Let’s Drink this Ramadan

Ramadan Mubarak everyone!

Considering this Ramadan has hit us in the middle of summer, and it also happens to be one that I will be enjoying in North America after a few years away from home – which means longer summer days than I’ve become used to – I thought it important to remind everyone to drink up! BTW this is good advice for everyone, not just those of us who are fasting at this time.

I think a lot of us focus on food when it comes to fasting, but we often forget to make sure we are hydrating well too. In fact I bet you didn’t know that dehydration is a common reason for headaches and feeling more hungry – symptoms we’d all like to avoid.

So how much do you need to drink and how can you get it all in when you’re fasting 18 (give or take a few) hours a day? First and foremost, stick to the standard advice of 8 cups or about 2L a day. While there are varying opinions on the exact amount of water we all need, this general rule of thumb is quite good and also simple to remember.

Now that we have a goal in mind, the next step is to make sure we achieve it. In order to do this, I highly recommend measuring how much you drink, whether that’s by using one large 2L jug or drinking 4-500ml bottles, keeping track of the amount you consume is important.

While drinking more than 2 glasses of water at suhoor is not necessary and will only make you pee more as your system flushes excess water out, it is important to pace yourself to drink most of your fluids throughout the night.

As for those of you who are hydration-challenged, think outside the box when it comes to getting your fluids in. While I am a firm believer that water is the greatest quench aid, enjoying 100% fruit and/or veggie juices, cold or hot herbal teas (watch the sugar content) and even the occasional sports drink is not a bad idea. By also including juicy fruits/veggies like melons and lettuce, 100% juice Popsicles and/or broth-based soups you can take your creative fluid intake up a notch too. And for those of you who don’t enjoy the taste of plain H2O, think about making your own flavoured waters by adding fresh fruit (sliced oranges, lemon slices, and/or berries) or tea bags (there all sorts of great fruit flavours out there) to your jug and refrigerating it overnight.

A couple more things to consider when it comes to hydration:
1) electrolytes are important if you sweat a decent amount through the day – and a great natural way to get these back is by drinking coconut water

2) to prevent having to pee through the night, rather than catch your much needed zzz’s think about stopping to drink a couple of hours before bedtime

I hope everyone has a well-hydrated, peaceful and blessed month!

Making This Simple Change Will Guarantee Permanent Weight Loss

So I know I made a New Year’s resolution to post more often regardless of how busy I am – and I know I had the best intention to follow through with this come hell or high water… but not even a few months later and here we are again, life has gotten in my way of keeping in touch on my blog!

The fact is, all of us have the same problem! What I mean to say is whether you are a dietitian or the Prime Minister of Canada, we all struggle with sticking with our goals… you see at the end of the day each one of us are part of what makes up statistics, and the statistics tell us that less than 50% of us stick to our New Year’s resolution past the 6 month mark and only about 8% of us actually succeed in meeting our resolutions.

While this is kind of disheartening to know… I mean I definitely want to be part of the 8% who keeps their resolution, the fact that it is a VERY small determined group of individuals who make up a minority somehow makes me feel better as well. I mean of the 40% of people who actually make resolutions, 92% of us don’t follow through.

You might be wondering how this has anything to do with achieving permanent weight loss. Other than the fact that weight loss happened to be the number 1 resolution made by people at the beginning of 2014, it tells me that even having the best of intentions doesn’t guarantee success.

And if you are anything like a lot of my clients/friends/family who are looking to lose weight, than while resolving to change is important, unfortunately it isn’t  the solution. This is because as much as we want to lose all that weight as of yesterday, the fact is weight loss is a goal that requires longterm commitment… Hardly simple if you ask me!

So how do you make it simple to lose weight – and more importantly guarantee that it stays off for good?  It actually does have to do a lot with your head…

The simple change you can make TODAY that WILL help you LOSE WEIGHT PERMANENTLY is to recognize that weight loss takes time! I know it sounds silly, and in fact coming to this realization can be quite challenging, but when you embrace the idea that it will take you a few months or even a few years to reach your weight loss goal, you will get the focus you need to achieve it.

While a lot of us think that our weight gain happened overnight, the fact is that it took many months or even years of committed habits to gain that unwanted weight – so it is only logical that it will take the same (if not a bit longer) time to develop the habits needed to lose it too.

Remember – slow and steady truly does win the race. In my career of 10+ years this is one thing I have seen with my own eyes time and time again.

The amazing thing is no matter how many months or years it takes, when you look back at your weight loss journey you WILL think it hardly took long at all to drop that weight once and for all.

* Statistics for this post: http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Five 5 Minute Breakfasts Guaranteed to Start Your Day Right

March is nutrition month and this year the theme is Simply Cook and Enjoy! which is something a lot of us struggle to do… I mean the cook part. In fact this is probably the number one reason my clients give me for not being able to stick to eating healthy – “I just don’t have time!”

The truth is cooking doesn’t have to mean that your making a 5 course meal every night. It can be quite simple but super delicious, even when you’re on the go.

So since breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and one that is often substituted with a morning Joe, I thought I’d share 5 of my favorite breakfasts that will take you less time to make than standing in line at Starbucks:

Labna & Rocket Pita

Labna & Rocket Pita

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. labna (I use Pinar Turkish Labna because it isn’t as tart)
Bunch of rocket leaves, washed and patted dry
1 whole grain pita (I use Modern Bakery’s Protein Flat Bread)

To Make:

Warm pita on stove top or in toaster oven for 30 sec. Spread labna on pita, add rocket and fold into a roll.
Note: labna is a spreadable cheese made from yogurt popular in the Middle East so if you can’t find it in your grocery store, look for it at an Middle Eastern Grocer or you can simply substitute it with a nice cream cheese

Maple Banana OatmealMaple Banana Oatmeal

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats (I use Jordan’s Organic Porridge ‘coz I love the texture of their chunky flakes)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. ground flax
1 tbsp. real maple syrup (can’t be Canadian without this)
1 banana, sliced

To Make:

Mix oats and milk in a bowl (or glass Tupperware if you’re taking it to go) and microwave for 4 min (stirring after 2 min). Add flax, maple syrup and banana. Stir and enjoy!

Spinach & Feta Omelet in a Chapatti

Spinach & Feta Omelet

Ingredients:

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil (first cold pressed)
1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed (microwaving it for about 30 sec does the trick)
1 oz. feta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 whole wheat chapatti (I use SK’s Original Frozen Chapattis)

To Make:

Prepare chapatti as per package instructions. In a small pan heat oil and sauté spinach until water evaporates (about a min). Crumble feta around the pan and then add the egg, spreading so it makes an omelet. Cook until omelet is set, about 2 min. Serve in chapatti.
Note: chapatti is an Indian flatbread widely eaten in South Asia

Granola & Berry Yogurt Parfait

Yogurt Berry & Granola Parafait.jpg

Ingredients:

1/2 cup berries of your choice (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are quicker options since you don’t have to chop them – I used frozen today)
1 tbsp. ground flax
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup granola (I like Familia Fruit’X with strawberries)
1 tbsp. honey

To Make:

In a bowl, layer yogurt, honey, flax, granola and berries. Stir and enjoy!

Peanut Butter & Banana Toast

Peanut Butter & Banana Toast

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. peanut butter (I use Organic peanut butter because it doesn’t have all the additives in it)
1 banana, sliced
2 slices whole grain bread (I like Swiss Cottage’s Multigrain Bread)

To Make:

Toast bread, spread peanut butter on both slices and then top with bananas.

Do you have a quick breakfast you enjoy?

Drinking Water in Dubai – Bottled, Filtered or Straight from the Tap?

One of the things that we all do in Dubai is drink BOTTLED water. And even though we have been reassured by the municipality time and again that our tap water is in fact “safe to drink” – there isn’t a lot of buy in from the public (but more on this later). So for most of us bottled water is really the only  source of drinkable water available.

Now coming from Canada, where tap water is safe to drink and where drinking bottled water is considered an extravagance, having to switch to the bottle was concerning to me on a number of levels. For one thing, not a lot of companies specify that their bottles are BPA Free here. Add to that the fact that when heated, or left in the car in hot weather which is pretty much every single day in Dubai, plastic made from BPA tends to release harmful chemicals into any substance it contains. Now as careful/vigilant as one might be about leaving a bottle in the sun, the fact is all that water, whether it be from the big gallon jugs we have delivered to our homes and offices or from the smaller bottles that we get from our grocery stores or find at our restaurants, has been transported on trucks and exposed to sun and heat for an unknown number of hours – possibly even days. And then there’s the environmental impact that thousands, I’d say even MILLIONS, of these plastic bottles have on our planet, especially when you consider that we live in a country where you have to really work hard to recycle.

That being said, after doing a bunch of research on it (which involved me looking at different bottled water companies, reading up on home filtration systems – that practically don’t exist – and even seriously considering drinking straight from the tap), I figured there wasn’t much that could really be done in this situation and so I embraced chugging water from bottles like a true Dubia’n. Of course I did convince the family to pay more (and get less) for Masafi @  home – mainly because their water comes from a local spring, at least their gallon jugs are BPA Free and they do not reuse their bottles (YIKES for the environment – but luckily they do recycle the plastic, phew)

But then that was almost 5 years ago – so let’s fast forward to today…

So from time to time we’ve gotten a flyer stuck to the apartment door about having a home water purification system installed. Something I’ve been interested in looking into (particularly a carbon block one) for a while but for some reason or other couldn’t seem to coordinate a time for someone to come in and give us a demo. Well that was until last weekend anyways.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a demo for one of these units before, but Saturday was the first time I ever have so when the sales guy for Pure Tech showed up dressed in a suit and carted in a laptop case with him I really didn’t know what to expect. It turns out it’s pretty much like any sales pitch with the exception of a simple water quality test where you provide 2 (and in my case 3) samples of water and he places 2 electrodes into each glass to allow any particles to settle out of them. He also does the test using his filtered tap water and I think the results are quite awe inspiring, they kind of speak for themselves don’t they:

Pure Tech Demo

So let me give you the low down of his explanation:

  1. Yellow – is simply the minerals in the water that have reacted with the charged ions
  2. Orange scum – i.e. what you see on top of the bottled water is apparently due to chemicals that are almost always (with the exceptions being more expensive brands like Evian plus a few more which I can’t remember, sorry) added to prevent any harmful bacteria from growing in it over time
  3. Blackish green – is rust, dust and other particles that get into the water from the storage tanks and the pipes.

Now I rarely take anything anyone, especially a sales rep, says at face value…and it’s a good thing too since it turns out that this “electrolysis test” is actually bogus, in fact some people are even calling it an outright scam:

As it turns out that orange scum on top of the bottled water is really the minerals it contains, which act as the electrolyte in this “experiment”. And based on the video, I’d venture to say that the tap water turns a murky greenish black probably because it’s desalinized sea water and probably still contains a bit of salt in it. As for the yellowish tint in the filtered water, from what I can gather from the Pure Tech pamphlet, unlike the systems mentioned in the video, their reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system adds a select number of minerals - but from the look of it not very many - back into the water after filtration.

You know I’m quite disappointed that this was a fake test because it made me not want to consider the Pure Tech filter at all – I mean who wants to buy something from someone who’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes, right?

But to be fair to myself, my family and all of our health in the long run, I do think that while RO filters aren’t 100% ideal, they do remove a lot of impurities including bacteria, parasites, pesticides, heavy metals like lead, mercury or arsenic and flouride (which is a controversial topic all on its own). Unfortunately they also remove essential trace minerals that our body needs and while the Pure Tech filter adds some of these back in, this is more like taking a vitamin instead of eating wholesome food.

SO the question remains, what is the best drinking water solution for Dubai residents…

While tap water is definitely the cheapest option, the fact that  while the Dubai Municipality assures us that the water leaving their purification plant is safe to drink, as recently as Aug 2013 they can’t guarantee that the water stored in your building’s water tank is still drinkable makes this option sketchy.

This leaves us with the bottled water vs the RO filtered water option. From a cost perspective installing a purifier at home requires a bit of an investment – the Pure Tech quote was AED 2500 – however over time the cost becomes quite a lot less (something like 40 fils per gallon vs about AED 10 per 4-5 gallon bottle).

But to be honest both are quite good options that have their own advantages and disadvantages:

Bottled Filtered
Advantages Filtered to meet drinking water standards

May contain natural minerals (as per the label)

Filter to meet drinking water standards

Remove harmful toxins commonly found in ground water due to pollution

Less expensive over time

Disadvantages Have no control over how long bottles are exposed to heat

Expensive

Negative impact on the environment

 

Demineralized

At the same time, as per the information provided on bottled water safety by Health Canada, no research to date indicates that the claim that chemicals leach into bottled water are true.

While I’m still considering getting the RO filter installed @ home (though I’m still on the look out for a good carbon block filter),  surprisingly the sales guy at Pure Tech actually made me feel much more comfortable about drinking my bottled water!

If you are looking for how to choose a good bottled water here, check out Time Out’s article on Dubai’s Best Bottled Water.

With Love From the Skinny Foodaholic

dippedSo as some of you may have noticed I’ve been in hibernation from blogging for a while… the end of 2013 was a bit more hectic than I anticipated and unfortunately some things had to be put on the back burner, though I missed this space a lot!

But now that we’re already well into 2014 and things have finally settled down a bit on my end, one of the things high on my priority list is to share my knowledge with you more frequently, along with listening and learning more. So I hope I’ll be providing you with interesting content this year and in turn I always look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

There are some other changes you may notice – for one thing I’ve updated the look of the blog, part of freshening things up for the new year. (I hope you like it). But more importantly I’ve changed the tag line from Skinny Food Addict to Skinny Foodaholic. That’s because food addiction has recently started to become recognized as a medical condition, and I definitely do not want to misrepresent this blog nor do I want to make light of a serious health concern.

But enough with the updates, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner… and while it’s not such a big deal for me since I’m happily single at the moment – I know I will definitely be making some time to pamper myself and my loved ones on the 14th (as I think all of us, in a relationship or not, should do)!

And since you guys are part of my extended family in a way, I thought I’d share this great little recipe for making your own chocolate dipped strawberries from All Recipes. I love it because it’s so easy (it takes less than 30 min to make), the kids can get involved too and it’s a great way to get 1/2 a serving of fruit in while you’re enjoying dessert!

To make this recipe a bit more wholesome I would suggest using dark chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa) and either coconut oil or real (unsalted) butter instead. And rolling your strawberries, or any other fruit of your choosing for that matter, in nuts or coconut flakes rather than drizzling them with white chocolate adds a bit more nutrition as well.

For those of you who are curious, this recipe makes 12  - 1/4 cup servings (which is about 2 large or 3 medium size strawberries) and contains about 190 kcal/serving.

1 oz of 75% Dark Chocolate

melted chocolate and coconut oildippingdipped strawberriesa serving of chocolate dipped strawberriesHappy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Fasting to Detox: 3 Ramadan Tips for Success from a Muslim Dietitian

ramadan kareemAs many of you who are acquainted with Muslims know, Ramadan is our month of fasting. It’s also a time for developing patience, will-power and discipline that is meant to benefit us throughout the remainder of the year. And a time of solidarity between all human beings which naturally translates into a time of generosity, good will and charity.

Fasting, of course, is not unique to Islam – it plays a predominant role in many religions/cultures. And while modern medicine is still on the fence about whether or not it is good for your health, ancient/holistic wisdom embraces it as an essential way to flush out the toxins we’ve accumulated in our systems over time. This is a concept that’s also been picked up by mainstream culture as juice or water fasting has become a popular way to jump start weight loss or embrace a healthier lifestyle.

While it sounds pretty straight forward, anyone who’s fasted before knows it isn’t quite as simple as it seems. More importantly not everyone who fasts necessarily benefits fully from the detoxification that should naturally come from this process.

Considering most of us are on our 10th fast today (depending of course on the time zone and day the month started in your area), and are therefore already 1/3 way through Ramadan, I thought this would be a good time to share 3 key strategies that will ensure that your fasting (whether its for Ramadan/Lent/health reasons, etc.) results in effective detoxing:

iftaar1) First and foremost, don’t forget to nourish yourself - If you are fasting for Ramadan than you know that this is a time that is filled with many traditions especially ones that involve food. It is also a time when families and friends often gather around the table together. So it isn’t uncommon for many of us to cycle between short periods of feasting on delicacies like samosas, pakoras, atayar, baklava, kunafa, etc. (you get the picture), before and after our fasts. However, not only can this practice actually increase hunger and cravings during the day as our blood sugar levels go for a roller coaster ride, it can also hinder our body’s ability to cleanse itself as energy is directed back to the digestive process instead. The truth is, you don’t actually need to eat like a lion as much as you need to eat smart in order to stave off hunger during the day. So instead of focusing on “quantity” (which would be important if you didn’t actually know when your next meal were going to be), the key is to think “quality”. Keep in mind that different foods get converted into energy for our system at different times. As we all know, simple carbs get burned right away (within 1-3hrs) while proteins, fats and complex carbs get digested and converted into energy at a slower pace (between 3-6 hrs). Therefore having normal sized meals that contain a good mix of all of these elements works best. For Ramadan, this means:

  • having a Sahur with staying power (eggs, foul, yogurt, nuts, whole grain breads and cereals are all good choices),
  • keeping Iftar light (focus on rehydrating your system with soups, 100% fruit juices, and plenty of water),
  • having a nourishing dinner (while Ramadan is filled with not so healthy but delicious delicacies it also has a host of healthier foods like adas, lisan asfoor, harira, chole, lassi, fruit chaat etc. that do more than just tantalize your taste buds) and
  • snacking through the night (nature has created some of the most perfect desserts in fruit- and with summer in full swing there is no shortage of sweet choices like mangos, melons, cherries, figs, etc to indulge in)

Similarly, if you are undertaking juice or water fasting, it is important to make sure the meals you have a few days prior to starting and finishing the process don’t simply provide calories but are also nutrient dense (i.e. rich in essential vitamins and minerals) as this will ensure that your body has all it needs to cleanse itself and then stay healthy in the long run.

2) Embrace your hunger (and everything that goes with it from the low energy, to the dull headache, easy irritability, etc.) – it’s all part of the experience. Whether your fasting for spiritual or health reasons, one thing is for sure – you WILL feel hungry. But embracing this idea will allow you to redirect your thoughts from your growling tummy to appreciating the why, what and how of your fast and the benefits you are gaining from doing it. From building will-power to banishing health issues (like gastric upset, fatigue, recurring allergies, etc.) to building solidarity with the millions of people on the planet who go hungry every day, there are many perks that come from giving your GI tract a bit of a break.

prayer3) Take time to meditate - thanks in part to Hollywood, we’re all familiar with the young Brave who embarks on a hunger quest to seek higher understanding. Though it seems contradictory, fasting actually does give us a sense of greater clarity such that problems that might have felt unsurmountable before seem less intimidating. Whether its in the form of prayer, yoga or simply sitting quietly, fasting helps you to slow down, reflect and be more contemplative as you shift your focus from the daily hustle and bustle to introverting within and focusing on healing.

If you are detoxing well this is the time you should start noticing subtle changes to your body composition (i.e. those love handles and/or belly chub look a lot better) even without any exercise or weight loss.

Ramadan Kareem everyone!

5 Fun Things to Do in Dubai this Summer that Don’t Involve Food or Spending a Fortune

So yeah summer is in full swing here in Dubai – anyone who is still in the city knows exactly what I mean when I say this…

Generally speaking the city goes into quiet hibernation around this time of year as schools come to a close and most of the population goes off on holiday… not a lot of us choose to brave out the intense 50++ heat.

While I’m usually one of the many vacation-goers around this time of year, due to many reasons including the fact that Ramadan is just around the corner and I’ve been thinking about snow lately (WEIRD I know –  the heat must be getting to me), I’ve decided to spend this summer here.

That said, the oppressive humidity and the sweat on my brow as I make the short walk from the apartment/work to the car and back are not lost on me. STAYING INDOORS and IN THE AC as much as possible is one of my few missions for this time of year.

picture from dubaichronicle.comSo what can one do indoors? Hey this is Dubai so pretty much anything from skiing to skydiving in a wind tunnel to visiting the world’s largest aquarium or going to the top of the world’s tallest building are all viable options!

But if you’re like me and want to equate quiet summer in the city to a few more dirhams saved, then there’s always strolling the malls doing some window shopping, stopping into Borders, enjoying a summer block buster and frequenting the many restaurants around while catching up with friends.

Considering these activities, though pretty cheap, can get a bit monotonous at times, the question remains – what (more) can one do on a fil in a city that is known for lavish spending? And you know me – I LOVE EATING but even I want to do something more than tickle my tastebuds sometimes…

So after much research I’ve come up with a list of 5 fun things to do in the city that don’t involve any calories or many dirhams either. The added bonus for the more exercise challenged (like myself) – we might even develop a muscle or two in the process!

1) Mall Walkers @ the MOE – Most of us throw in the towel when it comes to our regular walk during the summer months, and while walking the length of any of the many vast malls would be a suitable alternative, wearing my sweats and speed walking by my lonesome makes me feel a bit like a red herring. The solution? Join the Mall Walkers group at the Mall of the Emirates – it’s absolutely free and you get to join a group of like-minded Dubians.

2) Bowling – From Switch Bowling in Ibn Battuta to the Bowling Centre on Sheikh Zayad Road, the city is quite literally littered with bowling centres (there’s one in almost every mall – and we have a lot of malls). Did you know it costs as little as 10 AED a game or 60 AED for an hour of lane time? You can also get additional perks by getting a membership or get really serious (or have even more fun with it) by joining a league! Your best bet is to do a google search for the centre located closest to you.

3) Rock (wall) climbing – It’s no surprise that Dubai is home to one of the region’s highest rock climbing walls. While its an outdoor wall located at the WTC and features a 10m World Cup standard speed wall section, we also have a couple of indoor rock climbing facilities. In fact both PlayMania at Mirdiff City Centre, which by the way is home to Soccer Circus Dubai (indoor as well), and Adventure HQ on Sheikh Zayad Road offer a half hour climb for 50 AED.

4) Ice skating – I think most of us are familiar with the ice rink in Dubai Mall. If you’ve ever passed by it you’ll notice it’s a happening place. And its no wonder considering two hours of public rink time only costs 55 AED. What a great way to cool off, right?

5) DUCTAC – I don’t know if you know about it, but the DUbai CommuniTy & Arts Centre is a little gem located right next to Mall of the Emirates (same parking lot). And it’s actually a great place to attend live productions (like Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), art exhibits and dance productions some of which only cost a little more than a movie ticket at 80 AED. They also offer classes for both children and adults (though these are more pricey of course).

BTW Dubai’s Mohdesh initiative was pretty sad for the past few years but they seem to have pulled their act together this year. So don’t forget to check out the summerisdubai.com website for great summer offers, events and discounts.

I hope you guys find some of these ideas helpful. Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list? What do you do to stay entertained in the city?

 

How to Make Better than Movie Popcorn in less than 10 min – No Microwave Required

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I think most of us are looking forward to this year’s summer block busters. After all there really is no better reprieve from the Dubai heat than a cool dark theatre.

And for a lot of us, a trip to the movies just wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the concession stand. The only problem is, these seemingly harmless snacks can really pack on the pounds!

While neither Grand nor VOX have  published nutrition information for their movie theatre munchies, I imagine its no different than that found around the world (granted you probably can’t find samosas at every theatre, but I’m sure you get the picture ;) ).

So what kind of calories are we talking about anyways? Did you know that the healthiest item you can buy at the movies is a hot dog which has a reasonable 300 calories and offers a tiny bit of nutritional value. That’s actually not all that bad… but what about some of our other favorites?

Compare these numbers to the average:

  • daily meal which should run you between 400-600 kcal
  • while your entire daily intake should run you between 1800-2200 kcal;

and that’s a heck of a lot of calories in one go!

But honestly, if you only go to the movies once in a while and the concession stand is your treat – by all means don’t let these crazy numbers ruin your fun. If you are a die hard movie fan on the other hand (or become one in the summer months) simply cutting back on your weekly concession stand trips might be enough to lop 9 kg a year off of you!

A much better plan for movie night at the theatre in my books is to grab a more nourishing dinner (I love the California Pizza Kitchen at the MOE or Zaatar Wa Zeit in Ibn Battuta) before heading to the show. Delicious? Check; Great overall experience? Check!

Now considering theatre popcorn can be a calorie booby trap, enjoying “movie popcorn” as part of your “home theatre” experience makes a lot more sense (especially considering the average 4 cup serving or about 1/3 of the microwave bag usually is a little under 200 kcal) – I know I absolutely love this!

The only sad thing is most of the microwave popcorn you get at the grocery store has a lot of hidden additives in it. For e.g. the label off an Orville Redenbacher microwave bag reads:

Wholegrain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, less than 2% of: Salt, Potassium Chloride, Butter, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Color Added, TBHQ and Citric Acid (For Freshness). CONTAINS: MILK.

I’ve scoured the grocery shelves of Dubai only to find that most of the brands available to us are pretty much the same. So here’s how you can make movie style popcorn at home in less than 10 min minus the microwave (and the additives)…

Yes it REALLY is that simple! All you need is:

Ingredients

1/2 cup Popcorn Kernels

Pinch of Sea Salt

1 1/2 Tbsp. 1st cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Other calorie-free seasonings of choice – like fresh black pepper, chili, garlic or cinnamon

Method

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a 5L heavy bottomed pot at high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and stir so they are coated. Turn stove to medium heat and cover leaving one side slightly open. Watch until all kernels have popped – popping should be 1-2 seconds apart. Turn off. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 tbsp. oil and salt. Season as desired and serve hot!

Makes 2 (6 cup) Servings

Calories per serving: 126 (or 233 if you add 2 tbsp. low fat parmesan)

Now that you know the basics, check out some of the great ways Redbook magazine has come up with to really take your popcorn to the next level (though some of these ideas do add more calories…):

Popstars: Flavored Popcorn Recipes

PS. I know I said you don’t need the microwave, but if you are a die-hard microwave fan, you can actually make regular popcorn in the microwave using a paper lunch bag:

Occasionally Crafty’s Blog Post: Making My-Own Microwave-Popcorn

Bon appetite!

5 Delicious (and HEALTHY) Places to Eat Out in Dubai

So Derek made a really great comment on my last post about Jared and how he was able to lose an astonishing amount of weight by eating fast food – in this case Subway sandwiches – every day. The key to Jared’s success didn’t simply lie in the fact that he chose subway over any other fast food, but also in what went on and in his sub!

That being said, you can totally eat subway every day and gain weight if you make the wrong choices as well. My point is, while it is possible to eat healthy even when you’re eating out, for most of us, when it comes to managing our weight (and our health through nutrition), eating out can be a mine field! So I thought I’d share five places here in the city that not only tantalize the tastebuds but also do good for the body! I’m not listing them in any sort of ranking because I think all of them are great depending on what you’re in the mood for :)

1. Category: Ethnic Cuisine – Zaatar W Zeit

Hey as Dubains we all want to have great Middle Eastern fair, but most places serving up local food in the city don’t really think about it from a health angle. However, I have noticed recently that a few of the chain restaurants like Just Falafel, which now offers a baked option with whole wheat Saj bread, are starting to come around.  Still the options are far and few between. That’s exactly why when it comes to healthy Middle Eastern fair, Zaatar W Zeit, tops my list! Their menu is littered with ways to make your favorite choices just a bit healthier. But more importantly, those choices do not sacrifice anything when it comes to taste – in fact in my opinion they enhance it. In fact they  are one of the very few (the only one I know of in fact) places in town that actually gives you the option to get  multi-cereal versions of your favorites like manakeesh, along with baked falafel and quinoa tabbouleh. Did I mention that all of it is DELICIOUS?! The one draw back is that they still don’t have a nutrition breakdown for their food. Hope that’s coming soon :)

2. Category: Chain Coffee Shop – Costa

As a Canadian, I LOVE my Tim Hortons, but I must say that Costa out shines all others when it comes to great sandwiches, salads and light lunches that are both healthy and yummy. The best part is that most of their fair has nutrition info right on the package so you can take a look at ingredients and calories while your waiting in line. In fact there are several choices that fall into the 300-400 kcal range and are made from wholesome ingredients, take for example their Free-Range Egg Mayo Sandwich or Tuna Melt both on multigrain breads and under 400 kcal. But they also have excellent TREAT day desserts too!

3. Category: Independently Owned Coffee Shop – Urban Bistro

Well this is a little gem I stumbled upon very recently, located in Media City this place serves free-range farm fresh eggs, gluten-free options and a lot of organic, local fair and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either! Not to mention that the decor and overall feel of the place is SOOO inviting you never want to leave! Warning though – their portion sizes are overly large so if you want to stay within healthy portions, plan to share your meal with a friend.

4. Category: Pizza – N_K_D Pizza

If you haven’t tried this pizza yet, you are seriously missing out! While from a calorie perspective, both Pizza Hut and N_K_D come out to about the same (a 63g large slice of pepperoni pizza is 303 kcal at N_K_D vs Pizza Hut’s 75g slice which is 370 kcal) they are hardly the same when you compare them from a nutrition perspective. That’s because N_K_D prides itself on having a whole grain bread that is finished off with organic/local toppings. I’ll tell you after eating a slice of this pizza, I didn’t have the usual symptoms associated with that heavy doughy feeling in my stomach that I usually get from enjoying fast food pizza. Overall though, unless you like the thinner crust, this should still be a treat meal unless you can manage to stop at 1-2 slices, which is kind of hard to do when it tastes so great :)!

5.Category: Burgers – Shake Shack

Have you noticed that new HEALTHier burger joints are cropping up around the city? Just in the last month I’ve been to Elevation Burger, Burger Fuel and Shake Shack. But in the health department, New York Fries extension – South Street Burger Co. comes out on top with their small burger on a whole wheat bun weighing in at only 289 kcal. Compare that to Shake Shack’s single cheese burger which has 470 kcal and there really isn’t much in terms of competition. But if I’m being honest with my taste buds – I would have to go with the Shack. Everything they serve, including their concretes are simply delicious. Considering they take a lot of care in selecting their ingredients, I’m not too worried about the negative effects that this burger will have on my overall health either. If you want to stick within a healthy calorie range you may be able to get away with a single burger with a bottle of water. That or make it one of your treat meals – it definitely is one of mine!

Yay – it’s finally happening, Dubai is slowly getting onto the healthy restaurant food wagon! It is truly nice to see that what we, as consumers, are asking for is getting converted into better meal choices available to us when we eat out. Let’s face it, in this fast paced world that we live in, this trend is not likely to change much. So it’s great to know that restaurants are willing to cater to us by providing the healthy foods we want to see more of.

As a closing, I want to talk about Jared, and the picture I put of him on this blog post. I’m not posting a picture of an article looking at his recent weight gain just to be mean, but more because it really is about  our overall choices in the long run and how they impact our health. Jared didn’t simply lose weight because he switched to Subway, but more because he changed how he was choosing to eat. I’m glad to see that he’s recognized that he’s slipped into poor eating habits and recommitted to his health. That being said, keep in mind that  enjoying delicious food and eating healthy don’t have to be concepts that cannot co-exist. It all comes down to finding that healthy balance!

Say NO! to Dieting this 2013

Happy 2013 everyone! Yes it is that time again – the New Year’s resolutions have been made, many of which have to do with weight loss of course, so it’s no wonder that the web is littered with advice and promotions to help you drop those additional pounds…

But now that the month has kicked off with the kids back in school and the holidays officially done with for a while, many of us are already struggling to get started OR maybe even thinking about throwing in the towel! One of the biggest problems with dieting is the simple fact that it DOES NOT WORK. For as long as Fad Diets have been around, to be honest, in the 10+ years that I have worked in this profession, I have yet to come across 1 person who went on a diet, lost a ton of weight and then managed to keep it off.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of people who have lost weight and kept it off – but these people DON’T do it by DIETING, they DO IT by making changes to their eating and activity habits which become a permanent part of their lifestyles (whether or not their success involves incorporating practices from popular diets like Atkins or South Beach or DUKKAN).

Take my sister Ayesha for example, she was always picked on for being the chubby kid in school – but that all changed when she hit High School – because the prior summer she finally decided to change her eating habits (choosing to eat healthier and watching her portions) – and blossomed into this extremely beautiful teenager. Ayesha maintained a healthy weight up until her pregnancies when she again gained a LOT of weight… and low and behold, with the weight gain came the fad diets (in fact she recently told me about all the crazy things she tried – like the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet and the South Beach Diet – behind my back because she knew I would disapprove). But a few years ago, she recommitted to eating healthy, walking and taking on yoga and again she is back to a healthy weight and is maintaining it.

So my advice to you this year is to SAY NO to DIETING! I know it’s enticing when you see weight loss supplements and diets that promise to help you drop 10 pounds in just 2 days, but I can guarantee that you will be much more successful if instead of investing in these marketing ploys, you take small steps in the right direction that you think you will be able to maintain for at least  the next year.

I want you to think long term because as much as we all want to lose 5 pounds every week; or think we will make it to the gym for 2 hours everyday – being unrealistic about our goals is a sure way to guarantee failure as well.

So instead:

1) Focus on making healthy choices over worrying about the scale – It’s actually the things you do everyday (like choosing more wholesome foods and making sure your not skipping meals) that cause the shift on the scale after all.

2)  Set realistic goals – It is important to think about the time you have and make health commitments based on these. For e.g. walking for 45 min 5 days a week beats going to the gym for an hour for 2 days and then not being able to make it the rest of the week.

3) Take baby steps – Like they say “A journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step”. But more importantly, if say you have a goal of losing 20 lb, you also need to have a plan of how you are going to get there. If you think baby steps on a week by week basis and get the tools and support you need to achieve these goals, in 5 months you’ll have reached that goal!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy Year!

 

 

 

About Moi :)

I am a well-seasoned (pun intended) Registered Dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field and a love for all things YUMMY - I want to share what I've learned about EATING and staying SKINNY with you through this blog. I'd also love to hear from you so leave me a comment and I'll get back to you!

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