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Tara’s Friday Bite – 2 Ways to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

It’s official … the holidays are here! This special time of year is full of friends, family, fun….and temptation!

Everywhere you look there are enticing pastries and evening cocktails at holiday parties. However, all is not lost! There are two simple ways to stay healthy and energized over the holidays so you can welcome 2012 with a smile and for the ladies, your skinny jeans!

Tip #1 – Snacking. When life gets busy, planning your meals is the first thing to go. That in combination with all of the sugary treats around the office is a formula for diet disaster. I want you to stock your office, car and purse with easy 200 calorie snacks (listed below) so you always have a bite on hand. Then when those cookies are calling your name around 3:30pm, you can grab one of these quick sweet and savory snacks! You’ll increase your energy, decrease your stress hormones and you’ll be more likely to say “no” to those tempting holiday treats.

Here are some of my favorite 200 calorie snacks:

  • Cliff Mojo Bar. You can find these everywhere and they just came out with delicious new flavors like Peanut Butter Pretzel
  • Apple and Almond Butter. Try Justin’s Nutbutter! They come in individual servings and fantastic flavors like almond butter and chocolate hazelnut.
  • 2 Cuties & 2 String Cheese. That’s right, I said 2! Both of these are very low in calories so your stomach isn’t left grumbling and craving sugar.
  • Trail Mix. My two favorites are the Planter’s NUT-trition packs and the Trader Joe’s Just a Handful of Almonds, Cashews & Cranberries.
  • Greek Yogurt Parfait. Mix 5oz of plain Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp of pomegranate seeds and 5 crushed walnuts for a sweet and savory snack.

The trick is to get to the store TODAY and stock up for the entire month! Life is going to get busy and even a grocery run can become challenging.

Tip #2 – Schedule exercise. Eating healthy is one step, but you must also maintain a consistent exercise routine. As your schedule gets more hectic, you’ll see your normal workout time diminish; however, it is important that you remain consistent – even if you have to cut your 45-minute workout to 2o or 30 minutes. Look at your calendar and schedule in exercise for the remainder of the month. Get Total Gym exercises on-demand at By simply getting moving you’ll crave healthier foods, reduce your stress and feel great!

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist and Salada Tea Spokesperson living in San Diego, CA, and . She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly at 


Four Ways to Navigate Thanksgiving Healthfully

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Healthy nibbles from Clinical Nutritionist Tara Coleman

I can’t believe it’s the holiday season once again! It seems like just yesterday I was writing a blog post about this topic. This year, I have some tip for you to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without paying for it through 2012!

Consider making exercise a pre-Thanksgiving tradition. Burning calories before diving into your Thanksgiving meal will not only create a calorie deficit for the day, but it will also make you feel healthier and less prone to overindulging. The winning combination for weight loss is simple: eat less and exercise more! Make an effort to get on your Total Gym for 20 to 30 minutes to burn some calories before your Thanksgiving feast. Check out Total Gym Exercises for on-demand, trainer-led workout videos to spice up your routine!

Eat breakfast. The idea of eating less to save on calories before Thanksgiving can backfire on you. You’ll be ravenous by the time Thanksgiving rolls around and likely to shove anything that you see in your face! Eating a small meal in the morning will help control your appetite so you’re less prone to eat in excess later – and more likely to make smarter food choices at Thanksgiving. Make a healthy breakfast that includes protein and fiber to keep you fuller longer. A sample breakfast may be an egg on whole wheat toast or a bowl of fiber-rich, whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.

Don’t be afraid of seconds … or thirds. The typical plate full of Thanksgiving food is one of the most impressive balancing acts known to man (as in balancing to keep it all on the plate)! This year, start with a small plate with small portions. When you are done, if you are still hungry go back for more. I promise the food will still be there! You will find that both the act of going back and not having to be pressured by the “clean plate club” will help you cut down on your portions without even noticing.

Mix in some fresh veggies. Most of the vegetables on Thanksgiving are in casserole form or hidden under heavy sauces. This year, make your favorite green bean casserole but also sauté some fresh green beans. Take a smaller amount of both. You will get your casserole fix but also benefit from the nutritional benefits of eating fresher veggies! 

Remember, Thanksgiving is just ONE day. It does not start on Wednesday night and end on Monday morning, and it certainly does not last until January 1st! Your body knows how to handle a single overindulgence but your body cannot handle it when overindulgence turns into days and even months. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with your friends and family and then get back to the way of eating that makes you the healthiest and happiest!

Remember to listen to your body. If your stomach is saying it can’t take anymore, it’s best to stop while you’re ahead. You will feel better for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly at


Tara’s Friday Bite – Power Bars: Healthy Snacks or Glorified Candy Bars?

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Tara Coleman

Power bars can be a convenient way to eat on the go or fuel your workouts. However, if you look closely, you will find that many of these “healthy” options are nothing more than glorified candy bars!

The first thing you need to identify is what you are going to use the bar for? Is it a snack, a pre-workout meal or a full meal replacement? Once you have that determined you can follow these quick tips to help select the healthiest option:

Snack Bar – If you are using a power bar as an afternoon snack to keep you fueled during the day, shoot for something between 150-200 calories. Protein and fiber should be your main focus for this option because they will keep you full and energized much longer than the high sugar alternative. Try to find a bar with 8-15g of protein and make sure the grams of sugars and fiber are about equal.

Pre-/Post-workout Bars – These bars are designed to fuel you pre-workout or help start the recovery post-workout. Again, I recommend around the 200 calorie range for the average 45 min-1hr workout.  Carbohydrates are going to be the most important thing to look for, however, that doesn’t mean you should go sugar crazy! Choose a bar that has a majority of the carbohydrates in the “other carbohydrate” category rather than sugar.

Meal Replacement – The biggest mistake that I see people make is using a snack bar as a replacement for a full meal. If you only eat 200 calories as a meal, I promise that you will be pulling over at 7-11 or raiding the vending machine within the hour! Choose a bar that has between 350-450 calories. As with the snack bars, protein is going to be important so make sure it has between 10-20g of protein.

Finally, remember that these bars are meant to SUPPLEMENT a healthy diet, not replace one.  There are some great options out there but make sure that the majority of the food that you eat every day comes from a farm not a factory!

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly at


Tara’s Friday Bite – Exploring the Paleo Diet

Unless you are actually living in a cave, you have probably heard of the Paleo Diet – a.k.a. the Caveman Diet, Hunter-Gatherer Diet, Primal Diet, etc. The basic concept behind this way of eating is to mimic the food our hunter and gatherer ancestors ate. The idea is that many of the diseases that we are currently experiencing in our culture are enhanced by the relatively new introduction of grains, beans, dairy, and processed carbohydrates.

Here’s a look at what you would be eating on the Paleo Diet:

Can Eat

Can’t Eat

MeatChickenFishFruitVegetables (not including potatoes)Nuts (except for peanuts and cashews) GrainsBeansPotatoesDairySugarSalt 

This diet may seem quite restricting to some, and to others it’s the cleanest way to eat. Let’s explore the Pros and Cons:

Pros:  When followed correctly, the Paleo Diet can be extremely healthy. Although you are cutting out many food groups that have become mainstream in our culture, you can still get all of the important nutrients from what is found in the “Can Eat” food groups. By removing the grains and processed food from your diet, you are almost guaranteed to lose body fat as well as reduce the risk and symptoms associated with diabetes and high blood pressure.This diet may seem quite restricting to some, and to others it’s the cleanest way to eat. Let’s explore the Pros and Cons:

Cons:  The majority of the cons revolve around logistics. Let’s face it, we are very much a starchy carbohydrate-based culture (which isn’t necessarily a good thing), so the burden is going to be on you to prepare and think ahead. People also tend to focus more on the protein portion of this diet than the vegetables, which can lower their fiber intake. Remember, our ancestors spent much more of their time gathering than hunting!

Recommendations:  As I said earlier, the Paleo Diet can be an extremely healthy way of eating, so if you are interested, give it a try! Here are a few suggestions to make your experiment easier:

Make sure you are eating enough! When we eliminate any food group from our diet, we usually don’t replace it and tend to eat less. This may seem like a good thing, but if you go too low in calories you are going to start to have cravings and end up falling off the wagon. Make sure to set yourself up for success by eating enough!

Plan ahead. Always make sure to have a snack that fits your Paleo plan on you. This way if you find yourself in a situation where there isn’t anything on your diet available to eat or you’re just plain hungry, you can get something into you before your hunger takes control!

A special note for endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts:

Although there are some elite athletes who have excelled on this type of a plan, many have a tough time ensuring their bodies are properly fueled for endurance activity. If you are training for an event, I suggest adding in whole grains, beans or potatoes ONLY to your post-workout meal. This will refuel your short-term energy stores and increase your recovery time.

I also suggest if you are sweating a lot that you add a little sodium to your diet. The typical Paleo Diet is around 700mg of sodium, which may be too low if you are losing a lot of sodium during your workouts. As long as you don’t have high blood pressure, don’t be afraid to add a little salt to your meals on intense training days!

Have questions about the Paelo Diet and if it’s right for you? Leave a Reply below and Tara will answer your question.


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Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly


Tara's Friday Bite – Exploring Natural Sweeteners

In my last “Friday Bite,” I discussed how artificial sweeteners may be sabotaging your weight loss goals.  However, I didn’t want to imply that you need to commit yourself to a life free of sweets. I mean, what’s the point of living! As the potential side effects of artificial sweeteners are coming to light, there are a few natural alternatives that have become more main stream. Let’s explore the 3 most popular natural sweeteners so you can find which best suits your sweet tooth:

Agave Nectar – Agave Nectar comes from the same plant that produces tequila, but don’t worry, it won’t make you dance around with a lamp shade on your head! Agave Nectar has a consistency similar to honey with a more mellow taste. It has the same calories as table sugar although it is lower glycemic.  However, it is not low enough for diabetics, so if you are cutting calories or worried about blood sugar I would go with Stevia (see below). I find Agave Nectar is the best alternative to use when baking or mixing in hot drinks.

Stevia – Stevia has exploded on the scene in the form of TruVia (a Coca-Cola brand) and PureVia (from Pepsi Co.) as well as lesser known brands. Most of these are not the pure stevia leaf but an extract called Reb-A. It can be found in both liquid and powder form. In many cases, the powder form has been enhanced with additives, so make sure to check the ingredient list to ensure it only contains Stevia Extract. Stevia is very potent so you only need to use a small amount. It has no calories and is safe for diabetics. Some brands have a liquorish-like aftertaste so you will have to experiment to find one that you like!

Sugar – Didn’t expect to see this one, eh? I will be the first to admit that sugar is to blame for many of the health problems in our country, however, that is when it’s used in EXCESS. Pure sugar has been around for a long time and our bodies certainly know how to process it. So if you are sweetening your tea here and there and enjoy a sweeter taste, go ahead and add a little sugar. However, if you are adding more than 3 tsp./day or you are diabetic, I would suggest giving Stevia or Agave Nectar a try!

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Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly


Tara’s Friday Bite: Artificial Sweeteners, Not So Sweet for Your Health

Since the introduction of the artificial sweetener in the 1970s, it has been riddled with controversy. Artificial sweetener has been credited for helping with weight loss but also blamed for everything from headaches to death. In order to understand the potential pros and cons of artificial sweeteners, it is important to step back to the time of the caveman and talk a bit about how your body works.

We are designed to sustain life and reproduce. Pain is associated with death and pleasure is associated with life. That’s why fire hurts and sleep feels good. From a dietary standpoint, we enjoy food highest in nutrients and calories – i.e. fat, sugar, starches, etc. When we get enough of these nutrients, we have hormones to turn off our hunger and cravings, which leaves us feeling satisfied.

Enter the world of artificial sweeteners. The main idea behind the “sweetener” is so you can get the sweet fix without the calories. Genius idea – but unfortunately it has not worked.

  • The American Cancer Society found that out of 78,000 women, 7.1% of those who used artificial sweeteners gained weight compared to non-users.
  • A San Antonio Heart Study followed 3,700 adults over 8 years and found that those who consumed more artificial sweeteners had higher BMIs (Body Mass Index), and the more they consumed the higher their BMI.

How could something that has zero calories cause weight gain? There are 3 schools of thought:

  1. Artificial sugars increase sugar cravings. Your body associates calories with sweetness. When your body doesn’t get these calories, it becomes “starved” and causes you to eat more calories.
  2. They damage the food-reward pathway that drives our desire to eat. The sweetness without calories approach of artificial sweeteners can ultimately cause an increase in sweet cravings.
  3. Artificial sweeteners are thousands of times sweeter than sugar. With regular artificial sweetener use, our body gets used to the flavor and isn’t satisfied until it finds this level of sweetness. Unfortunately, this can’t be found in regular food, leaving us unsatisfied and prone to overeating.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to everything from headaches to depression to cancer. Now, I could find just as many well-funded studies that say artificial sweeteners have absolutely no negative repercussions and encourage weight loss. The point of this article is not to scare you or bash an industry, but rather increase your awareness of what you are putting in your body.

The first step is to know when you are ingesting artificial sweeteners. First, if a product says zero sugars or calories and is not water, it most likely contains an artificial sweetener (by patel at dresshead online). Second, check the label. Look for the following artificial sweeteners: Saccharin, Aspartame, Sucralose, Acesulfame K or Neotame.

If you have any concerns, try taking artificial sweeteners out of your diet for a month and see what happens. Do you still have sugar cravings? Did you lose weight? Do you still have headaches? You are the best judge of the way something impacts your body. You may find that nothing changes, or you may be surprised that what you turned to for a calorie-free sweet fix may in fact be the very thing that was sabotaging your diet.

Stay tuned for Tara’s next column with advice about natural sweetener alternatives …

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Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly


Tara’s Friday Bite – Stocking Your Pantry & Freezer

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Time and planning are the two biggest saboteurs of good nutrition. So what should you do when your week gets over scheduled and out of control? Always make sure your house is stocked with essential non-perishables. Having these healthy staples on hand will offer an on-the-go meal and can be the difference between a quick run through the grocery store or an hour long extravaganza!

(Quick note:  If you are wondering about the shelf/freezer life of these items, check out this article.)

Stock Your Pantry

  • Cold Cereal – Look for options with equal amount of sugar and fiber.
  • Hot Cereal – Slow cooked oatmeal is the best option.
  • Canned Tuna – Make sure it’s packed in water and not oil.
  • Brown Rice – A quick, healthy staple that accommodates most dishes.
  • Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) – This is a rice alternative that is high in protein.
  • 100% Whole Wheat Pasta
  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread/Tortillas – If you don’t eat these very often, keep them in the freezer.
  • Raw Nuts – Walnuts and almonds are my favorite. Watch the serving size!
  • Canned Beans & Lentils – Remember to rinse before you eat them to reduce the sodium.
  • Low Sodium Soups
  • Low Sodium Pasta Sauce
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce – This still has quite a bit of sodium so combine it with an oil or vinegar.  A little will go a long way.
  • Almond Butter
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar

Stock Your Freezer

  • Frozen Chicken – Either individually frozen or separate them into freezer bags.
  • Frozen Fish – Again, separate into freezer bags before freezing.
  • Frozen Veggies – These are perfect to throw in a quick stir-fry and much healthier than canned.
  • Frozen Fruit – Great for a quick smoothie or a sweet snack.
  • Veggie Burgers
  • Turkey Burgers – These are great as a burger or you can break them up and mix them with sauce and pasta.

Remember, FRESH produce should be the foundation of every athlete’s diet. If you have these above staples on hand, you will always have something to combine with your fruits & vegetables for a quick and healthy meal!

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly

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