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Video: Make simple swaps for a healthier diet

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    >>> with imotion.

    >>> this morning on "eat smart today," simple swaps for a healthier lifestyle. in last tuesday's episode of nbc's reality weight loss show "the biggest loser," there were no eliminations, at least not on the program. instead, everyone learned how to cook and eat healthy. cheryl forberg is the show diet and nutrition expert. her book "the biggest loser simple swaps" is a guide to healthy weight loss through easy lifestyle choices. cheryl , good to see you.

    >> good to see you, al.

    >> now, what are some of the obstacles that prevent most people from doing what the contestants do on "biggest loser," making these kind of swaps, making these healthy choices?

    >> i think initially, they're overwhelmed. they don't know where to begin, and that's the preface of the book, to talk about really simple changes that you can make every day to make a really big difference.

    >> and it's the little changes that added up.

    >> exactly.

    >> see, because i think a lot of people are overwhelmed by changing everything all at once.

    >> that's right.

    >> they think they have to do all or nothing.

    >> that's right.

    >> so it's the little changes.

    >> simple swaps.

    >> for example, you say mayo. now, of course, everybody likes creamy mayo. but there's something you can swap for that.

    >> absolutely, three slices of avocado or an ounce has fewer calories without the mayonnaise, but you get the creamy richness, so you don't feel deprived. but the avocado has nutrients and vitamins.

    >> how do you use this in place?

    >> lay this on a sandwich with whole wheat bread or smush it down little bit.

    >> you say bacon in and of itself in moderation is not a bad thing.

    >> it's not a bad thing. most of us are carb-heavy on our breakfast. we have cereal, toast, we have jam, we have fruit, we have juice. we forget about protein in the morning.

    >> right.

    >> we're exercising. we need to feed our muscles. we need protein. but regular bacon has three times the calories of canadian bacon and more than twice the sodium. this is a great choice.

    >> and in fact, it's more like a ham than a bacon in a sense.

    >> but you still get that satisfaction of having some meat and good protein.

    >> pork. you get some pork. that's what we like.

    >> you get some pork.

    >> peas, these are your average, everyday type of peas, but this is ad mommie. why is that better?

    >> peach are a vegetable. at mommie is actually a legume, in the same categories as lentils and black beans . edamame has twice as much protein andfiber. it's satisfying and you stay full longer.

    >> now pasta . people say pasta is bad, but there are some pastas that are better than others.

    >> that's right. white pasta 's made from white flour . basically, very few nutrients and just calories, whereas the whole grain pasta still has the nutrients and the fiber in tact. it's more filling. you don't need to eat nearly as much of it.

    >> then this is a pasta preparation that's little health healthier than most.

    >> this is one of my favorites, the greek-style penny with artichokes and feta cheese . this serving has less than 300 calories. it's made with loads of vegetables, so you don't have quite as much pasta .

    >> right.

    >> artichokes and still room for cheese. everyone loves cheese.

    >> so, you bulk up the plate with vegetables --

    >> exactly.

    >> so you've got a good serving, but it's not mostly pasta .

    >> exactly. it's a double simple swap.

    >> i love this idea, your individual pizza.

    >> this is fabulous.

    >> but this is a mushroom pizza.

    >> portabella mushroom cap has 27 calories. you put a little -- spoon a little marinara sauce in there, lean turkey sausage, cheese on the top. bake it. two of these has less than half the calories of this one.

    >> wow. then you've got frozen yogurt , one a little better than the other.

    >> they both look really healthy. contestants last season made up this dessert for cherry crunch. they look about the same. theirs has greek-style yogurt and a high fiber , high protein kashi cereal on here and fresh cherries. this is fat-free frozen yogurt , but sometimes when you take out the fat, you add sugar. this has more than twice as many calories.

    >> wow. cheryl toberg, thank you so much. i love that pizza idea.

    >> thank you. it's delicious.

    >> the book is "the biggest loser simple swaps," and "the biggest loser" airs tonight at

TODAY books
updated 9/29/2009 10:27:29 AM ET 2009-09-29T14:27:29

Take a cue from the competitors on the hit weight-loss show and get healthy! Cheryl Forberg shares low-calorie recipes as well as easy changes to start living a healthier lifestyle without using all your money or time in "The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps." An excerpt.

When I opened my newspaper on a recent morning, I read something that shocked me: Over the past year, our obesity rates did not decrease in any state in America. It’s hard for me

to believe, because as the nutritionist for “The Biggest Loser,” I see and hear so many weight-loss success stories every day — and not just from contestants, but from viewers as well.

I first meet the contestants at the start of each new season of the show, when they sit down with me for a comprehensive nutrition consultation. During these meetings, I have the opportunity to learn about each individual’s unique history and struggles, including their typical eating habits and their past attempts to lose weight. What’s interesting is that no matter how different each person’s story is, almost all of them share many of the same issues. By now, I can almost predict some of the answers I’ll receive to the questions I ask.

After eight wonderful seasons with the show, I’ve learned a lot about the common difficulties and obstacles many Americans face when it comes to their eating habits and attempts at weight management.

Among these issues, I’ve identified 10 key factors that I believe play a vital role in weight gain and poor overall health. I’ve found that most of our contestants:

  1. Had absolutely no idea how many calories their bodies really needed (or how many they consumed each day).
  2. Frequently skipped breakfast and other meals.
  3. Didn’t eat enough fruits or vegetables.
  4. Didn’t eat enough lean protein.
  5. Didn’t eat enough whole grains.
  6. Ate too much “white stuff,” such as white flour, white pasta, white sugar, white rice, and simple carbohydrates.
  7. Didn’t plan their meals in advance and often found themselves grabbing something on the go which they ate standing up, in the car, or at their desks.
  8. Drank too many of their calories (some people consumed their daily calorie budgets in sugary drinks alone!) but didn’t drink enough water or milk.
  9. Didn’t get enough exercise (if any).
  10. Prioritized other things — such as their families, friends, and jobs — over their own health and wellbeing.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably all too familiar with many of these challenges. This book provides the tools you need to get started on your own transformation. A lot of people are afraid that creating a healthier lifestyle will be too hard or too expensive or that it will require too much time and effort. The idea behind “Simple Swaps” is to make getting healthy a less daunting challenge. Living a healthier life doesn’t mean you have to change everything at once — it begins with small, manageable steps. A good place to start is to swap some of your daily habits and choices for healthier versions. For example, you might swap your daily glass of fruit juice for a piece of whole fruit, or swap your sweet afternoon treat from the coffee shop for a satisfying snack that combines protein and carbohydrates to give you a boost of energy.

I created 100 “Simple Swaps” and more than 30 mouthwatering recipes for this book based on my experience and success with “The Biggest Loser” contestants and the common struggles most people face when it comes to weight loss. Many of these recommendations are the same ones I give the contestants when they come to see me on that first day at “The Biggest Loser” ranch. Throughout the book, you’ll find not only my recommendations and advice, but tips from the contestants themselves, who know firsthand how tough it can be to fit lifestyle changes into a busy schedule, and who have incorporated these swaps into their weight-loss efforts.

Whether you’re looking to shed just a few pounds, lose a significant amount of weight, or simply maintain a healthy weight, these “Simple Swaps” will not only help you keep fit, but also ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need for optimal health and wellness. Swapping one unhealthy food, habit, or lifestyle choice for another, better one is where it all begins.

Excerpted from “The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps” by Cheryl Forberg, RD, and The Biggest Loser experts and cast with Melissa Roberson. Copyright (c) 2009 by Universal City Studio Productions LLLp. Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books.

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Recipe: Greek-style pasta with fire-roasted tomato sauce and crumbled feta cheese (on this page) Recipe: Portobello "pizzas" (on this page) Recipe: Rosemary-roasted root vegetables (on this page) Recipe: Jerry and Estella's cherry crunch (on this page)

Excerpted from “The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps” by Cheryl Forberg, RD, and The Biggest Loser experts and cast with Melissa Roberson. Copyright (c) 2009 by Universal City Studio Productions LLLp. Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books.

Excerpted from “The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps” by Cheryl Forberg, RD, and The Biggest Loser experts and cast with Melissa Roberson. Copyright (c) 2009 by Universal City Studio Productions LLLp. Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books.

Recipe: Greek-style pasta with fire-roasted tomato sauce and crumbled feta cheese

This dish is upside down — it’s heavy on the sauce! You’ll still enjoy the same portion of food, but you’ll take in many fewer calories when you kick up the sauce and veggies and dial down the pasta. This recipe is great hot or cold as a side dish. Add grilled chicken or shrimp and you have a meal!

  • 6 ounces whole grain penne or fusilli (I use Healthy Harvest brand)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 cups (about 28 ounces) fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved lengthwise
  • 1⁄4 cup crumbled low-fat feta cheese
  • 8 kalamata or other black olives, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon peel
  • Fresh Italian parsley or oregano (optional)

Prepare the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and simmer for 1 minute longer, but do not allow the garlic to brown. Add the bell pepper and cook just until softened.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 4 minutes. Gently add the artichokes and cook for 1 minute longer, or until just heated through.

Pour the sauce into a large mixing bowl and add the cooked pasta. Toss lightly and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the cheese, olives, and lemon peel.

Divide between serving bowls and garnish with parsley or oregano if desired. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Per serving: 140 calories, 7 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat (less than 1 g saturated), 5 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 410 mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 8 (about 1-cup) side dish servings or 4 main course servings

Recipe: Portobello "pizzas"

Most prefer to eat this “pizza” with a knife and fork!

  • 4 whole Portobello mushroom caps (about 5” each), stemmed removed
  • 1/2 cup low fat marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup lean turkey Italian sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons shredded fat free or low fat mozzarella cheese
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wipe the mushrooms clean Place them on a baking sheet, gill side up.

Spoon sauce over each cap, then sprinkle on sausage and cheeses. Place in the oven and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.


Mushroom factoid: One portabella mushroom has as much potassium as a banana.

Nutrient analysis (per pizza): 97 calories, 10 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g fat (saturated), 22 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 305 mg sodium

Serving Size

Yield: 4 small pizzas

Recipe: Rosemary-roasted root vegetables

The secret to perfect roasting is a hot oven and a large enough pan to eliminate crowding. This ensures a crispy exterior and even browning. You can change the proportions of the vegetables if you like; just be sure they’re cut the same size for uniform baking. Butternut squash or sweet potatoes work well, too.

  • 16 ounces any combination of parsnips, rutabagas, or turnips, peeled and cut in 1" pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips on a 15" × 10" baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the rosemary, thyme, mustard, and salt. Toss well and distribute evenly over the pan. Roast, stirring or shaking the vegetables every 15 minutes, until they’re tender and evenly browned, or about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with black pepper; taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve hot or at room temperature.


Per serving: 70 calories, 1 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 180 mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 4 servings

Recipe: Jerry and Estella's cherry crunch

This recipe is a routine “simple swap” that Jerry and Estella Hayes of Season 7 created to replace their old after-dinner ice cream routine. Simple, crunchy, and sweet, it’s their favorite choice for those nights when they have enough calories left in their daily budget for a sweet indulgence.

  • 1 cup frozen or fresh sweet cherries, pitted
  • 3⁄4 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons (2 packets) Truvia Natural Sweetener or other natural sweetener
  • 1⁄2 cup Kashi GoLean Crunch cereal

Heat the frozen cherries in the microwave in a microwave-safe container for about 30 seconds. Combine the yogurt and sweetener. In a parfait glass, layer the yogurt and cherries and top with the cereal. Serve immediately.


Per serving: 130 calories, 11 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 80 mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 2 (3⁄4-cup) servings


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