No gym required — really!

February 11, 2009

img_2487 by Guest Blogger Amy Snider

Who has time to go to the gym? I’ve always believed in the philosophy that to be healthy, you need to eat nutritious foods and incorporate lots of physical activity into your lifestyle. But like so many other people, I find it challenging to practise what I preach. After a busy day at work, trudging out to the gym to fight for a treadmill has no appeal.

That’s why I was excited to be asked to be a contributor in Key Porter’s recent fitness book  No Gym Required, Unleash Your Inner Rock Star by celebrity trainer Jennifer Cohen. Jennifer’s opinion is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or time to improve your health. Designed to “unleash your inner rock star” Jennifer offers advice on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle by setting attainable goals, choosing the right foods and getting fit. I love the visual, step-by-step instructions for exercises that you do can anytime, anywhere!

As part of Team Jennifer, we developed a two-week menu featuring fresh, wholesome foods to make it easy to get a jump start on getting lean and fit. Unlike starvation diets, the 1,500 calorie-a-day meal plan is practical and designed to keep you fueled throughout the day. Two of our terrific interns Shirley Walsh and Melanie Chislett helped out with research and it was great to be able to include them in this project. Check out the book and the website at

Where do you work out? At home? Outside? Or at the gym?

My Wii fit is a mean girl

February 5, 2009


Image Credit:

Like many people, I took a break from dieting and my regular fitness regime over the holidays. While many people jumped on the resolution diet bandwagon on January 1st, I played it cool and got my fill of cold weather comfort food. Once satiated with mac and cheese, coconut curry and bacon laced concoctions of all kinds, I decided the time had come to return to my virtuous ways. (The actual truth is that my slim pants were just too tight to wear comfortably and I absolutely won’t wear my fat pants for more than a day or two.)

So, I started watching my diet and pulled out the Wii fit I got last summer. If you’ve used a Wii fit then you know that it’s interactive, with animated icons that give you instructions and other info. Although the Wii fit isn’t completely ignorant of the concept of positive reinforcement, it isn’t shy about pointing out your deficiencies either.

My first day back it informed me in rather large font (damn that large TV screen) that

• I had gained 6 pounds,
• it had been 153 days since I last used it (I wanted to shout that I’d played tennis all last fall but the machine just doesn’t listen!),
• that my Wii fit age was 3 years older than my chronological age,
• I have terrible balance.

Wow, I felt good about myself before my work out. Really great. Sheesh! I almost got off and got a cookie to make myself feel better!

While I know that I need to face the fact that I’m not in tip top shape, I’m not sure I’m the kind of person who does well with tough love. A little back-patting goes a long way to motivating me with my diet and fitness goals. What about you – do you need a drill sergeant or a cheerleader to help you stick to your fitness regime?

An open letter to the Slim Cleanse Company

July 8, 2008

Dear Slim Cleanse Company:

Allow me to congratulate you on your wonderful marketing campaign. Although I can’t speak for every woman my age, I can tell you that it effectively tapped into my insecure (and likely unrealistic) wish to totally rawk a bathing suit when I hit the pool this summer.

Your packaging claim that in just seven days this simple yet effective regime can gently purge my body of the unwanted toxins that cause midriff bloating is most seductive.

While I’ve only been using your product for two days, I must tell you that I think your copywriter may misunderstand the word ‘gentle.’ Unless, of course, by gentle s/he means that users of this product should like spending time in the bathroom and be able to bring their laptops into the bathroom if they want to get any work done.

Although I do so want to help you to achieve corporate success, I am sorry to advise you that I will be unable to complete your slim cleanse regime. I just don’t have the time or the toilet tissue budget to continue at this time and I’ll never get to the pool if I fall much further behind in my work.

Best of luck with your business.

~Dana McCauley

Slimming, satisfying soup

February 19, 2008

Guest Blogger Amy Snider, PHEc.

Soup ingredients

I often crave soup during the chilly winter months. Luckily, eating soup more often can combat another winter reality — the weight gain that often is the result of being cooped up indoors. Most soups (except for those prepared with full-fat cream or loads of cheese) provide a satisfying meal with minimal calories and fat. No wonder the cabbage soup diet is still on many people’s radar!

Here are a several reasons why soups are a great part of a winter diet:

1. Broths are generally fat-free; even when loaded up with vegetables and lean meats, they provide a low-calorie and nutritious meal.

2. A hot piping bowl of soup has to be eaten slowly, by the spoonful, making you feel more satisfied and less likely to over-indulge.

3. Soups are economical and convenient. I always keep some ready-to-heat (preferably lower sodium and vegetable-rich) canned soups in my pantry to pack for lunch or for an easy supper. Just a few minutes in the microwave and they’re ready to slurp.

Soup is easy to make, too. It’s a great way to use leftovers and the flavour combinations are endless. Here’s one of my favourite soups, a thick, nourishing and fibre-rich bean soup adapted from my cookbook Fiber Boost, Everyday Cooking for a Long, Healthy Life (Key Porter, 2004).

Bistro White Bean Soup

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
4 oz (125 g) bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cans (540 mL each) white kidney beans (or navy beans), drained and rinsed
4 cups (1 L) chicken broth
4 cups (1 L) baby spinach
Croutons and Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan set over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and slightly crisp. Stir in onion, carrots, garlic thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until tender and golden. Add the beans and chicken broth, bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to crush some of the beans to thicken the soup. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

150-calorie breakfast

January 21, 2008

To lose weight, I follow a very low-calorie, low-fat regime. With only 1,000 calories per day to consume, I carefully choose every bite to ensure it delivers not only as much nutrition as possible, but also as much enjoyment as possible.

Breakfast is a difficult meal for me. I’m often rushed in the morning and, truth be told, scrambled egg whites with salsa get boring after a couple of weeks. When I was gaining weight, I often grabbed a tall latte and a blueberry-white chocolate scone from Starbucks on the way the work; however, that 560-calorie indulgence (100 for the latte, 460 for the scone) didn’t make my fat ass any smaller.

To find a breakfast option that’s easy and makes for a satisfying meal with less than 180 calories, I turned to a black coffee and bars. No, I didn’t drink martinis for breakfast — a dry vodka martini is about 210 calories so it exceeds my calorie criteria! I’m talking about meal replacement bars.

While shopping for breakfast bar options, I discovered that most energy bars are higher in calories than I wanted. Here’s a list of the bars that did fit my criteria. I tasted each one and recorded my impressions so that you don’t have to read as many labels or suffer through the bad breakfasts I endured:

Atkins Endulge: Coconut (40 g, 180 calories). Super sweet with a terrible artificial sweetener aftertaste that not only lingered for hours but also ruined the taste of my coffee.
Bottom line: Yuck!

PowerBar Pria: Chocolate Peanut Butter Crisp (45 g, 170 calories). Cloyingly sweet but satiated me for quite a while.
Bottom line: Not my favourite for morning but may be good for people who love sweets and miss them while dieting.

SlimFast Optima: Chewy Caramel Crunch (30 g, 130 calories): The caramel flavour is super fake and there’s a weird crystallized texture at the finish that isn’t appealing.
Bottom line: Better than most, but still not on par with an egg white scramble.

Dr. Bernstein Protein Bar: Coconut Almond (40 g , 150 calories): This bar goes very well with coffee and actually tastes darn good. The texture is dense and although the bars are small, it takes long enough to finish each one so you feel like you ate something.
Bottom line: My hands-down favourite. (Note: I also tried their Chocolate Peanut Crunch variety but didn’t like it as much as the Coconut Almond.) Have you tried any of the other flavours? If so, please comment below.

Check out an Almond Granola breakfast recipe for about 150 calories/serving and Oats Plus Porridge for 118 calories/serving at

Have a low-cal breakfast tip you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it!

Resolution reinforcement

January 7, 2008

butter.jpgSo how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions to get fit and get rid of your gut? It’s difficult, isn’t it? I truly can sympathize with what you’re going through since I recently went through the same nightmare myself.

I planned ahead this year by losing weight before the holidays so that my resolution can be to keep it off. It’s so nice to wake up to on Jan. 1 without dieting on your mind. (Here’s something else to keep in mind: today’s contest mystery letter is Y). I lost almost all of the 20 pounds that were making me sad and ugly. In fact, as I write these words, post Christmas indulging, I have only six more pounds to lose in order to meet my original goal. (That’s them in the picture, cleverly disguised as butter).

I lost my weight much more quickly than most experts advise as being ideal for your health. I chose a super aggressive regime (less than 1,000 calories per day, and those calories had to come from low-fat foods and only a few complex carbs) because I knew two things about myself:
1. My resolve might be short-lived.
2. I couldn’t avoid professional eating responsibilities and social events indefinitely.

I was lucky that I had a relatively easy-to-manage amount of weight to lose — if I had many more pounds to lose, there’s no way I could have handled the prolonged social isolation and lack of lattes. Realizing that rickets and similar diseases are something even thin people can’t wear attractively, I took supplements such as potassium, calcium and vitamin B complex each day while dieting. Long term, I strive to get my nutrients from food sources. These were desperate measures I chose for fast weight loss.

Although I’m happily a loser, I’m not sure what advice I can offer to others who resolve to lose weight and get fit. The strategies that will work for each person are so individual. What I can tell you is that once you set your mind to losing weight, the hard part is over. And, once you start to lose, it gets easier. In fact, it feels freakin’ fantastic to put on a pair of slim-fitting pants and feel like you rock them! So, stick to your goals — you’ll be glad when you see results.

See my blog archives at

Hey there, readers!
Find two of the ultra low fat, ultra low calorie entrees for one I ate often while losing weight at — Dana