In a bold moment a few years back, I decided to give up ice cream for Lent. It was a test of sorts, as I seriously wondered if I had the discipline to stick it out. It was a major challenge, but I did it—and afterwards went right back to my routine of a nightly bowl, generously scooped.
For this very reason, I decided to ditch food-related resolutions and instead focus on various other shortcomings. Deep down, I know that changes in diet (and exercise, for that matter) should be lifelong changes, not short-term modifications.
So while some are currently feeling guilty about failed New Year’s resolutions and others are fretting over six more weeks of Lent, I thought a few words of wisdom from an expert might help.
I first met Sally Meints while taking a tour of Bright Side Opportunity Center* last year. I was on a mission completely unrelated to food and, when introduced to the wellness director, I realized that I knew her from somewhere. Turns out that Sally and her company, Nutrifreak, had been featured in the Wednesday food section several months prior.
As a certified nutrition specialist and personal trainer, Sally champions a clean-eating lifestyle, which means eating unprocessed foods or foods in their most natural state. Her goal is to help people resist the lure of fad diets, processed foods, and products promising quick weight loss and learn to eat real food instead.
Since small changes are often easier to implement and stick with, I asked Sally for her top tips for shedding pounds and improving health. And while green smoothies may be really good for us, I wanted suggestions that most people could realistically implement and that seemed reasonable to continue over the long haul. (See sidebar for Sally’s Four Favorite Tips.)
Sally also offered a quick recipe for portion-controlled granola bites that satisfy a sweet craving and make a perfect pre-workout fuel. I, for one, am frequently guilty of wanting “just a bite” of something sweet, and my kids love the store-bought chewy granola bars. So we seemed like ideal testers for Sally’s bite-size treats. These wholesome snacks are easy to make and loaded with protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. And while naturally sweetened with honey, there are just enough chocolate chips to satisfy a penchant for chocolate.
Yields 26-28 balls.
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats (90 grams)
- ½ cup ground flax meal (50 grams)
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (85 grams)
- ½ cup peanut butter (130 grams)
- 1/3 cup honey (110 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (5 milliliters)
- Mix the dry ingredients (the oats, flax meal, and chips) in a small- to medium-size bowl. In a larger bowl, combine the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until thoroughly incorporated. For easier rolling, place the mixture in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. (You may roll them right away, but they will tend to stick to your hands at this point.)
- Roll into bite-sized balls and place them on a cookie sheet. (I line the baking sheet with wax paper--could use parchment or foil—for easy cleanup, but this isn't critical as the bites won't stick to the sheet.) If you have a melon baller or a mini ice cream scoop, it works very well for quickly portioning out consistent amounts of batter. Stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, the bites will keep for a week or two.
Sally’s Four Favorite Tips:
1. Don’t give up carbs, but do eat the best carbs available. For instance, try quinoa instead of white rice. WHY?
- White rice is refined and has very little nutritional value.
- A nutritious whole grain, quinoa is also a complete protein that is naturally high in magnesium and iron.
2. Replace soda and sugary beverages with seltzer water with a splash of pomegranate juice or real fruit. WHY?
- Seltzer water is simply carbonated water. It contains no calories, no added sugar, or artificial sweeteners and is refreshing and inexpensive.
- Soda and diet sodas are high in sugar or artificial sweeteners and studies have linked them to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, kidney damage, and heart disease.
3. For whole-body health, start your day with a glass of warm lemon water (try half a lemon squeezed into a large glass of water). WHY?
- Lemons are rich in vitamins, minerals and Vitamin C. They have been shown to boost the immune system, hydrate the lymph system, detox the liver, aid in digestion, balance pH levels, help with weight loss, and keep skin clear.
4. Whenever possible, ditch refined sugar. WHY?
- Sugar is addictive, leads to obesity, and increases the risk of chronic and preventable diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimers.
If you wish to contact Sally, you can visit her website here.
*Brightside Opportunity Center is an independent non-profit social service facility in Lancaster City which offers a variety of health, social service and educational programs.