4 Easy Ways to Eat Healthier!

4 Simple Food Substitutes to Help You Eat Healthier … from Morning to Night

So you want to eat healthier, but you find it difficult and time-consuming with your busy lifestyle to prepare healthy foods…. and the thought of a “diet” is overwhelming?  Great news! There are several easy, great-tasting food substitutions that you can make to help live a healthier lifestyle. (Notice the word here is lifestyle, not “diet”). Changing even a few of your habits can save calories and provide better nutritional ingredients… while also saving you time!

Here are a just a few of my favorite food substitutions to cover you from morning to night:

 1.  Make Your Own Flavored Oatmeal

Do you often opt for pre-packaged flavored oatmeal as a quick breakfast for you or the kids?

Healthier Eating Infographic

Even though these are simple and convenient, they are usually loaded with added sugar and sodium. Instead, try making your own “overnight oats”. This offers a fantastic, healthier way to have breakfast all ready for those busy mornings.

How to: Purchase steel cut or whole oats. Then, I recommend putting together: ¼ cup of steel cut oats, ¼ cup of almond milk, ¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce, ¼ cup of Greek yogurt or Siggi’s vanilla yogurt, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Shake altogether, then refrigerate overnight. All the ingredients soak and absorb together, and can be eaten as is from the refrigerator. Or, it can be warmed up in the microwave for 30 seconds/1 minute. It’s an amazing combo of flavor and satisfies other nutritional needs, too.

Click Here for other healthy overnight oats options as well.

2. Substitute Rice Cakes for Bread

Always pack a sandwich for lunch? There’s an easy way to lighten that carb load. Try rice cakes instead of bread! Unsalted cakes are your best option. Not only is a sandwich made with rice cakes less calories and carbs, but it won’t bog you down or limit your options.

Peanut butter sandwich? Put that PB on rice cakes. Craving an Italian sub? Put some (nitrate-free) lunch meat and avocado spread on rice cakes.

In the mood for pizza? Lay on some marinara and mozzarella. Click here to learn more about the rice cakes trend.

3. Switch to Natural Peanut Butter or PB2

Love peanut butter? That’s fantastic news because it’s delicious, versatile, and can be a considerable source of protein. However, most peanut butter sold in grocery stores is laden with trans fats and excess sugar.

Make the easy switch to peanut butter labeled as “natural” or to the product PB2, which is a powdered peanut butter that can also be found in most grocery stores right in the peanut butter section.

PB2 has less sugar and fat and is even more versatile than regular peanut butter (think cooking, smoothies, etc.). Measure out and mix with water, and you’ve cut the calories of peanut butter in half.

Click here to understand the health benefits of powdered peanut butter.

4. Eat Yogurt for Your Evening “Dessert”

Need a sweet fix at night? Our registered dietitian recommends eating dairy at night as a snack. So, choose yogurt instead of cookies or ice cream. Keep in mind that “fruit on the bottom” yogurt is laden with sugar, so better choices would be Dannon Light & Fit vanilla, or Click here for ideas and brands to look out for to nail down this substitute, guilt-free.

There are SO many other ways that you can make simple substitutions for every snack or meal throughout the day, for you AND your family. If you would like some additional advice on these handy switches or additional healthy recipe ideas, please contact me in UAC Member Services or the Nutrition & Wellness Center.

My email address is [email protected], and I’d be happy to help!

Get Your Leafy Greens On!

Easy Ways to Eat More Greens!

If you are a veggie lover, read on. If vegetables are NOT your favorite, well then you should read on too!

Leafy greens for nutrition, health and weight loss

Whether you love or hate them, greens are a must when it comes to our health. Leafy greens have many benefits to boast, and there are countless numbers of ways they can be eaten. If you struggle to get your greens in, the ideas below might be a game changer for you.  Including more leafy greens in your diet, may even make your brain younger!

Leafy Greens 101

So what constitutes a leafy green anyway? Examples of these green bunches of goodness include:

  • Salad Greens – leaf lettuce, Romaine, spinach, mesclun, arugula, watercress, iceberg
  • Cooking Greens – Swiss chard, kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens

Benefits of Leafy Greens

Greens have many health benefits. The darker the green, the richer the nutrient value. Benefits include hearty amount of vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as high doses of antioxidants – touting them as one of the best cancer-preventing foods. According to the USDA, vitamin K in dark leafy greens helps protect bones from osteoporosis and prevent inflammatory diseases in the body. Additionally, adding greens to your diet increases fiber intake, which helps to keep the GI tract healthy. Including more leafy greens in your diet, will benefit you in many ways, but did you know they may even help prevent dementia and cancer!  Salad anyone?

Ways to Eat Leafy Greens

Spring is finally here, and it’s probably safe to say that all of us will be thinking about sunshine and the great outdoors. For some that may mean outdoor farmers’ markets and at-home gardening. What better to plant or buy fresh at market than fresh, crisp greens? Keep reading to find simple ways to add greens to each meal of the day.

Breakfast Ideas

  • Fold greens into your eggs
  • Blend greens into your favorite smoothie

Lunch Ideas

  • Dice greens up and toss into your tacos or burrito
  • Stir greens into the broth of your favorite soup
  • Use greens as a wrap or ‘bread’

Dinner Ideas

  • Sauté greens into your pasta sauce
  • Toss greens into pasta as it finishes cooking

The benefits of leafy greens are numerous, and the ways to incorporate them into your day are endless. So get out there and get your greens on!

Recipes to boost greens!

Apple Kale Smoothie
Yields: 1 smoothie

¾ cup kale, chopped with thick stems removed
1 small celery stalk, chopped
½ banana
1 small green apple, cored
¾ cup milk of choice
½ cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Napa Wraps
Yields: 6 servings

¼ cup brown sugar                                 12 Napa cabbage leaves                         3 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce                  1 cup red bell pepper, sliced                  3 Tbsp. basil, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced                           1 Tbsp. ginger, minced                           1 ½ Tbsp. lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced                             3 oz. dry cellophane noodles, prepared
1 ½ lb. cleaned and cooked shrimp

  1. In a small dish, mix the 3 sauce ingredients and set aside.
  2. Lay Napa cabbage leaves in a large shallow dish. Add enough boiling water to cover leaves, and allow to soften/steam. Remove and pat dry with clean towel.
  3. In a small skillet, on medium-high heat, sauté peppers, ginger, garlic, cilantro, basil and lime juice. Cook until peppers are soft. Remove from heat.
  4. To assemble wraps, place cabbage leaves on flat surface, top with 1/6 of vegetable mixture, 1/6 of noodles, and 3-4 shrimp. Fold leaves into the center and dip into sauce. Enjoy!


For more recipes like these, visit the Nutrition and Wellness Center at UAC or our Facebook page.

heart healthy bowl of berries to eat for a healthier heart this february

Heart Healthy Eating Tips for American Heart Month

During this cold winter month, red hearts and love are in the air. But more importantly, it is also American Heart Month. This is why our Nutrition & Wellness team here at Universal wanted to take some time to talk about the importance of loving our hearts through heart healthy eating.

For the 2017 year, one out of three deaths were caused by heart disease in the United States; that is approximately 800,000 American lives. But fear not, because there are several things you can do to keep your risk low; especially by making healthy food choices.

According to the American Heart Association, there are a variety of nutrient-rich foods from multiple food groups that people can consume to help keep a healthier heart and safe cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Heart Healthy Foods to Try:

  • Leafy Greens: romaine lettuce, arugula, cabbage, Swiss chard, collard greens
  • Whole-Wheat Foods: whole-wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Lean Protein: fish, poultry
  • Nuts: pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios
  • Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blue berries, goji berries, acai berries
  • Beans: chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans
  • Other: extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, quinoa

Are these options not necessarily your first choice to indulge upon? That’s okay! For seasonality sake, let’s take look at some heart healthy alternatives to some of your go-to Valentine’s Day favorites.

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries vs. Your Standard Truffles

Is chocolate your guilty pleasure? Chocolate covered strawberries are a great heart healthy treat to consider. Let’s compare these easy-to-make treats to Godiva dark chocolate truffles. One truffle is approximately 105 calories, while one dark chocolate covered strawberry is roughly 130 calories. The numbers line up nicely, but you’re getting more heart health benefit from the strawberry over the truffle ingredients.

Truffles Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries
105 Calories 130 Calories
6.5 g fat 7 g fat
4 g sat fat 4 g sat fat

What Does Your Heart Love More: Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?

What is with all the hype around dark chocolate anyway? Is it the flavor or the fact that is simply just a healthier heart option for you? Statistically speaking, dark chocolate is made with more than 60% cocoa as compared to milk and white chocolates.

Health Benefits of Flavonoids

Cocoa contains flavonoids, which act like antioxidants; which helps with cell protection within your body. According to the National Institute of Health, health benefits of flavonoids include heart disease prevention through lowering of blood pressure and LDL, or unhealthy cholesterol.

One ounce of dark chocolate has 170 calories while milk chocolate has 150 calories in one ounce. Looks like milk chocolate is the better option, right? Maybe, but just remember that milk chocolate does not have the higher heart healthy flavonoids, and if you prefer milk chocolate you just may eat more than what the averaged serving size is.

Dark Chocolate Milk Chocolate
170 Calories 150 Calories
12 g fat 8 g fat
7 g sat fat 4 g sat fat

To Dine Out or Stay in This Valentine’s Day?

Fondue. NY strip steak. Chocolate and champagne. What does your Valentine’s day look like?

Regardless of what’s in store, it is safe to say that you are in the driver’s seat when dining at home. The amount of butter and salt used to sauté and sear is entirely up to you. Be careful when dining out, as calorie-rich meals can pack in not only extra calories but also higher counts of sodium and fat. For example, Swiss cheese fondue for two at The Melting Pot is about 400 calories per person. But if you’re dining in this Valentine’s Day, try Swiss cheese squares with sliced pear or apple. 2 slices of cheese have about 200 calories.

Swiss Cheese Fondue (The Melting Pot) Two Slices of Swiss Cheese
400 Calories 200 Calories
25 g fat 16 g fat
17 g sat fat 10 g sat fat

Our hearts need to be nurtured to stay healthy. There are many ways you can work to keep your heart healthy during this month. Check out what free nutrition seminars are happening, or tie up your sneakers and break a sweat in a group fitness class. Also remember to eat and drink all things heart healthy. What will you do to be good to your heart this month?

Benefits of “Real Food” Weight Loss Plans

At some point or another, many of us have struggled to lose weight. The biggest roadblock to weight loss is the desire to look slimmer, quickly. From fad diets to quick fixes in a pill, dieting in the United States is a $64 billion industry according to a study done by Marketdata Enterprises. So, today we are telling you to disregard those pricey dietary supplements and processed frozen meals. Losing weight by consuming “real food” provides the strongest long-term benefits to a healthier lifestyle.

What do we mean by “real” food? Real food is found in it’s most natural form with little to no added preservatives or sugars. Yes, this means cooking from scratch and not being dependent on processed foods or frozen meals. For example, eating an orange versus an orange-flavored ice pop that claims to be “with real fruit”.

Consuming food in its natural form is what our body needs to get the proper nutritional benefits. At Universal, our nutrition experts have compiled a list of benefits to real food for people looking to lose weight.

1. Making Real Food Consumption A Lifestyle

The road to weight loss should not include a diet consisting of over-the-counter supplements, a ’30 day liquid cleanse’ or even as far as restricting your food intake. The latest trendy diet may promise to deliver short-term weight loss, but is the weight going to stay off in the long run? What happens when you reach your goal, and you still don’t know how to keep the weight off? Sure, you can purchase prepackaged foods and shakes for as long as your wallet allows. However, a real food weight loss program is designed to promote lifelong eating habits and can be followed over the long term.


2. Real Food Is Already Accessible to You

You can’t guarantee the latest fad diet or cleanse will always be available to you in a store or for cheap. Fad Diets often include fronting more money than regular grocery shopping and although they may provide short-term results, it is much harder to keep off that quick-loss weight once concluding a fad diet.

As an alternative, you can always venture a mile or two down the road and find somewhere to grab real food to eat; your local grocery store! Whether it’s a local produce stand, organic fruits and veggies, lean meats or seafood; getting into the habit of purchasing clean and non-processed foods is quite easy to do.

3. Real Food Is Family Friendly & Fun To Experiment With

Losing weight on a plan involving food from all the food groups is also family friendly, think back to the classic food pyramid. You can serve the same food you are eating to everyone in the household by modifying as needed to satisfy different taste buds. So ditch that frozen pizza or bag of fries! Slice up your own sweet potato fries or be fun with your meals. For example, have your family try a ‘build your own’ pizza bar; substitute portobello mushrooms for dough or even try mini zucchini pizzas.

4. Hold Real Foods Accountable to Your Social Calendar

Weight loss plans with real food also make it tricky to stay on plan when your social calendar is calling your name. Going to parties or out to eat can get tough. You may not always have the healthiest options available to you. So it’s important to stick to your plan and not fold. For example, grab a burger with no bun, choose the fruit or veggie platters over those bowls of chips and pretzels. Let’s face it, the latest diet trends are not going to be served up at the next work outing or summer barbecue, which is why real food consumption is actually an easy alternative.

So if you are thinking of taking the plunge to shed some extra pounds, start by hitting your local grocery store or market and shop healthy. Select real food for real eating.

For personalized questions or assistance from Heather or anyone on The Nutrition & Wellness Center’s team at Universal, email [email protected] or call 717-569-4754,

6 Ways to Drop 6 Pounds

Making A Few Adjustments to What You Eat
Could be the Key!

If you’re looking to drop some pounds, try focusing on some basic fundamental principles that are long tried-and-true.

It’s not rocket science, but it does require some discipline and consistency. Instead of making it more complex than it needs to be, make it easier by focusing on the following 6 ways to lose those stubborn 6 pounds.

  1. Reduce sugar intake! To list all of the negative effects that sugar has on our body would require a full-blown, dictionary-sized novel.  Above all else, sugar could be the number one biggest culprit holding you back from losing weight.  To sum up sugar in three words, it’s: toxic, addicting, and deadly. It causes leptin resistance (making us unable to feel full) wrecks the metabolism, causes insulin resistance and contains countless hidden calories.  Remember to read labels on EVERYTHING to see the sugar content.  sugar-addiction
  2. Eat (good) carbs. Carbs aren’t the devil if you choose them wisely! The fact of the matter is, your brain and body need at least a small amount of carbohydrates to function. Most of your go-to carb choices should come from fruits and vegetables, but starchy carbs should be added at times from low glycemic sources. Choices could include quinoa, sweet potatoes, and rice.
  3. Don’t neglect protein. You should shoot to include a fair amount of protein in each and every meal or snack. Protein helps to stabilize and moderate swings in your blood sugar, making your energy steadier and your excess weight more simple to drop. In addition, it helps to preserve and maintain lean muscle mass, which consequently improves your resting metabolic rate. Protein also plays a role in increasing the feeling of being ‘full,’ making you less likely to reach for that late-night snack which continues to hold you back from losing those stubborn pounds.
  4. Focus on food quality. Foods that are minimally processed are the best for you. Food quality improves your energy levels, digestion, mood, metabolic rate, eliminates cravings, and so much more. In addition, improving the quality of the food you eat essentially takes the guesswork out of calorie counting. When you eat higher quality, more nutrient-dense foods, your body will better be able to send your brain the signal that you’ve had enough.
  5. Fat does NOT make you fat. This is contrary to what many people think. In fact, studies show that increasing your consumption of the ‘right’ type of fat aids in losing fat.  For one, fat has a beneficial effect on leptin receptors, which means that our signals of satiety will be much improved. This will lead to a reduction in caloric intake and an improved insulin response. In the simplest terms, good fat will rarely ever be stored as fat, provide instant fuel, help you feel full, and contribute to your ability to burn calories.
  6. Use grocery shopping ‘hacks.’ Ever hear that there are scientifically-backed ways to trick yourself into buying healthier foods at the grocery store? Well, there are a few. First, shop with a bottle of water in hand. This will subconsciously affect the foods that you choose since, generally speaking, this increases our sense of overall health. Second, try to shop when you’re full. As you might expect, this will decrease your desire to buy junk foods that would otherwise look incredibly appetizing. Third, create a physical list to take with you to the store. This will enable you to get in and out more quickly and eliminate the desire to make impulse purchases on the unhealthy foods you don’t need.

Follow these steps; learn them, practice them, put them into action, and drop those stubborn pounds for good! If you’re struggling and could use additional help with weight loss or making better food choices, contact Universal’s Nutrition & Wellness Department at 717-569-4754 or here.