Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat

The United States is big on diets. No other country in the world has as many diet products, weight-loss books, television shows and lean cookin' blogs (had to throw that one in there) than the US. At the same time, as a country, we have the largest proportion of overweight individuals. Isn't that interesting?

This is something brought to my attention by researcher Alexander Chernev, author of his latest book, THE DIETER'S PARADOX: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat. The Dieter's Paradox explores the psychological reasons why millions of Americans continue to get heavier despite the increased convenience of healthy weight-loss options. Chernev has looked deep into the irrational aspects of our behavior that lead to the failure of our dieting efforts. By categorizing these decision errors, or biases, he is able to better understand and explain the force behind our thoughts and actions about dieting. Take for example the "Balancing Bias". This explores how individuals will balance the intake of healthy foods with unhealthy foods by ordering a side of fruit to go with their bacon-cheddar cheeseburger and fries. The bias creates an illusion and we can't seem to understand why the weight isn't falling off.

Another bias is the "Stereotyping Bias". This is one I think a lot of people do from time to time, including myself. The name sounds healthy, but it can be deceiving. Have a little fun and take the calorie test below.

Calorie Test
By Alexander Chernev

Below you will see a list of 10 meals from popular fast food chains. Write down your estimate of the calorie content of each meal. No need to come up with a precise number; instead just provide a low and high estimate of each meal's calorie count.

For example, if asked to indicate the calorie content of a Big Mac, you might think that it most likely has somewhere between 300 calories (low estimate) and 600 calories (high estimate).

Your goal is to identify high and low estimates such that the right answer falls between the two numbers you write down 90% of the time. In other words, this means that you should get at most one answer (10% of responses) wrong. 

MEALS                                                               LOW ESTIMATE                HIGH ESTIMATE

Dunkin' Donuts multigrain bagel with lite

cream cheese

Chili's citrus fire chicken and shrimp fajitas

Denny's smoked sausage scramble

Krispy Kreme's whole wheat glazed donut

McDonald's Quarter Pounder (without cheese)

Panera Bread's broccoli cheddar soup (8oz) in

a sourdough soup bowl

Romano's Macaroni Grill grilled salmon


Ruby Tuesday's turkey burger (with fries)

Starbucks' grande 2% white chocolate mocha

and a bran muffin with nuts

Uno Chicago Grill's classic deep dish pizza


Now, let's find out how you did


Dunkin' Donuts multigrain bagel with lite cream cheese: 490

Chili's citrus fire chicken and shrimp fajitas: 1,360

Denny's smoked sausage scramble: 1,480

Krispy Kreme's whole wheat glazed donut: 180

McDonald's Quarter Pounder (without cheese): 410

Panera Bread's broccoli cheddar soup (8oz) in a sourdough soup bowl: 880

Romano's Macaroni Grill grilled salmon teriyaki: 1,230

Ruby Tuesday's turkey burger (with fries): 1,393

Starbucks' grande 2% white chocolate mocha and a bran muffin with nuts: 900

Uno Chicago Grill's classic deep dish pizza (individual): 2,310

If you got all answers right or made only one mistake, you are an exception. If you did not -- don't get depressed. Most people don't. On average only half of the answers to this quiz are correct, significantly below the 90% target.

As you might have guessed by now, this was not just a test of your knowledge of calories but also a test of your confidence in your own knowledge. As this quiz shows, most of us are overconfident, thinking that we know more than we actually do.

© 2011 Alexander Chernev, author of The Dieter's Paradox: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat

Overall, I think The Dieter's Paradox: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat brings a lot of things to our attention. It makes us reflect more on our behavior and the thoughts which drive our behaviors. Are we being honest with what we are eating? Are we being deceived by the names of foods and putting them in undeserving "healthy" categories? Do these biases get in the way of our weight goals? With all of the resources available for achieving a healthy weight, there has to be an explanation as to why so many people still struggle with weight loss. Because humans are complex in nature, there is no simple, cut and dry solution or explanation to any struggle. Chervev allows us to view weight struggles of dieters through a psychological lens. Sure, there are other perspectives to the weight dilemma that are spot on for certain people. This is one that the author has researched well and written in a way that is easy to understand. It is one big piece of the puzzle.

This book is an eye-opener. It may even be more effective for some people than any diet has even been. Here's why. It gets inside our thoughts and behaviors; the driving force to our eating. To succeed at something, we should truly understand what it is we are doing. There is a great benefit in knowing why you are eating; perhaps even more than what you are eating. Or maybe we just need a strong combination of both.

Have a fabulous Tuesday!!

For more information on the book and the author, please visit http://www.dietersparadox.com/, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And the Winner Is...: Splenda Prize Package Giveaway!!

The winner of the very cool giveaway prize package from Splenda is...


Congratulations, Alicia! You are going to be receiving a sweet prize containing the following:

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener with B Vitamins

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener, 1 gram of Fiber packets

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener, 1 gram of Fiber granulated

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener to-go mug

One (1) Splenda-yellow blender

Two (2) Splenda-yellow bowls

One (1) Splenda-yellow fruit juicer

Thanks for entering and for sharing with us why you LOVE Splenda No Calorie Sweetener Products.

And thank you to Splenda for including me in their campaign to spread the word about the NEW Splenda Essentials No Calorie Sweeteners. I am a fan!!

Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone!!

***Alicia, please email your shipping address to cookinlean@gmail.com. I will have your prize shipped as soon as possible. Congrats!!

Splenda compensated me for participation in this campaign. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Paula Deen's Lean: Hash Brown Quiche

One of my favorite things about the weekend is having enough time to make a "real" breakfast. Yes, I eat breakfast on the week days too, but it doesn't compare to a hot quiche or a beautiful plate of Bananas Foster French Toast. You regular oatmeal-eatin', breakfast bar-grabbin' folks know what I'm talkin' about. Here is one of my new favorite quiche recipes. It is quick, delicious and filling too!

If it looks good (and I promise it is), make two! Save the leftovers for a super-quick breakfast the next morning. A slice in the microwave takes 30 seconds and then you have a hot n' healthy homemade breakfast!

Serves 6

  • 1-1/2 cups shredded frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter", melted
  • 3/4 cup Egg Beaters
  • 1 cup FAT FREE half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup finely diced ham steak
  • 1/2 cup scallions (green onions), diced
  • 1 cup shredded KRAFT 2% cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Drain hash browns between paper towels to dry them as best as possible.

In a 9-inch pie plate, mix the hash browns with the melted "ICBINB" into the plate.

Press them into the bottom and a little bit up the sides to form a crust.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. The crust should begin to look golden brown and starting to crisp.

While the crust is baking, combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

When the hash brown crust is ready pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F . Bake for about 30 minutes. The quiche will be light golden brown on top and puffed when it is ready.


This is on my "TOP 5" list of favorite breakfast dishes to make. It is wonderful! By substituting reduced fat cheese and Egg Beaters, we were able to save a ton! Plus, reducing the amount of hash brown and butter allowed for just enough to satisfy the craving without going overboard. As you can see, it is an easy recipe to get the little ones involved in too!

NUTRITION FACTS (Per serving):

BEFORE: 321.5 calories;  23.98g fat;  11.98g carbohydrate;  14.94g protein;  1.2g fiber

AFTER: 158.6 calories;  7.12g fat;  9.08g carbohydrate;  14.91g protein;  .72g fiber

SAVES: 162.9 calories /  16.86g fat / 2.9g carbs


Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SPLENDA ESSENTIALS : A Secret Weapon in the Cookin' Lean Kitchen -Review & Giveaway

When it comes to cleanin' up our acts, one of the first things to go are the sweets. I know, it breaks my heart too. Well, the good news is that SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener Products make it possible to fight off the sweet tooth without totally giving up our favorite treats. This is why I refer to SPLENDA  as "my secret weapon".

Just when I thought cookin' and bakin' lean sweets with SPLENDA couldn't get any sweeter, they went and wowed me again! SPLENDA No Calorie Sweeteners have gotten a boost with their new line of SPLENDA ESSENTIALS!! What does this mean?!?! I'd be happy to tell ya!

This new boost means that I can still keep calories low in my favorite recipes, but now I can increase the good stuff with added fiber, B-vitamins and antioxidants!! That's right! The same great taste we love, plus a healthy boost of nutrients. I know....pretty flippin' sweet!

As many of you well know, I am personally not new to SPLENDA. I use it in quite a few recipe makeovers found around here; such as Banana Pudding, Ultimate Coffee Cake and Holiday Whoopie Pies. I like it because, well, it really helps cut down on calories and carbohydrates. But most of all, I like how easy it is to use in place of regular sugar. Just check out these healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies Kimber and I made this weekend using SPLENDA ESSENTIALS No Calorie Sweetener, 1 Gram of Fiber, Granulated (recipe COMING SOON)! Who says you can't bake with SPLENDA? I beg to differ. Here's proof!

SPLENDA also takes pride in the safety of their products. People are sometimes concerned with sugar substitutes, but SPLENDA is different. They use sucralose to sweeten, which has been rigorously tested and proven safe. Check out more facts on the SPLENDA SAFETY PROFILE. I was very happy to see this, since a few of you have asked me about these products in the past.

Thanks to an interview I had this past summer with RD and author, Heather Bauer, I have had plenty of time to scope out all of the fabulous recipes using NEW SPLENDA ESSENTIALS on the SPLENDA website. Heather kept referring to the recipes found there...and now I can see why! There are so many great recipes to pull inspiration from. Try anything, from Chocolate Pudding with Strawberries and Banana Walnut Pancakes to Grapefruit Raspberry Sparklers and a Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Bowl.

With all this talk about how great these sweeteners are, wouldn't it be nice to have some SPLENDA ESSENTIALS to test out on their recipes and maybe some of your own?!?!?

Lucky you, 'cause I am havin' a SWEET GIVEAWAY !


One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener with B Vitamins

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener, 1 gram of Fiber packets

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener, 1 gram of Fiber granulated

One (1) SPLENDA® ESSENTIALSTM No Calorie Sweetener to-go mug

One (1) Splenda-yellow blender

Two (2) Splenda-yellow bowls

One (1) Splenda-yellow fruit juicer


1. "LIKE"  SPLENDA® Sweetener Products on Facebook


2. Share a comment on how you love using SPLENDA or what you think about the SPLENDA® ESSENTIALS .

So simple, right?

Oh, and the winning doesn't stop there!

What could be sweeter than being rewarded for simply requesting a free sample and sharing your feedback?

Currently, when consumers visit the Splenda Brand Facebook page and click on the new ESSENTIALS tab, they can request a free sample of the new Splenda Essentials product and share with other users what’s ‘essential’ to them. By doing so, consumers will be entered for a chance to win a travel mug with a $25 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card! Three lucky winners will be announced each day— but that’s not all. For every 10,000 sample requests received, the Splenda team will give away a $1,000 Visa gift card!

Stay tuned for two "NEW" leaned-out recipes this week; the perfect brunch "Lean Libation" (with SPLENDA ESSENTIALS) and a Hash Brown Quiche to go with! YUM!

Have a "sweet" Tuesday everyone and don't forget to ENTER!!!

Splenda compensated me for participation in this campaign. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Open to US residents only. All entries must be posted by Monday September 19, 2011 11:59 EST to be eligible. ONE (1) winner will receive the items listed in the prize package above. Winner will be selected using http://www.random.org/. Winner will be posted here on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.
* ARV of SPLENDA ESSENTIALS Giveaway prize package is $75.00

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Keepin' It Real...Keepin' It Lean

Every now and then, people I know will ask me for advice on how to lose weight. These are friends, acquaintances or people from school. Knowing what I do for a living, plus writing this blog, they are able to trust me as a good source of information on weight loss.

The thing is, I am not a professional dietitian. I don't feel comfortable prescribing diets to people nor should I be. If they are looking for a meal by meal plan on how to lose weight, they aren't gonna get it from me. Not only am I technically unqualified to do such a thing, I don't believe in it either! Doctors and dietitians are trained to create these specific diets for people that need it for one reason or another. If a friend is asking me for some simple tricks to livin' lean, here's what I say...

  1. Keepin' It Real: Look for foods that aren't processed. Think "Natural Ingredients & Flavors". If you can't pronounce it, it is probably not good for ya. Ideally, you want foods that are not bought in a package (think fruits, veggies and nuts).
  2. Shop the Outside: The perimeter of the store is where you will find fresh foods. The packaged and processed stuff is in the aisles. Stick to the outside and avoid the urge to pick up those "snacky" foods.
  3. Eat on "3": Eat a little something every 3 hours and make sure it includes a moderate amount of all 3 components- protein, fat and carbohydrates.
  4. Drop the Sugar: You are sweet enough! Sugar is just a source of extra calories that leave you feelin' low on energy. Things such as sodas, fruit juice, cakes, cookies and some cereals contain high amounts of sugar. Only enjoy on occasion or in moderation.
  5. Don't Be EXTREME: With all this being said, don't go swearing off foods or counting every single thing you eat. Healthy eating is about being aware of what you are consuming, not obsessing over it.
Like I said, I have never been a huge fan of calorie/carb counting diets. I know that for others, this method works great and I love that (which is why I include nutrition facts with my recipes)! It just doesn't work for me. Eating right doesn't have to be so much work. Just sticking to a few general rules seems to be enought to keep things on track. It is a plan I can stick with for life.

Over time, I have learned that it is as much about HOW we eat as it is WHAT we eat. Choosing healthy foods is important, but remember the HOW:  eat slowly, eat regularly and please, please, please...enjoy the foods you are eating!

I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend. Have a fabulous Tuesday!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cookin' Lean with The Neelys: BBQ Potato Skin Poppers

I have watched the Neelys do their cookin' thing a lot. I love their recipes! I also love how those two always have so much fun cookin' together. But as much as I love what they do, I haven't tried out a single recipe...until now! Their Grilled BBQ Potato Skins inspired me to make a tasty, "lean" appetizer to share with the ladies in my fantasy football league for our draft party last Sunday. They were awesome (I wish I could say the same for the team I drafted. : (  Oh, well! At least the food was great! Check out these petite potato treats loaded up with flavor that is anything but small.

Serves 6

  • 24 ounces baby red potatoes (about 18 potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 strips center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup favorite store bought BBQ sauce (additional TBSP for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup 2% cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chives, diced
  • FAT FREE sour cream; garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the potatoes on a sheet for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely (until able to handle).

Cut the potato in half. Use a melon baller to remove a small scoop of potato from the center. Cut a small piece of potato off of the bottom; creating a flat surface which prevents to potato halves from rolling.

Combine EVOO and garlic powder in a small bowl. Brush the EVOO mixture over the hallowed potato halves. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Return potatoes to the oven for about 8 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Drop equal amounts of BBQ sauce in each potato. Top with bacon and then with shredded cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese in melted.

Drizzle an additional tablespoon of BBQ sauce on top of melted cheese. Finish with chives and serve along with FAT FREE sour cream.


These little potato poppers were a hit! The size made them fun to eat (no fork and knife required). They are the perfect party snack; sure to please a crowd full of hungry football fans. Here is how the nutritional line-up looks...

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving/ 6 BBQ Potato Poppers**):

BEFORE: 702.7 calories;  36.34g fat;  62.0g carbohydrate;  34.35g protein;  2.8g fiber

AFTER: 174.67 calories;  5.5g fat; 24.74g carbohydrate;  6.5g protein;  1.97g fiber

SAVES: 528.03 calories;  30.84g fat;  37.26g carbohydrate

** Nutrition facts do not include sour cream garnish.

The difference between the before and after is significant. This is largely due to leaving out the pulled pork and butter; along with substituting low-fat versions of original ingredients. The new portion size is better suited for an appetizer that won't fill you up too much before dinner. This version of the recipe allows for the BBQ flavor cravings to be met without blowing your nutritional budget.


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