12 Foods That May Seem Healthy but Aren’t

Last week I was at a breakfast meeting and the person sitting across from questioned if my omelet was indeed healthy. I am asked to defend or explain my food choices fairly often and this was an easy one. Eggs are healthy, doctors no longer think that they raise your cholesterol and it’s safe to eat an egg per day.

I had a new client tell me when he wants to eat light he’ll order tuna salad or a grilled cheese. I had to explain that the mayonnaise in traditional tuna salad made the sandwich pretty high in calories and fat. I’m not sure why he thought grilled cheese was healthy but fried cheesy things may be tasty but they aren’t healthy.

Flavored instant oatmeal

The fruit names sound good and oatmeal is healthy. Unfortunately flavored instant oatmeal packets have less fiber than rolled or steel cut oats. They also have much more added sugar and artificial ingredients. Stick with whole oats and add your own fruit and toppings.

Flavored yogurt

Similar to instant oatmeal flavored yogurts have either a lot of added sugar or a lot of artificial sweeteners. Plain, regular or Greek, has much less sugar, a good amount of protein, and probiotics.


Granola can have a lot of oil and sugar added to it. Choose a granola that is low in sugar and calories to ensure that your snack stays healthy.

Wheat or whole grain bread

Whole grains are good for you but unless the bread says 100% whole grain or whole wheat you aren’t getting only whole grains. Many commercial breads are mainly regular white flour with some whole grain flour added. Read your labels here.


Wraps sound like a light choice compared to a regular sandwich but most wraps are high in calories, sodium, and fat and low in fiber. If you want a sandwich stick with 100% whole grain bread.

Yogurt muffins

Many of these claim to be low-fat and while some are most are high in sugar. They are also way larger than a homemade muffin and pack a lot of calories as well. Since there isn’t much nutritional value you’ll end up hungry in a few hours.

Fruit juice

Many juices aren’t whole juices and they are high in sugar but low in nutrients. If you need to drink juice stick with one that is 100% real fruit juice and stick with a 6oz serving. The best choice is just to eat a piece of fruit, since it also includes fiber.


Smoothies can be a very healthy choice but pre-made smoothies are often very large servings, have added unhealthy ingredients, and are high in sugar. Your best bet is to make your own smoothie at home.

Granola bars

Many granola bars are comparable with candy bars. They are often made with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) without much nutritional value. Choose bars with limited ingredients that are low in sugar and are made with 100% whole grains.

Gluten-free snacks and breads

Gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy. Many of these foods are made with less nutrient dense flours and oils. If you need to avoid gluten for health reasons choose foods that are naturally gluten-free such as lean proteins, whole fruits, vegetables and grains such as buckwheat and quinoa.

Fat-free snacks

Fat-free is another term that seems to have a healthy halo. Fa-free snacks and foods have extra sugar, salt, and additives to make them taste better. They can also be surprisingly high in calories while lower in vitamins and minerals. Naturally fat-free foods such as whole fruits and vegetables are the wise choice.

Frozen diet meals

While many of these meals practice portion control, they don’t pack a nutritional punch. They have too many preservatives and sodium and too few vegetables. A better quick meal is precooked frozen brown rice, frozen veggies of your choice, and beans or shrimp which cook up fast.

Need more ideas on what to cook and what to skip? Follow The Empowered Plate on Facebook where I share healthy meals, health, and fitness tips.

How Thinking “I’m Taking Care of Myself” Gets Results

NappingI sent out a tweet the other day that seemed to resonate. Whether you’re working out or losing weight focus on “I’m taking care of myself.” This will lead to better choices and decisions. Being healthy is a choice, not a punishment.

It works for eating, exercising and self-care. When choosing a meal, snack or treat think about how it’s going to support your commitment to taking care of yourself. Even a splurge can be made healthier or kept to a small portion. For instance you might say, I’m going to eat bacon but I will choose nitrate free and keep it to a piece or two.

A meal should keep you satiated for a few hours. Choose a meal that has a balance of protein, healthy fat and fiber. Lean beef, a sweet potato and a vegetable is a healthy choice, as is a hearty lentil stew. Neither meal looks like the other but both would help you take care of yourself.

When it comes to working out or sitting on the couch and watching tv – what is going to help you take care of yourself? Generally speaking it will be some form of exercise. On the other hand, if you have been doing strenuous workouts for several days in a row and are physically exhausted you may need the rest.

With exercise it’s best to listen to your body. If you’re telling yourself you’re too tired to work out, that’s your brain. Ignore it. When you’re feeling achy and sore, that’s your body speaking. Listen to it!

Self-care is another important component. Make some time to do things you enjoy and nourish your soul. That could be a simple time out for meditation. It could be taking a bubble bath or doing a beloved project. It might also be meeting a friend for a catch up.

A few weeks ago I realized I hadn’t been reading for pleasure, all my choices were work oriented. I’ve made time to pick some things out just for fun and entertainment. It’s a great way to start or end my day.

What choices do you make that could use a few tweaks when it comes to taking care of yourself?

Do you need help in making better choices or in figuring out where to start? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a 30 minute power session.


Could You Toss Out the Ice Cream? Old Habits and Mindset

DQ2A lot of the things I coach people on I also struggle with. It’s hard to throw away food, it’s hard to not be impatient and to want to see progress more quickly than I am. I split an ice cream with my husband last week. The portions were way too large and I really didn’t want to toss away 1/2 of my treat. We were nowhere near home so a lid would not have helped.

One of my clients struggles with the same thing, although he laughed when I said I split my ice cream. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to do that and he would have eaten the treat whether or not he was sick of it. I’ve been there. It’s hard to change the mindset that you grew up with. Don’t waste food and finish what’s on your plate.

Another client is frustrated when she makes poor choices. It doesn’t happen every day but once in a while, when she has a bad day, she reaches for comfort. I find myself doing that. I was angry and standing in the kitchen in front of the fridge. As I stood there I stopped and asked myself what exactly I wanted and why. Instead of grabbing chocolate I went for frozen berries. They’re cold and sweet with a satisfying texture.

It took a while to get to the point of realizing I am not going to eat 3 scoops of ice cream and feel good. It took practice to recognize that I’m grabbing for food when I’m not hungry. And even longer to make other choices, many of which don’t include food. A walk, some breathing time, a hug or playing with dog go a long way to changing my mood. Plus I am never annoyed with myself for walking or playing with the dog!

I like to keep in mind a quote my yoga teacher once told me about yoga: “it’s called a practice, not a perfect.” It’s good to keep that in mind about life in general. Some days we are going to make better choices than others. Keep practicing and you eventually get better at it.

Eating Healthy Isn’t About Being Good

drive thruI’m seething over a comment made on a friend’s Facebook page. One of his friend’s told him to lose weight he needed to cut his calories to 1,200 per day and to work out. Those kind of comments make me crazy. There is no way that amount of calories is sustainable for him.

This was on the heels of a post I just finished reading by a blogger I generally enjoy. She claims she’s cutting calories by eating intuitively, yet she’s getting her meals from the drive-thru. That’s not intuitive eating. That’s eating only when you’re hungry and there’s a difference. Intuitively you would know your body needs vegetables. (to clarify: She is not ordering the salads at the drive through. Yes, it’s an option but it’s not one she’s taking).

There are some responsible eating plans around and then there are those that are restrictive. (I wrote about restrictive diets in my newsletter and how they can be harmful to your body. If you want to read more you can sign up for my newsletter here). A restrictive diet is not sustainable for the long-term and can cause damage to your body. I watch the binge dieters lose weight and then gain even more back.

Feeling like a failure and frustrated after falling off a diet can leave you thinking “I may as well give up since I can’t do it anyway.” The truth is not all diets work for everybody and some diets are flat-out ridiculous. Eating less and working out more isn’t the answer either.

Not all calories are created equal. 500 calories of lean beef or chicken, a sweet potato and vegetables is going to be much more filling and nutritious than a fast food burger, fries and soda. Eating real, unprocessed foods in normal sized portion is treating your body well, creating more energy for yourself and will leave you lighter.

Setting yourself up for success is not about willpower, it’s about creating good habits for yourself and simple mind shifts. You’re not good or bad because you eat a certain way. Eating healthy doesn’t make you good. It means you are making better choices to keep your body healthy.

Do you need help in making better choices and setting yourself up for success? Email me at janinemchale@empoweredplate.com and together we can come up with a plan that works for you.




Eat the Dessert! (or whatever it is that makes a holiday special to you)

chocolatecakeI was at a meeting the week after Thanksgiving and one of members told me I would be proud of him. He skipped all of the appetizers and dessert as his family dinner and stuck with the meal. Slightly horrified I asked him if he felt deprived? He said no, not at all and he really enjoyed the food that he ate.

So why was I horrified? Because skipping dessert would have left me feeling deprived. But I quickly realized that’s me, not him. He would have felt deprived if he didn’t eat his favorite foods during the meal itself. I get that.

No matter how much a holiday is really about family and relationships we have memories through foods as well. My feeling on this is to enjoy the holiday in what ever way that means for you. Not in love with dessert? Skip it. Can’t wait for the pie or cookies? Go for it. Mom’s lasagna is the best thing you’ve ever eaten? Savor it.

My two tips are: 1) Enjoy your food and stop when you are full. 2) Resist the temptation of taking leftovers home or keeping those tempting foods in the house if you are the one cooking. The 26th is a new day and time to go back to your healthy eating plan.

Some sites that I enjoy for healthy treats are:

Looking to lose a few pounds and gain more energy in 2015? I can help you with an easy plan that works for you and your busy life. Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a strategy session.

Eating at the Mall? Skip this Burger!

Photo: Carl Jr's

Photo: Carl Jr’s

One of today’s emails boasted on how a major fast food restaurant was adding a natural grass-fed burger to its menu. Carl Jr.’s, which is not anywhere near my house, is offering the burger which clocks in at 750 calories and 44 grams of fat. Not exactly health food.

While I’m a fan of grass-fed hormone free beef this burger has cheese, mayo, sugary ketchup and a white flour bun which takes away from the healthier aspects.

It can be hard when you’re out all day to try to find a quick healthy choice that tastes good and fills you up. Especially if you’ve been out all day holiday shopping and can’t quite deal with the thought of going home and cooking. There are a couple of choices you can take.

  • Bring healthy snacks with you so you don’t have to worry about finding food. At the very least, carry a bottle of water so you don’t get dehydrated.
  • Look in advance at your choices and figure out what you enjoy that’s a healthy choice. Have one or two backups in case lines are long. Places like Panera have their “secret” healthy menu, take advantage of it.
  • Leave the mall and go somewhere else to eat. Why I like this: it’s less hectic and you’ll feel more relaxed when you sit down.

If you do just want a snack stay away from empty calories, frozen yogurt offers sugar and not much else in the way of nutrition. I pop into drug-store or deli type store and buy a Larabar or a plain Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit. I also like a small plain cappuccino or latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon and cocoa if you’re jonesing for a coffee treat. It has protein and some fat (get the 2% or whole milk choice) to keep you full without all the sugar.

What are your strategies for making better choices when the selection is limited?

What is your favorite food stop in your mall?

Need help in making better food choices all around? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to schedule a strategy session. Together we can come up with a plan that works for you.

Sugar vs Fat Study

krispy kremeI’m watching Rachel Ray, why I have no idea. The show has a study between two brothers who did a study on a high fat/low sugar/low carb diet and the other had carbs/sugar/no-fat. They concluded that the high fat/low sugar diet was worse that the carb/sugar/no-fat diet. Rachel was chiming in how a gluten-free diet made her very crabby because she didn’t have carbs.

I understand the underlying point was to see the effect of extreme diets. What annoys me is that neither of these was a balanced normal diet and the sound bite people take away is that sugar is better for you than fat. You can have carbs (vegetables and fruits are carbs) and healthy grains that don’t have gluten. Grains that will keep a healthy balance of yeast/sugar in your body and reduce inflammation.

What I did like out of the study was how our brains respond to foods we enjoy and foods we dislike. Our brains tell us when to stop eating a food we don’t like but not foods that we love. That’s interesting since you can adjust your eating plan accordingly. If you know you cannot stop eating chocolate it’s something you don’t keep in the house.

It’s possible to eat a balanced diet without going to extremes and still feel healthy and invigorated. Nutrition isn’t about diet foods or restrictive habits; it’s about feeling energized and empowered every day. Isn’t that what life is really about?

You can reach your personal goals through better nutrition and small lifestyle changes. Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, for a 30 minute complimentary consultation if you would like to learn how.

Fast Food To Always Have on Hand

968eWho hasn’t come home from work and thought I really don’t have the time or energy to cook? Time is a precious commodity between commuting, working, family and the fun things we take part in. I know after I’ve finished a long run on Saturday I just want to eat, not spend a lot of time prepping ingredients for a meal.

My clients and friends are always looking to have healthy meals that are quick. I suspect you would like to feed yourself and your family foods that you feel good about. So I am sharing my grocery list of staples and you can make your own fast foods. These can be used in a variety of combinations for any meal of the day.


  • Shrimp: deveined, peeled & tail on
  • Vegetables: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, corn, artichokes, onions & peppers and whatever else makes you happy
  • Brown rice: plain, no added sodium or seasoning
  • Fruit: without added sugars
  • Chicken burgers


  • Beans: low sodium if possible
  • Tomatoes: either buy them in a can without BPA or in a carton
  • Tongol tuna or chunk light tuna: in a BPA free can or in a pouch
  • Sardines


  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Whole grain or brown rice pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Old Fashioned Oats
  • Natural peanut and/or sunflower seed butter
  • Almond milk: unsweetened
  • Olive, coconut and sesame oils
  • Dried herbs and seasonings: MSG and sodium free
  • Tamari and tahini sauces


  • Greek yogurt: plain
  • Eggs
  • Feta and shredded mozzarella cheeses
  • All natural, low sodium pre-cooked chicken sausage
  • Lean beef
  • Nitrate-free slab-cut bacon
  • Pre-cut vegetables
  • Mixed greens, arugula
  • Shredded cabbage and/or broccoli slaw
  • Lemons & Limes
  • Scallions
  • Olives

Using the above list empowers you to make a quick & satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner; so no matter what your day entails you are powered up with whole foods. And unlike drive-thru fast food these do not contain trans fat, MSG, large amounts of sodium or added sugars.

Need help on figuring out how to balance your busy life and eating well? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, for a 30 minute complimentary consultation. We will come up with a plan that works uniquely for you and your hectic schedule.



If it’s Boring You’re Not Doing it Correctly!

mango pistachio oatmealIt’s boring. It’s not sexy. It tastes like cardboard. Then, my friends, you need to revisit your oatmeal making skills. There are many easy ways to make that humble bowl of oats into a sexy superstar. Here are two far from boring variations.

Pumpkin Pie Oats with Bacon

  • 1/4c steel-cut oats (Irish Oatmeal)
  • 1 1/4c water
  • 3/4 c almond milk
  • 1/4 c canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tbs ground flax or 1 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 slice crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup or honey (optional)

I know it seems like a lot of liquid but you will get the creamiest oats this way. Bring water & almond milk to almost boiling, add oats and lower to simmer. Stir in pumpkin, flax seeds & pumpkin pie spice. Cook until all liquid is absorbed and desired consistency is reached. While oats cook make your bacon. Top cooked oats with crumbled bacon and maple syrup or honey, if using. (don’t like bacon? top with 1 – 2 toasted nuts of choice)

Spiced Mango Pistachio Oatmeal

  • 1/4c steel-cut oats
  • 1 1/4c water
  • 3/4 c unsweetened coconut milk beverage
  • 1/2c mango (I use frozen chunks)
  • 2 Tbs pistachios
  • 1 Tbs unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Bring water & coconut milk to almost boiling and add oats, lower heat to simmer. Add in mango, pistachio, coconut & spices. Cook until liquid is absorbed and desired consistency is reached, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.

Tip: Do you want your oats to cook more quickly? The night before boil water, add oats and simmer for 5 minutes. Shut off heat and cover, leaving on stove top. In the morning add in milk, bring to almost boiling and follow recipe.





What’s that on Your Plate?

food-plateLast year I posted on the USDA food pyramid and how it was changed to a plate. The difference is that recommendations for 1/2 the plate consists of vegetables and fruits, one-quarter for whole grains and one-quarter for protein.  Dairy was off to the side in a glass.

I eat pretty close to that but I don’t drink milk and I tend to add salad along with that.  I realize I eat more of the Mediterranean Food Pyramid than the American standard.  You can learn more about it here: Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid.  It’s about plant-based foods, olive oil, minimally processed foods, some fish, some poultry, minimal dairy, low in sugar, and maintaining a healthy weight.  It sounds good to me.

Not everyone can tolerate the same foods though.  Some people can’t tolerate gluten, some can’t tolerate dairy and others have trouble with certain vegetables.  Added to that there are a bunch of different dietary theories with conflicting ideas.  It’s confusing and it’s hard to know which theory is correct.

The thing is no one diet works for everyone.  It can be both frustrating and a relief to hear that.  Some people really do need to eat less carbohydrates and others really do better on less protein.  I do best with less sugar, minimal dairy, a lot of greens and a balance of whole grains and protein.  I only know this through experimenting and the elimination diet.  (which is not as creepy as it sounds, you give up a certain group of food for 10 days and then add it back in. to see how you feel).

Do you know which foods give you the most energy, leave you feeling satiated and not bloated, and have you powering through your day?  And, on the flip side, do you recognize which foods leave you feeling sluggish and too tired to go on without some sort of boost from caffeine or sugar?  It can really help with your day-to-day life as well as any sports or competitions that you participate in.

Helping people figure this out is what I do.  I’m available for in person consultations as well as phone and email.  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, or leave a comment if you’re interested in learning more.  I’d love to hear from you!