fat. Avoid saturated and trans fats (which are found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and many packaged foods), and instead choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Here are some of the best sources of fat to help you reach your weight goal.
  1. Fish. Fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines contains beneficial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most experts agree that eating two servings of fatty fish per week is safe for people who are worried about mercury or other toxins. (Pregnant women should consult with their doctors about consuming fish.) If you don't like fish, a quality supplement like Beachbody® Core Omega-3 will give you the benefits without the fishy taste.
  2. Olive oil. Heart-healthy oils like olive, canola, and peanut oil are excellent sources of fat for dieters. They have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Use them sparingly when sautéing, or drizzle them over your favorite salad vegetables with a little vinegar and some herbs to maximize the absorption of nutrients. Moderation is important: You really only need about a teaspoon of oil to get all its benefits. Using more will add significant calories.
  3. Avocados. Eat a spinach and carrot salad with a little avocado, and you'll not only get a dose of good fat, but you'll also absorb more phytonutrients like lutein and beta-carotene. Scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus found that more antioxidants were absorbed when people ate a salad containing avocados than when they ate a salad without this tasty fruit. One-quarter of an avocado will add flavor while only adding about 75 calories.
  4. Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts are powerhouses of good nutrition—full of antioxidants, minerals, and monounsaturated fat. The Nurses Health Study, where more than 86,000 nurses were followed for 14 years, found that those who ate nuts regularly (about an ounce per day) tended to weigh less than those who didn't. The protein, fat, and fiber make nuts more filling, which helps dieters stay on track. Plus there's a psychological bonus to eating nuts: Because they're rich and satisfying, you probably won't feel like you're on a diet.
  5. Flaxseeds. Packing the triple wallop of fat, protein, and fiber, flaxseeds are a delicious and healthful addition to any diet. You can grind them up and add them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or vegetables, or pretty much anywhere you want a nutty crunch. They're a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them a good choice for vegetarians or the aforementioned non-fish-loving folks. Ground flaxseeds also have 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, which helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar stable.
Making room for fat

Certain fats might be considered necessary for health, but that's not a cue to overindulge. At 9 calories per gram, fat is a more concentrated energy source than either protein or carbohydrates (each has 4 calories per gram). You need to be mindful of your overall caloric intake if you want to eat more fat and lose weight. But when you feel full and satisfied after eating the right kinds of fat, you'll probably find it a bit easier to manage your calories.

By Amy Ludwig

That question got Jeremy Y.'s attention. At 33, he weighed 370 pounds. His weight affected his ability to be a good father and husband. He had no energy for his two active young sons, his wife, or anything else. Most nights, he'd do nothing at home after work but watch TV. Making things worse, he had severe ankle arthritis, walked with a limp, and took daily medication for high blood pressure.

Jeremy had let himself go, nearly all the way to death's door.

Fortunately, a good friend of his cared enough to speak up. He'd already had another friend die very young due to obesity. He worried that Jeremy would be next.

After talking with his friend, Jeremy realized that he wouldn't be the only person affected by his excessive weight if he died. How would his family manage? He made two lists, "Why Get Healthy" and "Why Not Get Healthy," and listed the reasons on each. It was clear he couldn't let his family down.

Then came the question: What to do? Jeremy had several friends doing P90X®. Not only were they getting fit, but their eyes lit up every time they talked about doing the program. Jeremy decided to try it. A former high school athlete, he soon fell in love with P90X's mix of cardio, strength, and flexibility. Its intensity fulfilled his desire for accomplishment—and then some.

Not that Jeremy was able to do all the exercises right away. He had painful arthritis from an old ankle injury. So he went to the discussion boards, where he found out how others modified the exercises to accommodate their injuries. He learned Tony's philosophy: "Do your best and forget the rest."

P90X got Jeremy burning calories and raising his heart rate, which helped him to drop weight. The variety within the program helped him avoid repetitive stress injuries. Over time, losing weight took pressure off his ankle. Now he's pain-free, no longer limps, and can do most exercises without modifying them.

"I truly feel like a new man," Jeremy says today. "My energy is through the roof." He's lost a whopping 161 pounds.

He's active with his sons, going swimming, fishing, and to the park. His change has affected many people around him, inspiring them to exercise and eat healthily, too. Beyond all the compliments he now receives about his appearance, Jeremy is gratified to be an inspiration to others and see their healthy success.

By Denis Faye

Ah, the islands. Their mere mention floods the mind with happy thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, dancing to reggae late into the night, and eating healthy, exotic fruits.

Well, OK, so maybe that last fruit thing doesn't spring immediately to mind, but it should. For most, tropical fruits only come into play after they're run through a blender and doused in rum, but the truth is these colorful balls of island goodness are delicious without adding alcohol. What's more, they can actually be good for you.

  1. Mangos

    Mangos are the national fruit of India, but you'll now find them growing just about anywhere tropical. Various varieties come into season anywhere between January and September. Ripe mangos are usually yellow and red, but the best way to tell if a mango is ready to eat is to give it a light squeeze and a good sniff. If the flesh gives a little and the stem smells sweet, it's probably ready to go.

    One cup of mango is 107 calories, mostly carbs, with 3 grams of prebiotic fiber. Mangos are loaded with phytochemicals, as well as all kinds of micronutrients. That aforementioned cup contains 76 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, and 25 percent of the RDA for vitamin A. You also get some vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. Plus you'll find 9 percent of the RDA for copper and 7 percent for potassium, as well as some magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and manganese.

    Mangos also contain lycopene—an essential phytochemical that most people get through tomatoes—that's believed to ward off cancer.

    There are muchos ways to prepare mangos, but the easiest—and most fun—is to slice it lengthwise as close to the large, flat pit as you can, separate both halves from the pit and each other, cross-hatch the juicy flesh with a knife, and push up on the inedible outer skin from underneath so the cubes you've made fan out for easy pickin'.
  2. Passion Fruit

    These tangy little South American fruits come in both purple and yellow. They're similar to the pomegranate in that you simply cut them open and eat the insides, seeds and all.

    A University of Florida study showed that the phytochemicals in passion fruit juice, specifically carotenoids and polyphenols, proved beneficial in fighting cancer.

    Because you eat the seeds, downing a passion fruit offers a nice hunk o' fiber, yet hardly any calories. One fruit, which is approximately 18 grams, contains 17 calories and 2 grams of fiber. To give you a little perspective on that, half a cup of passion fruit is about 115 calories and earns you 13 grams of fiber. But the 17 tiny calories from a single fruit will also earn you a nice little hit of vitamins C, A, and B6, as well as niacin, riboflavin, folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
  3. Pineapples

    Admittedly, the "exotic" factor drops a little with pineapple, but they are tropical, and honestly, when was the last time you bought a whole pineapple and not just the lame canned rings? One cup o' fresh pineapple chunks is 84 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and—get this—131 percent of the RDA for vitamin C and 76 percent of the RDA for manganese. You'll also get some vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper for your efforts.

    When shopping for a good pineapple, look for one that's mostly brown and yellow. Green means it's not ripe. If you smell the bottom of the fruit and the odor makes you want to sing The Piña Colada Song by Rupert Holmes, it's probably a winner.

    To cut up a pineapple, twist off the leafy top and chop off the top and bottom of the fruit. Place the fruit on its now-flat bottom so it's stable and carefully cut off the outer skin in long, vertical strips. When that's done, quarter the pineapple lengthwise down the core, then slice out the core from all four quarters. The core makes for tough, chewy eating, so discard it unless you're going to use it in a smoothie—which is an excellent idea; the core of the fruit also contains a substance called bromelain that studies suggest has anti-inflammatory properties.
  4. Guavas

    No wonder the Hawaiians surf so well. They're fueled by these delicious little superfruits! The more than one hundred varieties of guava come in all sorts of colors, from yellow to orange to red, but the most common one, the apple guava, has a green outer skin that tends towards yellow when ripe, with a pink-to-white center.

    You can eat a ripe guava whole—except the stem. Chowing down on all those seeds and that skin makes every fruit a fiber party. One tiny fruit—just 37 calories—contains 3 grams of fiber. Eat three guavas, about the calories you'd get from one apple, and you're talking 9 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and a measly 24 grams of carbs.

    One little guava will also earn you 209 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Move over, oranges, there's a new ascorbic acid source in town. You'll also get some vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.
  5. Coconuts

    Rarely do the words "tropical fruit" and "controversial" come to mind at the same time, unless you're talking about coconuts. There are two edible parts to this fruit (which isn't actually a nut, but rather a drupe, in the same family as the apricot and mango). You have the water and the meat. There's no contesting the health benefits of the water. The meat, which is mostly saturated fat, is another matter.

    First, the water—the wet stuff in the middle when you break it open. One cup has 46 calories, mostly carbohydrates, and while it contains some vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6, the real magic of coconut water is the magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, calcium, manganese, and iron. All these electrolytes make coconut water an ideal sports drink. To compare, one medium-sized banana has 422 mg of potassium. Your cup o' coconut water has 600 mg at half the calories—and no annoying peel to slip on afterwards.

    The meat is another story. One cup of shredded coconut—about one-fifth of one fruit—is 283 calories, 216 of which are saturated fat. There's a fairly heated debate going on in the nutrition community right now about saturated fats that's far too complex to address in this article, but if you've done your homework and decided sat fat is where it's at, this is a pretty good way to get it. Your fatty cup o' nut meat also contains 7 grams of fiber and all the aforementioned vitamins and minerals.

    Cracking a coconut is probably the most labor-intensive and satisfyingly destructive time you'll ever have opening a fruit. As long as nuance doesn't matter to you, the best way is to get a hammer and a nail. Drive the nail through the three little black indentations at the top of the coconut. Turn it over and drain the water into a cup. When that's done, wrap it in a towel and give it a few good whacks with the hammer. Peel the meat out of the fractured bits of shell.

    An alternate way of opening a coconut is to let someone else do it for you. You'll find the water and the meat at many healthy food stores, as well as upscale markets like Whole Foods. There are several brands of coconut water available in handy little tetra packs—but frankly, you'd probably intimidate the crud out of the other team next time you played basketball if you busted out a coconut, hammer, and nail at halftime.
  6. Papayas

    People often confuse papayas with pawpaws but, frankly, they aren't that different. Papayas are smaller with orange flesh. Pawpaws are larger with yellow flesh. You prepare them the same way and they're nutritionally similar, so if you can't get one, buy the other.

    One of the unique draws of this fruit is its digestive properties. It contains the protein-digesting enzymes papain and chymopapain, which can also help with inflammation. Papayas, like mangos, also contain lycopene.

    A medium-sized papaya is about 119 calories, mostly carbs, with 5 grams of fiber. It's another vitamin C tour de force, with 313 percent of the RDA. It also contains vitamins A and E, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. It's yet another great source of electrolytes, with calcium, iron, magnesium, lots of potassium, and selenium.

    The easiest way to serve a papaya is like a melon. Pick one with red-orange skin that has a little give when you squeeze it lightly. Slice it open, scoop out the seeds, and you're good to go. If you want to get fancy and impress the in-laws, a squeeze of lime really brings out the flavor.

    You see? Getting tropical—and healthy—is easy. So instead of trying to capture the spirit of the islands by roasting a pig on your front lawn, pop down to your local grocer and see what exotic delectables await. Just make sure you leave your grass skirt at home.

How I Stopped Faking It

Saturday, March 19, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Anna Eriksson, Beachbody® Director of Product Development

I'm 45 years old this year, and even though I'm a P90X® graduate, I have to cop to the fact that I tend to baby myself for fear of getting hurt. I got to the point where I was working out an hour a day but able to "singsong" my way through my workouts without breaking a sweat. No wonder the results had stopped coming. I needed to stop faking it and find a way to really push myself.

That's one of the things I LOVE about RevAbs®. There's a built-in system to call me out on my wimpiness after every cardio burst, and it really works. The talk test lets me know if I'm not working out at my optimum level and tells me to stop pretending, and sink lower into my Booty Times and my Balancas.

The other thing I love about RevAbs is working my abs from 6 angles, and knowing those 6 angles makes me feel all smart and connected with my body. I do a move and I know what I'm working! Aha!

But my absolute favorite part of RevAbs is The REVZONE. OMG! It appears, and I feel the pressure to go into the zone. How can I not? The person I'm in there with is literally flying out of range of the camera! Even the modifier goes in there, and gives it their all. Chalene has her Turbo, and the siren pumps you up. Brett has that revving engine, and that Zone appears in split screen, and somewhere the competitor comes out in me. Am I going in the Zone? Are you talkin' to me? Get outta my way!

There's nothing like the feeling of staggering around after being in the RevZone. I feel all shiny and virtuous and panting and fabulous. If my husband isn't around for a round-of-pound, I fist-bump our dog! Guaranteed, RevAbs has yanked me out of my fitness "safe place" and has me REVving it high.

So if you're looking for a way to get out of your safe place and get the kind of abs you've only dreamed of, then you've got to try RevAbs.

By Team Beachbody

Tomato season is here and farmers' markets are bursting with all kinds of delicious varieties, including colorful and flavorful heirloom tomatoes. Here's a light and easy-to-make salad that showcases these seasonal treats.
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (seeds removed)
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Medium-sized bowl
Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl; toss gently to mix. Serve within 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
88 1 g 1 g 5 g 8 g 1 g

By Team Beachbody

It may say "breakfast" in the name, but these tasty tacos are great for lunch or dinner too! Tofu and fresh vegetables mingle with savory Mexican spices for a treat that's delectable no matter what time of day you decide to enjoy them.
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. crushed garlic
  • 4 stalks green onion, ends trimmed and diced
  • 1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms (may substitute marinated cactus)
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper (may substitute chopped spinach)
  • 1 14-oz. package firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted Mexican spices (one or all of the following: cumin, chili powder, chipotle seasoning, habañero seasoning, cayenne pepper)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 small avocado, cut in 1/2-inch slices
Place olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, garlic, and green onions and sauté until onion is clear and caramelized. Add mushrooms and pepper and sauté until tender. Stir in crumbled tofu, cilantro, sesame seeds, Mexican spices, salt, and pepper and continue to sauté until tofu is lightly browned. Add lime juice, mix well, and reduce heat to a simmer. Gently heat corn tortillas either in microwave (about 30 seconds), or in pan on stovetop (1 or 2 minutes). Garnish four plates with diced tomato and sliced avocado; place two tortillas on each plate. Remove tofu mixture from heat, divide evenly among tortillas, and fold over to make tacos. Serve with salsa or hot sauce, and enjoy! Serves 4.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
302 12 g 8 g 34 g 16 g 2 g

6 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Kitchen

By Joe Wilkes

It's almost springtime, which for a lot of us means it's time to do a deep-clean of our homes—throwing out the old, organizing the new, storing the winter clothes, and getting ready for warmer weather and a fresh start. For others, it's the beginning of another season of denial about how squalid our living conditions have become. Even more than New Year's, spring is a good time to make some new resolutions and create an environment that'll make us want to keep them. Here are some ideas for getting your kitchen into shape.

  1. Out with the old. I like to think of my refrigerator as a cabinet of hope. Most times, it's full of fruits and vegetables, purchased in a fit of confidence that I would steam and stir-fry my way to a slimmer me. Then I end up going out to restaurants with friends, and my Sunday produce ends up looking pretty bad by week's end. Yet, unbelievably, I leave it all in my refrigerator with the hope that it'll somehow return to a state of edibility. Similarly, expired dairy products and aging condiment bottles litter my shelves, the result of my misguided optimism that they too will come back in fashion—like my '80s wardrobe will, if I just wait long enough. I'm here to tell you, however, that there's been no grocery miracle in my refrigerator these many years. And now it's time to give the expired residents of this frosty food hinterland a proper burial.

    First thing to do: Get rid of everything that even looks old. Be merciless. If it's past the expiration date, throw it out. If it doesn't have an expiration date, throw it out. Another scourge in my fridge is the many plastic containers filled with leftovers. I don't remember exactly what meal they are left over from, but I can't recall anything that included frizzy mold as an ingredient. Much of the reason the containers languish in the back of the fridge is because I'm avoiding the horror of having to wash out the science experiment they've become. This year, I'm going to throw money at the problem, and throw out the leftovers in their containers without ever lifting the lid. Then I will treat myself to shiny, new plastic containers as a reward for my new hygienic lifestyle. Additionally, if my plastic cutting boards are beyond bleaching, it's a good annual tradition to replace them.
  2. You should keep the same bedtime every night. This one's partially true, but there's some wiggle room. While it's preferable to keep a consistent routine and sleep schedule, it's not always possible. Experts now say that if you're a little more stressed out or anxious or just not tired, you're better off staying up than hitting the sack. Our bodies are the best gauge of when we need some shut-eye. Insomniacs often trap themselves into a cycle of anxiety wherein they can't get to sleep for fear of not being able to fall asleep. Instead of forcing yourself into bed at an arbitrary time when you're not tired, spend a little time doing a relaxing activity—reading, listening to music, meditating, taking a hot bath—and then go to bed when you feel like you're ready to lie down and close your eyes. Studies have shown that you're as likely to fall asleep then as when you force yourself to adhere to a self-imposed bedtime—you'll just enjoy the process of relaxing more and will sleep better.
  3. Burning the midnight oil helps you get more done. Maybe not so much. Haven't we all pulled an all-nighter? It's a grand tradition that many feel provides its own inspiration. I know I'm a self-avowed night owl, and you could never convince me that I could get more done in the morning than in the late hours of the night. But a study from the University of North Texas discovered that undergraduate students who were "morning" people had much higher grade point averages than their nocturnal counterparts. The night owls had significantly impaired concentration during the day and poorer memory. So apparently "early to bed, early to rise" does "make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise" . . . or at least wise. The jury's still out on the others.
  4. Out with the bad. While I'm gripped in the mania of throwing away all the food that has literally turned to garbage, I'm also going to throw away the food that's metaphorically garbage too. All the unhealthy snack foods that lure me away from my healthy eating plan are going to have to go. I'm evicting the half-full bags of tortilla and potato chips from my cupboards. Ben and Jerry® are moving from the freezer to the dumpster. Any empty-calorie snacks I can steal a spoonful or handful of and pretend they don't count have to hit the road. Once I clear the cupboards and refrigerator, I can go to the store and load up on healthy staples whose temptations I won't have to resist.
  5. In with the new. Now that the refrigerator's clean and the cupboards are bare, it's time to shop. Stock up the larder with delicious, healthy foods from the first two tiers of Michi's Ladder. And make sure to get lots of easy-to-prepare snacks to keep within easy reach when hunger pangs hit. Great snacks include cottage cheese, nonfat yogurt, hummus, salsa, and raisins. Instant oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, and egg whites are good to have on hand for breakfast. And foods like brown rice, dried beans, canned broths, water-packed tuna, and frozen fruits and vegetables are good staples to always keep in supply for mealtime. Of course, you should also try eating plenty of fresh produce, seafood, and lean meats. Just don't be like me and go crazy at the Sunday farmers' market only to have to throw food away at the end of the week. Buy enough perishable items to last a couple of days, then make short trips to the supermarket or farmers' market during the week. Your food will taste better and fresher, and you won't have a CSI episode in the crisper drawer at the end of the week.
  6. When life gives you lemons . . . I know I've talked a lot about throwing all your produce away. But some of it can do a little cleaning work for you before it hits the compost bin. Lemons are very acidic, and their juice is naturally antibacterial and antiseptic. You can use lemon juice to bleach countertop stains and shine up metal. And it makes your kitchen smell lemony fresh to boot! Instead of throwing those lemons in the trash, throw one or two in the garbage disposal and grind away. It'll help get rid of food dried on to the blades while filling your kitchen with the smell of lemons. (If the lemons are really old and the rinds have turned hard and leathery, don't try this. The disposal blades might not be able to chop them, and they'll just rattle around in your disposal forever. Trust me, I know.) Another great tip a friend gave me is to cut a bunch of lemons in half and put them in a big microwave-safe bowl filled with water. Then microwave the bowl of lemons on high for a few minutes, until the water steams. Keep the microwave closed. The lemon-juice-infused steam will permeate all the stuff cooked onto the microwave walls from various exploding culinary attempts. The crud will wipe off easily and your microwave will smell great. Best of all, no toxic cleaners will accidentally find their way into your meals!
  7. Vinegar—not just for salad. While you're cleaning and staying nontoxic, try using the Michi's Ladder top-tier favorite vinegar to spruce up your kitchen. Diluted with water, white vinegar can be used to clean windows, wash floors, and wipe countertops. It cuts grease and removes stains from cookware, and if you run a pot full of the vinegar and water solution through your coffeemaker, you'll be amazed at the kind of hard-water deposits it removes. It's also good for removing hard-water stains on your glassware. It even cuts soap scum and kills mildew, so you might give good, old-fashioned, cheap white vinegar a try before investing in expensive cleaners that can introduce toxins into your kitchen.
  8. Baking soda—not just for baking. Here's a fun fact. Did you know that baking soda mixed with grease makes soap? It's true. It's a great, cheap, nontoxic way to wipe off your stovetop and the surrounding areas that have been spattered by a season's worth of stir-frys. An open box can absorb odors in the refrigerator, and a little sprinkled in your garbage can will do likewise. If you have a grease fire, you can put it out with baking soda. If you have pots with burned-on food, let them soak in baking soda and water overnight. Also, if you have plastic storage containers that are a bit stinky from their previous occupants, try soaking them overnight in baking soda and water. You can make a baking soda paste with water and polish your silver. It's a miracle product—nontoxic and cheap!

By Joe Wilkes

Breakfast. It seems like forever since Mom told us breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but one study shows it's actually true—she wasn't just nagging us. Breakfast is a key component of weight management: A study presented at the 90th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society showed that participants who consumed large breakfasts high in protein and carbohydrates followed by a low-carb, low-calorie diet for the rest of the day lost almost five times as much weight as the participants who followed a low-carb, high-protein diet throughout the day. So what's the big deal about breakfast? And what is a big breakfast anyway? It doesn't seem like the lumberjack special at the local diner would do much to get the pounds off, so what should we be eating?

The study supported the idea that when we wake up in the morning, our bodies want food. You've burned through all the fuel from the previous day, and now your body's ready to burn anything—even muscle—to get a jump-start on the day. And if you skip breakfast, muscle is indeed what your body will burn. Later in the day, your brain is still in starvation mode from breakfast (or lack thereof), so your body will store all the calories you eat as adipose tissue, or fat, to save up for the next day when you try to starve it again. This study also found that levels of serotonin, the chemical responsible for controlling cravings, were much higher in the morning, which is why breakfast is the meal so many of us are willing to skip. But if our bodies are left unfed, our serotonin levels drop, and our bodies' craving for sweets begin to rise throughout the day.

But before you hit McDonald's® for their 800-calorie Big Breakfast, or worse, their 1,150-calorie Deluxe Breakfast, or you swing by Denny's® for a 740-calorie Grand Slam® or 950-calorie All-American Slam® with hash browns, keep in mind these weren't the breakfasts the study participants consumed. The big-breakfast group had a 610-calorie breakfast as part of a 1,240-calorie day. Breakfasts included milk, lean meat, cheese, whole grains, a serving of healthy fat, and one ounce of chocolate or candy to defray the craving for sweets. The other group's participants consumed 1,085 calories per day as part of a high-protein, low-carb diet; only 290 of their daily calories were consumed at breakfast. Both groups were on their respective diets for 8 months. The high-protein group lost an average of nine pounds, but the big-breakfast group lost an average of 40 pounds. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the big-breakfast group complained less about cravings and hunger.

The big-breakfast group's breakfast consisted of 58 grams of carbs, 47 grams of protein, and 22 grams of fat. Study reviewers attribute some of the success of the big-breakfast group to the fact that the protein and healthy fats eaten kept the participants full and reduced cravings. They also said that nutritional requirements were well met and that there weren't empty calories consumed, because the breakfasts included lots of whole grains, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy unsaturated fats. So bad news for the lumberjack-special devotees—a big plate of greasy hash browns, bacon, and biscuits with gravy isn't going to get the job done, unless the job we’re discussing is clogging your arteries.

Here are some healthy big breakfasts, similar to the ones consumed by the study's participants.

Chicken and the Egg
  • 2 large eggs, scrambled
  • 2 slices whole wheat toast
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, grilled
  • 1 grapefruit
Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Carbs Protein Fat Saturated Fat Fiber
589 52 g 48 g 19 g 5.5 g 12 g

Oats 'n' Berries Breakfast
  • 1 packet plain instant oatmeal, prepared, with 1 scoop Beachbody® Whey Protein Powder
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 oz. roasted turkey breast
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate
Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Carbs Protein Fat Saturated Fat Fiber
631 62 g 47 g 21 g 8 g 10 g
Two Egg Sandwiches
  • 2 whole wheat English muffins, toasted
  • 2 large poached eggs
  • 2 slices low-fat Swiss cheese
  • 2 slices Canadian bacon, grilled
Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Carbs Protein Fat Saturated Fat Fiber
597 57 g 45 g 13 g 5 g 8 g

Vegetarian Breakfast
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (2% milk fat)
  • 1 cup sliced peaches, canned in juice, not syrup
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 vegetarian sausage links, cooked
Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Carbs Protein Fat Saturated Fat Fiber
621 62.5 g 47 g 26.5 g 4.5 g 16.5 g
Pescetarian Breakfast
  • 1 6-oz. can light tuna, canned in water, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (preferably olive oil or canola oil-based)
  • 2 slices whole wheat toast
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate
Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Carbs Protein Fat Saturated Fat Fiber
592 45 g 51 g 22 g 7 g 10 g

By Debbie Siebers, creator of Slim in 6®

To achieve weight loss—and maintain that healthy weight once you've achieved it—it's crucial to really understand what a portion is. Here's what may prove to be an indispensible tip: use your hand as a guideline for portion sizes.

Palm = Proteins

Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein is found in animal products, like fish, meats, and cottage cheese. Some veggie protein sources include legumes (beans, etc.), tofu, tempeh, and wheat glutens.

Thumb = Fats

Fats are important, but they're also very dense, so match fat portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

Fist = Fruits, Grains, etc.

Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice, and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. Remember that it's always preferable to consume whole grains.

Hand = Veggies

Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That's a good vegetable portion. Raw vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and they contain very few calories.