I’D RATHER INDULGE THAN CHEAT! TO CARB OR NOT TO CARB, THAT IS THE QUESTION!! I think the most frequently asked question I get from clients, followers and family alike is: Do you ever have a ‘cheat day’, and if you do, what’s the best way to do it? For starters, let’s put the word ‘cheat’ in the same category as diet both words I abhor and abstain from using in my house. The word cheat has such a strong negative connotation, full of guilt, shame and wrongdoing, whereas the word indulgence implies satisfaction, gratification and fulfillment. Semantics? I don’t think so. I posit that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, at any age, one must not only consistently move your body, but also embrace a healthy relationship and approach to their daily consumption of food. When I have a burger, whether made from beef, turkey, lamb or vegetables, I am mindful of both the quality and quantity of what I’m eating. I savor every bite – chewing my food about 32 times before swallowing. [Chewing your food thoroughly slows down your eating pace and reduces the number of calories you take in which can lead to weight loss]. When I choose to indulge, it is never mindlessly, but rather with thought and understanding of the consequence. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a snapshot of my kitchen – pantry and refrigerator – including some of my favorite, healthier interpretations on some not so otherwise healthy options. As the temperature drops, and the sun lazily rises later and sets earlier, we tend to turn to ‘comfort’ foods. One of my favorites, turkey chili was created when I wrote my first book in 2001, Sound Mind Sound Body. Here, replacing the beef for turkey and losing the beans, cut calories, carbohydrates, fat and calories, but not the taste! It’s so tasty, you don’t need to top with cheese or sour cream.. There’s nothing better than a juicy, tasty burger. Here, I’ve swapped out the beef for turkey, but instead of breast, I use skinless thighs for a little extra flavor, add carrots, apple and Dijon mustard. I love making these in larger quantities and have them for snacks and healthy leftovers. Feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed are leading causes of making poor food choices. I keep the following snacks readily available in my fridge and pantry. Mary’s Gone Crackers, organic, vegan and gluten free super seed crackers with either homemade Ultimate low – fat Hummus, or if I don’t have any in the fridge, than my favorite Ithaca Cold Crafted Hummus, or Roots Mango Sriracha Hummus. In lieu of crackers, I will use celery, organic baby carrots or cucumber spears. When hunger pangs are really overtaking me, a tablespoon of fresh almond butter (1 TBS approx. 165 calories) goes a long way! Fall is apple-picking time, which means homemade applesauce! It’s so fresh and delicious and easy to make. Using (or abusing) condiments can derail the healthiest meals! I LOVE using condiments as a healthy way to flavor and ‘zip up’ my foods. Here are my absolute favorites: • Cholula Hot Sauce • Organicville Organic Dijon Mustard • Sprinkling Yuzu • Round Swamo Farms Hot Pepper Relish [www.roundswampfarm.com] • GOAVO avocado spread • True Made Foods – BBQ Sauce, All vegetable Ketchup [www.truemadefoods.com] Healthy snacking after school for Emilia and Francesca requires some thought and a bit of ingenuity. When a local fresh organic apple or pear won’t suffice, I have found some healthier options: Undercover Quinoa, a dark chocolate quinoa snack is crunchy and sweet enough that the girls love it! For me, I love the healthy dark chocolate, quinoa and minimal added sugar; Made Good is an organic healthy granola bar that is peanut and tree – nut free, so it’s school safe and comes in chocolate chip and berry flavors; GimMe organic seaweed. Chicken fingers, pizza and pasta - Healthy fast food – a bit of an oxymoron, which can be easily made healthy and quite tasty! • Chicken fingers – the staple and go – to for kids and even adults sometime (think KFC!). Along comes this product Chickpea Crumbs [www.watuseefoods.com] that is delicious, contains 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, that makes chicken fingers delicious and nutritious!; • Emilia, Francesca and I love pizza!! It’s not the unhealthiest, but there are a couple of ways to make it healthier! When ordering in, I opt for the gluten free version. Most pizzerias offer this option now. I also add grilled chicken, bell peppers and mushrooms to add some extra protein, vitamins and nutrients. There is also an amazing cauliflower pizza that I really love [www.califlourfoods.com] that the girls and I love to create our own creations and add chicken, Italian tuna, spinach, mushrooms and peppers. • I’ve saved the best for last! As a rule, there’s nothing ‘unhealthy’ about pasta (sans the Alfredo and cheesy sauces). There are an abundant variety of gluten free options that I stock in my pantry including Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodles [www.staranisefoods.com], legume Pasta by Tolerant, like red lentil, chick pea, green lentil and black bean [www.tolerantfoods.com]; Banza Chick Pea pasta [www.eatbanza.com]. These pastas are delicious & nutritious, adding extra protein, fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients. I also love using a spiralizer and have made zucchini, beet, and sweet potato pasta. • One added note on all of the above – too much of a good thing is just too much!! Portion control is key. Remember, no mindless overconsumption. • French Fries are beloved by all. What’s a burger without fries? Sweet potato fries are definitely healthier. I also love cutting the potatoes into wedges, add a little salt and pepper and olive oil and roasting them in the oven on 375 until golden and crispy. There’s also a great air fryer from T-Fal called Actifry [www.t-fal.ca] that is perfect for preparing healthy fries and stir-fry vegetables using one tablespoon of grape seed oil. It really cooks up like the real thing! • The most nutrient – rich foods need to be prepared clean and simply. Grilling, roasting, light sautéing, are the best methods. I love using different cooking oils for different things in my kitchen. I love organic extra virgin coconut oil with my eggs, mushrooms and greens in the morning; olive oil spray for my vegetable sautés, and sunflower oil (great for high heat cooking) for oven roasting [www.spectrumorganics.com] Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t very hard. It’s about making smart choices and the best decision possible at any given time. Food is fuel, not your consolation when you’re sad; or your celebration when you’re happy. Be mindful, stay optimally fueled with nutrient- rich whole foods, and savor every bite guiltlessly. I promise you, implementing some of these changes will transform your life. You will look and see the difference in no time!