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They are small words. They can be easy to miss. They slip off your tongue as you order your food, without even knowing what you are saying. Yet they mean the difference between a healthy or unhealthy meal. What are these unassuming potential land mines? "Menu Watch Words" -- and it pays to keep your eye on them.

Going out to eat is a lot of fun. You’re having a good time and you might not always think about what’s best for you. You can avoid the next morning "why did I eat that" hangover by planting a few gentle reminders, well-placed whispers in your ear.

Did you know that consultants travel the country helping restaurants say just the right things on their food menus? Unless you ask the server about the preparation of each item, it’s hard to know for sure what’s really healthy and unhealthy. For example, the word "breaded" can add five times as much fat to your meal as the word "grilled." You can fight back by translating the consultants’ wordcrafting into something useful.

Not all "Menu Watch Words" are bad. When you go out to eat, just go prepared. Know which words to look for and which to avoid. Below is a quick hit list of Green Flag "Safe" and Red Flag "Warning!" food options.

Read more: Know Your Menu Watch Words

Rules of the Road to Help You Reach Your Destination

After slowing down to an unexplained stop for the 147th time in the space of 2 miles, I decided that I hated the world. Surrounding me were an ocean of maddening brake lights, rain pelting the windshield and thousands of tons of steel and fiberglass flung around by a clueless pack of selfish morons who obviously didn’t know the first thing about driving!!

It was in serious danger of ruining my whole day.

Is there anything more frustrating than being bogged down in traffic? Most all of us have been there before. That discouraged, fed up feeling that just makes us want to throw up our hands in surrender or lay them on the horn.

Thankfully, I stopped muttering helplessly and started thinking instead. And I realized that I often witness another type of "road rage" – the frustration that builds on the road to weight loss: Diet Rage.

Think about your dieting history. Does it give you the same feeling as an exasperating traffic jam? You never quite get where you want to go as fast as you want to get there. You get aggravated, yell (usually at yourself), and see people in other lanes going faster than you (how do they DO that?!), and it usually ends up ruining your day.

Here’s the lesson: Getting frustrated with your diet does no more good than getting frustrated in traffic. It just makes you unhappy, unsuccessful and tense.

By the time I got to work (it was a long commute), I noticed a lot of things that we, as weight loss veterans, can learn from traffic jams. Next time you start to feel frustrated with your weight loss progress, keep these "lessons of the road" in mind:

Read more: Do You Suffer from Diet Rage?

Ever been angry or upset one minute and then on your couch eating the next, unable to remember why you started eating or how long you had spent munching? If so, then you have entered the world of emotional eating. It’s something than can happen to anyone, and one of the most common dieting obstacles out there.

Emotional eating at its best passes after a few minutes. At its worst, it can take over your life and cause you to eat uncontrollably for extended periods of time. And according to nutritional experts, 75% of overeating is caused by emotions. So don’t worry, if you suffer from emotional eating, you are not alone.

People often eat to relieve stress or to get something off their minds. The kicker is that stress, and the insulin jump that goes with it, may actually cause you to crave high sugar, high carbohydrate foods – foods that go straight to your waistline and cause you even more stress.

Rather than munching, it's better to develop new skills for dealing with boredom, self-esteem issues and stress. Try to pinpoint the major reasons for your stress or unpleasant emotions, and see how you can turn the tide. Here are a few suggestions to combat your emotions:

  • Get your trigger foods out of the house, get your crutch foods out of arms' reach
  • Go for a walk or jog. Physical activity relieves stress.
  • Do deep breathing and relaxation exercises
  • Keep a reminder of your goal handy
  • Talk to a friend
  • Visit and post on the support message boards
  • Surround yourself with positive reinforcers, like pictures and people
  • Keep a journal that includes your best personal accomplishments
  • Track your eating patterns, including when and why you pick up food.
If you still seem to come back to food when your emotions get the best of you, you can at least be prepared. Eating large amounts of snacks is not a good thing. But if you eat low calorie foods, it’s not so bad. So stock the fridge with healthy alternatives--foods that have good nutritious value and are smaller in size. Here are a few food suggestions to keep within arms' reach:
  • Apple or orange slices
  • Carrot sticks
  • Banana
  • Broccoli
  • Whole wheat toast
  • Bran muffin
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Applesauce
READ MORE...

Easter is on its way! Along with Peter Cottontail, you and your kids will encounter more than your share of sugar-packed jellybeans, malted milk balls, cream-filled chocolate eggs and life-size chocolate bunnies. The common Easter basket is filled to the brim with pastel-colored candy eggs, bunnies, lambs and more, but while celebrating with sweets is fine in moderation, eating a pound of chocolate eggs in a matter of days doesn't fall under that definition.

This year, why not load your baskets and office candy jars with some alternative treats? Teach your children, grandkids, friends and co-workers that you can enjoy this spring holiday, basket and all, without overindulging in sugar. And when you do choose to treat yourself, be conscious of your choices. Instead of eating on a whim from a bottomless basket, plan your treats each day and track your calories. Don't throw away your wrappers when you're finished; keeping them in sight will become a visual reminder of how much you've already eaten, and you'll be less likely to keep reaching into that basket without thinking first.

Here are some more ideas that will inspire you to think outside the basket and still have fun this Easter!

Egg-xactly!
Those hard-boiled, decorated Easter eggs are a healthful addition to any basket. Don't let all that lean, filling protein go to waste! Peel and eat your dyed eggs plain, with or without the yolk. Consider slicing them onto a salad, including them in a wrap or pita, or making them into egg salad with light mayonnaise for a tasty springtime sandwich.

Plastic eggs are a great way to add a celebratory twist to your basket, but be careful how you stuff them. Tuck sugar-free gum, small boxes of raisins, or miniature packets of peanuts into the colorful eggs for a healthy twist. For kids, fill the eggs with age-appropriate prizes, such as beaded jewelry, lip balm, small toys or other fun tokens. Coins and small bills make for exciting treasure as well!

Beyond Bunny Carrots
For a festive look, pack orange crackers (like cheddar Goldfish made with whole grains) or dried apricots into a triangle pastry bag. Tie some green ribbon or raffia to the top and you have a healthy carrot-shaped goodie. You can even take a black permanent marker and draw a carrot onto the outside of the plastic bag to create a more distinguished look.

Create cute and tasty carrot-shaped homemade granola bars by baking your recipe in a pan and then cutting your masterpiece into lengthy triangles. Wrap them in baggies to pop into baskets. You can even add a few drops of orange food dye to make your "carrots" more colorful!

Vegetables aren’t the only thing your little bunnies should be eating this Easter! Dried fruit is a great way to meet your daily fruit quota. For ease, purchase it at the store, but be sure to read ingredients labels and avoid items with added sugar. You can also use a dehydrator at home to make your own dried fruit. Try apricots, mangos, apples, banana slices, cherries, and pear slices. When you dry your fruit at home, you don’t have to add any sugar and it tastes great! It can also be a fun project for kids to do with you.

Hop to Health
Who says an Easter basket should only contain edible surprises? You can include creative items that promote movement and aerobic activity, too. A jump rope packs easily into a grass-filled basket and can be used year-round. Hop to heart health with this great calorie burning, muscle-building, and fun activity. Get a rope long enough and three or four people can partake, double-dutch style.

Rev up a game of hopscotch outside by packing a box of sidewalk chalk into your child's basket. It’s a simple way to get them outside and active, and to teach them to play games without cords and controllers. Enrich their minds and bodies with this idea! In addition, don't forget about balls, which are inexpensive and can entice kids of all ages to play outdoors.

Read more: Fun, Fit and Flavorful Easter Basket Goodies

Save Money Without Sacrificing Quality

When you’re on a tight budget, the thought of preparing tasty, healthy meals on a regular basis can seem daunting. Not only is it easy to get sucked in by grocery merchandising tricks, but it’s also normal for most of us to fall into a mealtime rut, eating the same foods over and over. But you’re in control of your kitchen—and if you cook smart, you can enjoy the first-class meals you deserve. 

You can save money and still have quality.
If you’ve been using cost as an excuse to eat junk, you can kiss that excuse goodbye! With a little organization and creativity, you can have the proverbial champagne when cooking on a beer budget. To start, here’s a quick review of basic tips of healthy eating:
  • Limit your intake of junk food and alcohol
  • Drink lots of water (at least 8 cups a day)
  • Limit salty and sugary foods
  • Avoid eating many foods that are high in saturated fats
  • Make “variety” the watchword of your eating

Next, set aside regular blocks of time for planning meals, making your grocery list, and shopping—tasks that are most often shortchanged in food prep. Include healthy snack ideas, as well as main menu items. Think about the time of day, day of week, and even week in the month that you shop. Generally, the grocery is the least busy early in the morning, in the middle of the week, and on any day but the first day or two of the month (when many people receive pension or paychecks).

Don't be afraid to surf the internet for recipes that use specific ingredients (plug the ingredient in as a keyword of your search), since you can often get good buys on breads, meats, and other items marked for quick sale before they go bad.

Stock your fridge and cupboards with items that are quick and easy to cook (yet kind to your wallet):

* Beans and lentils, whether canned or dried, make nutritious, hearty soups, and can be a main course with the addition of fresh vegetables or rice.
* Brown Rice is a great addition to leftover meat and veggies. Although brown rice is slightly more expensive than white, the nutritional payoff is well worth it. Another inexpensive, easy-to-fix grain, millet, is best when bought fresh. Simply rinse and toast before using it in recipes.
* Pasta, likewise, is quick and easy to prepare, and can be paired with veggies, meat, or a fresh salad. Have fun adding your own embellishments (mushrooms, spices, and herbs.) Choose whole-wheat pasta whenever available.
* Soups can't be beat for nutrition and convenience, especially since you can use canned or packet soups as your base, then add your own veggies and leftover meat. Again, try to experiment, adding your own herbs and spices.
* Fresh vegetables and fruit should be bought at least once or twice each week, preferably in season, to ensure optimal taste and nutrition. You can also rely on canned/frozen varieties as handy additions to last-minute meals. Veggies make great stir-fries and vegetable patties, while fruit is good for a quick nutritious snack.
* Meat and fish can be kept on hand also for last-minute meals— try the newer tuna and salmon pouches, and shop for inexpensive cuts of meat that work well in stews and casseroles.
* Condiments add flavor and interest to your dishes. Keep a selection of dried herbs, spices, curry powder, marinades, vinegars, tomato and soy sauces, along with stock cubes, in your cupboard. Experiment with the new, such as Japanese miso, an aged salty condiment made from soybeans and various other ingredients (found in the natural foods section, usually refrigerated).

Finally, a few more hints that can help you save a little green:

Read more: Eating Healthy on a Budget

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