Fit Tip: 5 Hacks to Help You Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out

I always feel like February marks a month of date nights, dinner parties, and girl’s nights out. Valentine’s Day gives us that extra excuse to dine out on the town, and if you live somewhere snowy, there’s nothing more comforting than making dinner reservations at a cozy neighborhood restaurant while you wait for the warmer temps of spring to arrive. However, while dining out is great for your social schedule and taste buds, it’s not always so great for your waistline.

So, with these temptations in mind, I reflected on some tips I turn to that help me focus on making healthy choices at a restaurant. Without further ado, here are a few things that will help you make healthy meal choices while you’re out on the town…

1. Research the menu ahead of time.
This tip is so simple yet so effective: Do your research before your reservation. It’s easy to look up a restaurant menu online nowadays, and it’s a good idea to have a game plan going into a night of eating out. If you decide ahead of time on a healthier dish like halibut and veggies, you won’t be as tempted to impulsively order the pasta with alfredo sauce when hunger cravings kick in.

2. Know a list of healthy swaps.
Just as it’s smart to be prepared with your menu order ahead of time, it’s also a great idea to prepare a mental list of healthy swaps before you step foot into the restaurant. Hungry enough for an appetizer but don’t want to scarf down the entire bread basket? Ask the waiter to bring a plate of crudité and skip the rolls all together. Craving the grilled chicken but not crazy about filling up on the side of starchy mashed potatoes it comes with? Ask for steamed asparagus or broccoli instead. Knowing that you’re going to make healthy swaps when possible is an easy way to guarantee a healthier meal.

3. Try the 80/20 rule.
One of the trickiest things about eating at a restaurant is that the portions tend to be so much larger (and richer) than what you would normally serve at home. To account for the fact that I will most likely be served a portion that will leave me feeling fuller than I’d like, I try to stick to the 80/20 rule when dining out. To me, this means eating only 80 percent of the portion served to me at a restaurant, then taking a moment to evaluate my fullness before finishing my plate. It’s all too easy to gobble down your entire dish when it’s right in front of you, especially when there’s good conversation and libations around. So, taking a moment of pause is a great way to portion control. If you find that you’re still hungry after taking that moment, then keep nibbling by all means! If not, ask for a to-go container. Another great way to control restaurant-size portions is to split your dishes. You’re likely to get a better variety of flavors by splitting, say, a salad and an entrée, without the guilt and discomfort of polishing off a massive serving.

4. Choose one indulgence.
Whether it’s a glass of wine, the bread basket, or dessert, I recommend choosing what will be your “indulgence” of the night will be. Usually, I tend to skip the bread basket unless I’m at a restaurant that’s known for having house-baked bread and a special butter that isn’t to be missed. I find that indulging in a glass of wine or a delicious dessert is more worth it. This rule of thumb helps me to feel like I’m having a treat, while still sticking with healthful goals throughout the meal. Of course, there are instances where it’s okay to loosen up a bit and have your cake and eat it too—but if we’re talking about sticking with a healthy eating plan while at a restaurant, then choosing one indulgence is the way to go.

5. When in doubt, go green.
If there’s one rule of thumb to keep in mind, it’s this: The more greens you eat, the better off you are. This doesn’t just apply to eating at restaurants, but at home too. Prioritizing greens is especially helpful when everyone else is ordering fried or carb-heavy appetizers—instead, go for the green starter salad. This begins your meal with fiber and nutrients, which will help you start to feel full before you’ve even gotten your entrée. P.S. A side of grilled or roasted veggies is always a good idea!

Do you have any tips for sticking with your clean and healthy eating habits while dining out at restaurants?

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Healthy Habits: 3 Ways to Stick to Your Healthy Eating Goals

The truth is, no matter how healthy we strive to be, sometimes we unknowingly self-sabotage our own efforts. Below are my top three tips for getting out of our own way when we happen to stray from our get-healthy eating goals (because hey, this is real life, and detours happen!).

1. Get analytical.

Sometimes certain life scenarios make us more likely to make impulsive food choices, and it’s incredibly helpful to know what those situations are. When you happen to stray from your intended eating plan, start by taking a judgement-free look at what was going on for you. For example, some common backdrops to consider: houseguests, stressful events like breakups, finals or work disasters, and big life transitions (even happy ones, like graduating, moving in with a partner, starting a new job, etc.). The point is, the more self-knowledge we have about what leads us to make hasty food choices in the moment, the better we can get at moving through those challenges and start planning ahead.

2. Forgive yourself. Mean it. Reframe. Move on.

We are often our own harshest critics when we deviate from the program, and I think a big part of that is because we fear that if we are too self-compassionate, we’ll go off the deep end. But it’s actually quite the opposite, because feelings of shame and inadequacy often drive us to overeat and self-soothe with food. My advice? Rather than beat yourself up (which feels terrible), flip the script in your mind to something more productive. Psychologists call this cognitive reframing, which really just means identifying counterproductive thoughts, disputing them, and then replacing them with more constructive ones. Here are some examples of how this process might play out:

Your first thought is: I really shouldn’t have eaten that.
Your second thought is: Well, you know what, it was delicious and I enjoyed every morsel. The best thing I can do now is avoid diving head first into shame city.

Your first thought is: I’m just not good at eating healthfully.
Your second thought is: Hold up. I’ve been putting so much more thought into my food choices than I used to. It’s still not easy, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but I’m getting better at this.

Your first thought is: Ugh, why did I have to mess up my progress like that?!
Your second thought is: Honestly, I may have been getting a little too rigid; now I know that I’ve got to give myself more wiggle room so I don’t get the urge to straight-up revolt.

3. Come up with an if/then plan.

Once you understand which specific situations and factors make you more vulnerable to noshing impulsively, you can plan for them in advance. I’m talking about an if/then game plan (aka an implementation intention, a fancy phrase for an effective self-regulatory strategy) that lets you map out your approach to handling potential roadblocks that tend to trip you up. The basic idea is to come up with tactics for “If this happens (no biggie), then I’ll do this” senarios—it’s like having a designated Plan B for when things go amiss, so the detour doesn’t stop you in your tracks. For example, if you found it challenging to eat healthfully during the holidays this year, you could decide to give yourself a bit more wiggle room next year while still doing your best to make conscious food choices; and if  you find yourself not feeling so balanced come January, then you might plan to get on a sustainable and doable program to reboot (like Phase 1 of my plan, for example). No guilt, no questions asked. That’s your if/then game plan. Ironically, having it in place ahead of time takes some serious pressure off self-control, which can actually help you better regulate your behavior.

Remember, the goal isn’t to make sure you never veer off your desired eating path; it’s to forgive yourself for taking a step back so you can take another step forward. Sure, feeling like you’ve backpedaled after all your hard work is especially frustrating, but hey, it happens. Seriously. So, cut your losses: Forgive yourself, so you can move on. The point is, when you approach diet detours rationally and compassionately, rather than spinning your wheels with self-inflicted shame, you can focus your energy on turning all that valuable self-knowledge into a useful road map for the future, and that’s what it’s all about.

Healthy Habits: How to Tell True Hunger From A Snack Attack

We’ve all been there—it’s just after lunch and suddenly you’re reaching for a midday snack. It can be difficult to decipher if you’re truly hungry or just wanting something to nibble on out of boredom. There are many factors that can contribute to that hunger pang you might be feeling (some of which might surprise you!). Today I’m helping you tell the difference between true hunger and those pesky snack attacks. The next time you get that itch to grab a snack, remember these five tips…

1. Start with a plan.

First things first, do you regularly eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Eating regular meals and sticking to an eating schedule can help cut down on cravings throughout the rest of the day. To help you consistently eat well-balanced meals consider meal planning at the beginning of the week. Don’t let being busy be an excuse (because I know I have!). It’s important to get in a healthy meal even when you’re on the go. For breakfast make a fast and healthy smoothie. Stock up your refrigerator and pantry so that you can pack a fresh and filling salad for lunch and come home to an already planned and prepped dinner.

2. Don’t make excuses.

Sometimes our feelings and emotions can be masked as hunger. Eating because you’re bored or stressed is something that most of us can relate to and is also something that can get out of hand. The next time you’re thinking about grabbing a snack, take a minute to assess how you’re feeling. (If you’re really craving a quick bite, keep reading for some healthy snack alternatives.)

3. Keep healthy foods on hand.

It’s true, snacks get a bad rap. That’s because junk food and sugary snacks are easily accessible (thanks vending machines). But lets face reality—snack attacks happen to all of us. Snacking throughout the day doesn’t have to be something to be ashamed of, just be sure that you’re making the right choices about them. Opt for keeping healthy yet filling snacks on hand for when your cravings sneak up on you during the day. I always keep a couple of Kind bars in my car for whenever I’m stuck in inevitable LA traffic. If you’re at a desk all day, keep a few healthy snacks like homemade trail mix or apples and walnut butter next to your desk for easy access. If you’re only “hungry” for junk food, you’re probably not actually that hungry.

4. Maintain your hydration.

When was the last time you had a glass of water? If you aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day your thirst can actually be disguised as being hungry. So the next time you’re tempted to reach for a treat, drink a glass of water and see if your craving is fulfilled.

5. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary is more helpful than you think. Writing down your meals can help pinpoint your food cravings and can also help you keep track of what you’re eating on a daily basis. That way you’ll see on paper exactly what you ate, when you ate it. You can then adjust your schedule accordingly to satisfy your snack cravings.

Do you have snack attacks during the day? How do you control your snacking?

Let me know your tips in the comments!

XO Elizabeth

Healthy Habits: Cooking Oils 101

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been as motivated as ever to improve my health and fitness game. One thing that’s important to remember as you adjust your routine is that eating right is just as important as those trips to the gym. That’s right, working out is only half of the equation, ladies! For some, that might look like eating out less and cooking healthy meals at home more often. Throwing yourself into the kitchen won’t necessarily make you a healthier chef, however. So, to help you out on your health journey, I thought it would be beneficial to start with the basics…consider this a class in Healthy Cooking Oils 101. After all, you’ll be using cooking oil more often than you think.

As much as I’d love to consider myself an expert home chef, I’m not exactly a professional when it comes to the facts. When it comes to the science behind eating well and staying healthy in the kitchen, Kelly is a wealth of information. Below, with help from Kelly, I have broken down six of the healthiest cooking oils to stock your kitchen with. Keep scrolling to find out each of their benefits…

Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the more popular oils in the kitchen and on the dinner table. It can be used to sauté or roast veggies and proteins, but only at low temperatures due to its 375-degree smoke point. Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is a heart healthy fat with antioxidants. The next time you pick up this oil be sure to choose extra virgin for dressings and low-heat cooking or virgin for pan-frying, roasting, or baking. Expert Tip: The smoke point of your various oils is the temperature at which the oil stops simmering and starts to burn.

Avocado Oil

We all know how delicious and nutritious avocados can be in the beauty and health world. We recommending trying avocado oil in your kitchen because it’s loaded with vitamin E, can strengthen your immune system, and is high in monounsaturated fat (better known as the good fat!). Avocado is amazing in dressings or marinades and it has a 520-degree smoke point, so it can be used to sear protein safely.

Ghee

If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of ghee before stumbling across this informative post. Ghee is made when milk solids have been removed (casein and lactose), making it easier for those with dairy intolerance to digest. Believe it or not, high-quality grass fed butters like ghee can be good for you in moderation. Ghee is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A, a natural skin clarifier. It’s also rich in vitamin D, which helps protect against harmful UV rays. Due to it’s high smoke point, use ghee to sauté eggs or other animal protein. 

Coconut Oil

Admit it ladies, we are no stranger to the wonders of coconut oil. Use it in your hair, on your skin, and in your food. When ingested, coconut oil is used for energy instead of being converted into fat. Coconut oil is highly sustainable and great for sautéing or roasting veggies, just know that you most likely taste that amazing coconut flavor when you cook with it. Try using refined coconut oil—it has less of a coconut flavor and a higher smoke point.

MCT Oil

MCT, or medium chain triglycerides, are easy to digest fatty acids most often found in coconut oil. They are metabolized in the liver, actually making it so that your brain calms hunger hormones and tells the body that it’s time to burn fat for energy. MCT oil is a clear oil with a light taste that can be added to just about anything—smoothies, coffee, and even baked goods. Expert Tip: Take a tablespoon of MCT oil before you go out drinking with you girlfriends. MCT helps protect your liver from the oxidation produced by alcohol!

Algae Oil

Surprisingly I had never heard of algae oil until Kelly brought it to my attention specifically for this post. Algae oil is anti-inflammatory and is the highest source of monounsaturated fat. One tablespoon alone has as much monounsaturated fat as an avocado! It has a very light flavor and is best used for high heat cooking like stir fry with a smoke point of 485-degrees. Expert Tip: Swap out your vegetable oil for algae oil because they are the most similar.

I don’t know about you, but I need to check a few more of these cooking oils off of my shopping list. Another huge thank you to Kelly for breaking down the important nutritional facts for these healthy oils!

Are you familiar with any of these healthy cooking oils?

Let me know which ones you use in your own kitchen in the comments below!

XO Elizabeth

Shape Up: Spice Up Your Summer Stairs Workout

Let’s be honest: It’s really easy to get in the habit of doing the same routine at the gym or same workout class. Now, doing the same workouts isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s always great to see yourself improve and achieve your fitness goals. But sometimes, it’s important to change things up and add some variety to your everyday routine. So, with bikini season nearly upon us, today I will be sharing a pretty tough workout. We can guarantee this will be a challenge from your everyday workout routine. Get ready… We’re hitting the stairs!

Here’s the thing about a stair workout: It’s challenging. But that’s one of the best parts about it. In fact, you can burn upwards of twice as many calories per minute by hitting the stairs. The stairs focus mainly on lower body muscles. They are an amazing way to get a complete lower body workout, while helping your muscles stay fit and functional. The main muscles you will tone during this workout are the butt muscles (a.k.a. “glutes”), quadriceps or thigh muscles, hamstrings, and calves.

Are you up for the challenge? Give this stair workout a try and see how it feels!

Dr. Hunter’s Stairway to Heaven Workout:

Try our stairway to heaven stair workout
Step up your stairs workout
See this killer stairs workout on LaurenConrad.com

Triple Step Lunge with Knee Hug: Warm up
If you legs can reach, step up three steps and hug your knee at the top of that step. This is your warm up and will stretch out your muscles before you begin.

Sidestepping up that stair workout with Dr. Hunter Vincent
Sidestep up those stairs for a killer leg workout

Side Stepping X4
Go upstairs facing to your right first, then facing to your left. Do each side twice.

Killer stairs workout shared on LaurenConrad.com

Single Step jogs X4
Jog upstairs, one stair at a time, four times.

Join us in trying this stairs workout with our trainer, Dr. Hunter Vincent

Double Step jogs X4
Jog upstairs two-by-two, four times.

Get killer legs using this stair workout
Killer stairs workout on LaurenConrad.com

Double Step Diagonal Jumps X4
Starting in the middle of the stairs, step your right leg way out to the right.

Try this stairway to heaven stairs workout
Stair bunny hops for killer legs - see the full workout on LaurenConrad.com

Two-Foot bunny hops X4
Hop up each stair with both feet, four times.

Try this stair workout to tone your legs and work up a sweat

Single Leg hops X2 each leg
Hopping on your right leg, hop up each stair step until you get to the top. Repeat on your left leg.

Work up a sweat with Hunter Vincent's stairway to heaven stair workout

Sprints X4
Go as fast as you can up the stairs four times. When you go down the stairs, use this time as your cool down.

Pretty tough, right? Hunter recommended doing each of the exercises four times, but you may change this depending on the length of your set of stairs. This workout is a great way to get your HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout in for the week. HIIT is basically any type of exercise that consists of short periods of really hard work, followed by periods of recovery or light exercise. By working hard up the stairs, and using the walk down as your recovery, the stairs are essentially a self-timed HIIT program without using a stopwatch.

Will you give this stairs workout a try this summer?

 

XO Elizabeth

Shape Up: What Is The Best Time of The Day to Work Out?

When it comes to working out, we usually determine our gym time on how heavy our workload may be. Sometimes that looks like early in the morning before we head to the office or later in the evening when we’re finally on our way home. Consistency is key to any workout, so we’ve been trying to decide which is better: a morning or afternoon workout. If you’re like us and are still trying to figure out a routine, you’re going to want to keep reading…

The perfect workout time varies from person to person. What one person needs to achieve his or her fitness goals may be completely different from someone else. It’s important to understand that no matter the time of day, whether it’s morning, noon or night, the number one aspect of any routine is consistency. And let’s be honest, not everyone is accustomed to waking up early or staying up late! Overall, any exercise is good exercise especially if you’re willing to do it repeatedly. Keep scrolling to see Dr. Hunter Vincent’s pros and cons for each time of day and make the final decision on which works best for you…

Morning Workouts

The Pros:

1. Get it out of the way early.

Choosing to work out in the morning minimizes your risk of collapsing on the couch after work and getting sucked into a good old-fashioned Netflix binge. Being an early bird minimizes the risk of potential cancellation. As the day progresses, there are more opportunities for last minute catastrophes to get in the way of your workout. Getting it out of the way early eliminates the chance of something else knocking your exercise off of the to-do list.

2. Beat the crowds.

Waking up and hitting the gym a little earlier helps you beat the rush and avoid unwanted crowds. Most gyms and group classes will have open spots early as opposed to later in the morning and after work hours. Save yourself the hassle (and a spot on the treadmill!) by hitting the gym in the morning.

3. Get better sleep.

When it comes to sleep quality, a hard morning workout cam help improve your sleep quality. There’s nothing worse than laying in bed at night with a bad case of insomnia, so help yourself out by working out in the morning. Getting adequate beauty sleep is just as important as working on your fitness!

The Cons:

1. It feels more difficult.

Don’t worry it’s not just you! Morning workouts tend to feel like they require more effort than afternoon workouts. This could be due to the fact that your body needs a little bit more time to wake up. Muscles are stiff, your joints have been static, and your body is colder. That being said, a proper warm-up is crucial when you hit the gym in the morning. We recommend taking a morning yoga class to help your body loosen up and prepare your mind and body for the adventures and challenges of the day ahead.

Afternoon Workouts

The Pros:

1. Improved flexibility.

As your body progresses throughout the day, it naturally becomes more flexible due to your body temperature rising. This can help minimize injuries in the long run. A proper warm up is always crucial no matter the time of day, but if you work out in the afternoon your body already has a little head start!

2. Better for maximum effort.

When it comes to boosting your physical performance and giving maximum effort, afternoon workouts do just the trick. Afternoon training sessions increase your tolerance for intense exercise, helping you get more out of your workout. Sounds like a win-win to us!

The Cons:

1. Goodbye happy hour.

Now, this can also be seen as a positive thing, but a little bit of balance goes a long way! Whether it’s watching a sunset with your main squeeze or meeting up with friends after work, an afternoon workout can minimize your time to socialize. Although this might result in less calorie intake, it’s not usually as fun as happy hour. Remember that your body will love you for it!

Now it’s time for you to decide: morning of afternoon?

What time of day are you more willing to workout?

 

XO Elizabeth

Tone It Up: The 3-Minute Thighs Workout

Tone It Up's 3 Minute Thigh Workout!

When putting together new workouts, one thing we always strive for is flexibility!They also make amazing add-ons to your current routine if you’re looking to give it a boost. These eight exercises are meant to be done at rapid-fire speed, with no rest in between so that you get that heart rate up while you work out your thighs and tone your lower body. Of course, if you have more time, go through the sequence up to four times through.

Ready to go? Grab a pair of 3-5 pound dumbbells for the first four exercises and get ready to feel the burn!

It's time to tone those thighs with this 3 minute workout from Tone It Up!

Be sure to pin this image so you can have it on hand the next time you head to the gym. Or, if you have 3-5 pound weights at home, this routine is a great one to do on your own (with an awesome workout playlist playing, of course).

Will you give this 3-minute thighs workout a try this summer?

XO Elizabeth