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apples and piggy bank


A few friends and I were talking about food and cooking the other weekend when one friend mentioned that healthy eating is expensive. If you’ve ever tried to eat healthier, you may have heard or even said this before. This can certainly hold true if you’re stocking up on all organic items, specialty flours or exclusively shopping at health food stores. But it doesn’t have to be true if you plan ahead. Here are tips to make healthy eating work for your waistline and your wallet.

Don’t shop for one recipe. Have you ever wanted to try a new recipe and found yourself spending extra on specialty ingredients for that one recipe? Case in point, I currently have a year-old bag of coconut flour in my pantry that I’ve used only once. Focus instead on stocking up on staples that you can turn into multiple meals. For example, if chicken breast or fish is on sale, buy extra and freeze for later use. If you purchase items such as corn tortillas, rice and whole-wheat pasta you can enjoy chicken tacos, stir-fry’s and pasta dishes throughout the month.

Buy in-season. When produce is in season and is available in abundance, the cost will go down. TOPS members can find a list of when certain fruits and vegetables are in season on page 91 of Real Life: The Hands-on Pounds-off Guide.

Don’t forget about frozen. Buying generic frozen vegetables is an inexpensive and convenient way to quickly healthify just about any meal. For example, are you strapped for time and ready to heat up a frozen entrée? A quick and easy way to add fiber and vitamins to this meal is to add frozen veggies like broccoli.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does take extra planning and time. TOPS members can find helpful Easy Meal Planners on pages 28-29 of the February/March issue of TOPS News and pages 36-37 of the April/May issue. Do you have any budget-friendly nutrition tips? Share them in the comments section below!

TOPS Leaders and Web Designates, you can find a budget-friendly chapter program titled “Eating Healthy Makes Dollars and Sense” in the Leaders corner of under Programs & Meeting Ideas, Nutrition.

Last reply on March 16, 2017 by Maggie Thorison

workout gear


Earlier this week, we wrapped up a four-week series of yoga at work for TOPS employees. Aside from feeling a nice blend of relaxed and energized after each session, I loved that we all had varying levels of yoga experience from beginner (me) to advanced. This helped prove that, no matter where we are on our fitness journey, we can all benefit from moving a little more as long as we listen to our bodies. This also got me thinking about some common exercise misconceptions that can stand in the way of our weight-loss goals. You may have said or heard things like:

“It’s too hard.” Exercise can be as simple or as difficult as you want it to be. Maybe you have a friend who loves triathlons or intense bootcamp classes. If this works for her, great! If it’s not your thing, that’s totally okay too. Find something that you enjoy and don’t be afraid to try new things and see what works best for you. Exercise does not have to include pain, treadmills or buckets of sweat.

“I don’t have the time.” We all get the same 24 hours in a day and we tend to spend this time on what is most important to us. You’ll never find the time for exercise. You have to make the time.

“I don’t have any equipment.”* You don’t need any special equipment to head out for a walk. And you might be surprised by how you can squeeze in some simple bodyweight exercises during the commercial breaks of your favorite show. Sometimes, I’ll even sneak in a few simple movements while I’m cooking at home. Gentle stretches are a great way to pass the time while you’re waiting for the oven to preheat or water to boil.

Do you have any tips for overcoming fitness barriers? Share them in the comments section below!

*Members, you find sample workouts for all ability levels in the Members Area of under Getting Active, Workouts.

Last reply on March 21, 2017 by Barbara J. Frost


Part of the TOPS approach to healthy eating is that all foods can fit, within reason. This works well for me, as I’ve found that every time I try to avoid a food entirely I end up wanting that food ten times more. Lately, I’ve been shifting my focus to feelings of fullness. This way, I can eat what I want without feeling deprived. But this approach does take practice and can be easier said than done. To help you feel more in tune with how full you feel while eating, try one of these tips.

Try the broccoli trick. I recently came across a tip that suggested stopping eating when you first start feeling full and asking yourself, “If this were steamed broccoli, would I still keep eating?” If this answer is yes, keep eating. If no, push your plate away. If you can’t stand broccoli, substitute any other vegetable or fruit that you enjoy.

Distract yourself. It may take your brain a little while to realize that you’re full. When you first start to feel full, push your plate away and distract yourself with dinner conversation, having a glass of water or even leaving the room for a bit (if possible). You may find that within 10 to 15 minutes, you’re more satisfied than you initially thought.

Save room for later. A member of our workplace TOPS chapter shared that, if she stops eating dinner when she first starts to feel full, she enjoys a small treat like air-popped popcorn later in the evening. Think of it as bargaining with yourself or making a simple tradeoff.

Losing weight, and keeping it off, doesn’t have to involve complicated diets or restricted foods. This week, try paying a little more attention to how you feel when you’re eating. You might be surprised by what your body tells you.

Members, you can read more about paying attention to your body and mindful eating in chapter 4 of TOPS lifestyle guide, Real Life: The Hands-on Pounds-off Guide.


Here in Wisconsin, many of us are bummed that our favorite football team will not be headed to this year’s big game on Sunday. On the plus side, watching the game is still a great excuse to get together with friends and family and enjoy delicious food. And, fortunately, it is possible to enjoy tasty game day treats without blowing your calorie budget. Check out this recipe for chicken patty sliders to help you score big … while keeping your calorie count small.

Ingredients (for 1 slider):

  • 2 oz. lean ground chicken
  • 1 1-oz. plain roll
  • 1 t. regular mayonnaise
  • 1 T. sweet pickle relish
  • 2 thin slices of tomato and salad greens


  1. Pack ground chicken into a patty and cook in a pan, using nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Split roll and add tomato slices and salad greens to bottom half.
  3. Place chicken patty on top of salad greens and tomato, then spread mayonnaise and pickle relish on top.

If you’re tracking food exchanges, one slider counts as 2 proteins, 1 starch, 1 fat, 2 free exchanges and is about 230 calories.

Do you have any tips or ideas for enjoying the big game while staying within your calorie budget? Share them in the comments section below!

Members, you can find more tasty tailgating options in the August/September 2016 issue of TOPS News or in the Members Area of under Healthy Eating and Recipes.


It’s cold and flu season, and that can spell bad news for your weight-loss efforts. It’s important to listen to your body and rest, but it can be tough to know what to do when it comes to eating right. Check out this advice from registered dietitian and nutrition expert for TOPS Dena McDowell. As a friendly reminder, this information is general in nature. Please always check with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.

Q: Will taking extra Vitamin C help lessen the duration of the common cold?
Vitamin C comes in many forms, including food, beverages and supplements. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and the role of antioxidants is to boost the immune system by destroying free radical damage that occurs in the body. Foods and beverages that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi, kale, chili and sweet peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, collard greens, spinach and berries. These fruits and vegetables are good for you and should be a normal part of your diet. Eating large amounts of these fruits and veggies may not lessen the time that you have a cold virus. However, consuming these foods may reduce the symptoms, seemingly making you feel better faster. Taking large amounts of vitamin C through a supplement form of a vitamin or other over-the-counter supplement may also reduce the symptoms slightly. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so there is a minimal risk associated with taking in large amounts. You kidneys will process any extra vitamin C that is not metabolized and you will excrete any excess in your urine. Bottom line: eating foods rich in vitamin C or taking extra vitamin C through a vitamin supplement may not hurt you, however, taking large amounts may not help you either. Aim to drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced and wide variety of foods, practice good hand hygiene and get plenty of rest.

Q: Are there certain foods you should limit or avoid when you’re recovering from gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu”?
The “stomach flu” can be quite nasty to you gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If you are dealing with a stomachache, gastroenteritis or other GI malady, it is best to follow a bland diet. A bland diet is limited in spicy and acidic foods, greasy/fried foods and foods high in fiber. Some examples of bland foods include cream of wheat/cream of rice, grits, soda crackers, white rice, pretzels, low-fiber bread (can be wheat), plain pasta (no sauce), canned fruits, bananas, baked white fish, baked chicken, gelatin and broth-based soups.

If you are having diarrhea from gastroenteritis, it may be best to follow a BRAT diet to reduce your symptoms. The BRAT diet includes Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. Once your symptoms improve, you may add foods back into your diet. Some people have difficulty digesting dairy products when GI bugs strike. Limiting milk, yogurt and ice cream during this time may be helpful. Cheese in small portions is usually well tolerated and can act as a binding type of food to lessen the symptoms of diarrhea. Following a bland diet as tolerated along with lots of clear liquids (water, diluted juice, gelatin and broth) can help meet your fluid needs. If your symptoms last more than a few days, it’s important to call your doctor’s office to make sure nothing else is going on causing these symptoms. Also, please remember to call your doctor if you are unable to keep liquids down for more than 24 hours to prevent dehydration.

Q: Any other tips to help when recovering from a cold or upset stomach?
Remember these four things:

  • Hand Hygiene. I can’t stress this enough. Wash your hands a lot with hot soapy water. Having clean hands is the best way to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods on a daily basis. As long as you are not suffering from an upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea, you should try to maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
  • Fluids, fluids, fluids! Drink plenty of water (minimum of 64 oz. a day). Staying hydrated when sick will help your body recover faster and lessen your symptoms.
  • Get extra sleep. Your body needs time to recover. Extra zzzz’s will help your body naturally recover.
Last reply on March 3, 2017 by Maggie Thorison


Have you ever noticed how you don’t really hear about New Year’s resolutions in June? New Year’s resolutions can be a great opportunity to hit the reset button but, if you’re looking to try something with a little more staying power, check out these three alternatives.

Try something new every month. Last year at this time I tried cutting out something that I enjoy, only to completely overindulge on that something and then feel guilty about it. This year, instead of cutting things out, I’m focusing on adding one new, healthy activity every month. This includes snowshoeing in January, a charity race in March and a hike on a new local trail in September.

Set a SMART* goal to complete by the end of March. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. If you achieve this goal by the end of March, set a new one for the second quarter of the year. If you don’t achieve it, modify and try again.

Cut and burn...calories, that is. The TOPS Million Pounds Mission, which launched this week, encourages members to cut 100 calories daily and burn 100 calories daily. This can lead to a 20-lb. weight loss over the course of a year.

After all of the holiday treats and indulgences, it can be tempting to want to overhaul your lifestyle with drastic changes. Instead, why not focus on small changes that will last, not just until June, but all year long?

*Members, find a SMART goal worksheet on page 5 of your My Day One booklet.


In one of our last workplace TOPS meetings, we all wrote “Dear John” letters to a habit or personal obstacle that was standing in the way of our goals or no longer serving us. We gave the boot to things like extra weight, certain indulgences and even a pricey gym membership. As 2017 draws closer, and brings with it new opportunities and possibilities, it may be time to “break up” with whatever is keeping you from reaching your goals. Maybe it’s the fridge calling your name late at night, sugary treats in the break room or an inclination to head to the couch after work. Sometimes, we just have to stop and ask ourselves whether or not something is working for us.

Breaking up is never easy, but it’s better than being in a long-term relationship with something that’s keeping you from being the best possible version of you. It’s okay to kick an unhealthy habit to the curb and let it know, “It’s not me, it’s you.”

Members, you can find the Dear John activity and other chapter activity ideas in the Members Area under Stuff For Your Chapter, Plan a Meeting, Chapter Contests and Activities.


I remember a time in college when my roommates made cookies with egg substitute, artificial sweetener and butter substitute. The cookies shared the texture of hockey pucks...and the taste, too. Even though these cookies had fewer calories than their more traditional counterparts, they also lacked one important ingredient - enjoyment.

We are all different and share different tastes and interests. But whether our diet or meal plan is vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, paleo or the food exchange system, it should be something we, for the most part, enjoy. As we gear up for the time of year when advertisements promise to be the answer to all of our dieting woes, just remember the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s been said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Why not apply this same sentiment to your meal plan? If you choose the nutritious foods that you enjoy, and balance them with occasional treats, you’ll never have to “diet” a day in your life.

Members, be sure to check out Dishing on Fad Diets, the Focus on Nutrition feature in the December/January issue of TOPS News magazine.

Last reply on January 4, 2017 by Joyann Osborne


Thanksgiving leftovers are arguably one of the tastiest parts of the holiday, but how many turkey sandwiches and turkey casseroles can you possibly eat before getting bored? Use your leftovers as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen. Check out these four ideas to enjoy your favorite Thanksgiving staples after the holiday.

Stuffed bell peppers - Want to enjoy stuffing without feeling, well, stuffed? Hollow out bell peppers, fill them with stuffing and extra veggies and roast in the oven. You can even top with a little bit of cheese.

Turkey lettuce wraps - Roll leftover turkey in lettuce wraps and add your favorite salad dressing or even a dab of cranberry sauce. These make for a light lunch to help you power through Black Friday shopping.

Mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower - Stretch your mashed potatoes farther and add a healthified twist by mixing in cooked and mashed cauliflower florets.

Pumpkin pie bites - A balanced meal plan can, and should, include the occasional treat. If the leftover pumpkin pie is calling your name from the fridge, cut it into bite size pieces and freeze. Enjoy a piece when you want to indulge in something sweet but don’t want to go overboard.

Enjoy turkey day the healthy way and share your favorite healthy holiday tips, or ideas for leftovers, in the comments section below.


In a previous blog I wrote about motivation and I have to admit that I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. In particular, I feel like we tend to be too hard on ourselves when we aren’t feeling motivated. As I was cleaning up after dinner last night and doing dishes I started thinking, do I ever feel motivated to do household chores like clean or do dishes? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. But, I do these things because they are a necessary part of my daily routine and they make life better if only in the smallest of ways. After all, who wants to stare at a tower of dirty dishes every day?

It may sound strange to compare exercise to household chores, but it’s easy for these two things to fall to the bottom of the “Things-I-Want-To-Do List.” Some days we may feel more motivated than others to do the things that will help us and make our lives a little better. But a funny thing can happen when you start something that you’re not motivated for—you get motivated in the process. Did you ever start cleaning a room and then ended up cleaning your entire home? Think of how good you felt afterward, albeit a little tired.

At TOPS, we’re all about Real People. Real Weight Loss. and, the reality is, we’re not always going to feel motivated. All we can do is continue to show up and do the best with what we’ve got.

Last reply on December 5, 2016 by Maggie Thorison


One of my favorite things about participating in an at-work CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is the opportunity to try new veggies and fruits. Last week’s CSA box included delicious fall favorites including spaghetti squash. I used to associate squash with little more than fall decor before I realized how tasty, healthy and versatile it can be. Here are three ways to get your spaghetti squash fix.

Use it as a bowl. Bread bowls have become a popular way for delis to serve soup and salads, but they can pack nearly 600 calories and 100+ carbs in the bowl alone! Try using spaghetti squash as a bowl for a more waistline-friendly alternative. Cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and place cut-side down on a baking dish or pan. Bake until tender and fill with your favorite fall veggies or even cooked ground beef or turkey.

Try it as a pasta substitute. Using spaghetti squash in place of pasta noodles in your next pasta dish is a good way to cut calories and carbs while adding vitamin C and vitamin A. Look for a recipe for spaghetti squash and meatballs in the December/January issue of TOPS News magazine.

Get friendly with fritters. Try mixing spaghetti squash into your favorite fritter recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other veggies such as spinach, carrots and green onions. Bonus: fritters are a great way to use up vegetables in your crisper drawer that are starting to wilt.

Do you have favorite ways to use spaghetti squash? Share them in the comments section below.


All calories come from four places in our diets: carbohydrates, fat, protein and alcohol. In the 1990s, low-fat diets and foods were everywhere you turned and, more recently, carbs have come under fire. Protein never seems to get much negative attention and is often proudly boasted on many food labels. Some coffee and smoothie shops even offer the option of adding a scoop of protein powder to your favorite drink. But how much protein do we really need and is it easy to overdo it? For answers, I turned to registered dietitian and nutrition expert for TOPS Dena McDowell. As a friendly reminder, please always check with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.

  1. Q: Is there such a thing as too much protein and what happens when you have too much?
    A: Yes, eating too much protein may have health implications. Typically, a person needs about 15-20 percent of their total calories to come from protein. So, if you consume 2,000 calories a day, this is about 75-100 grams of protein per day. If you are eating 1,500 calories a day, this would be about 56-75 grams a day. To put these ranges into perspective, a cup of milk has 8 grams of protein whereas a three-ounce chicken breast has about 20 grams of protein.

    You’d have to eat a lot of protein over time to see a negative health impact. Long-term issues of kidney damage and kidney stones may result. Additionally, eating large amounts of protein foods that are animal-based may negatively impact cholesterol levels in the body. Bone health may also be affected.

  2. Q: Protein is often advertised as something to keep your energy levels steady. Is this true?
    A: In a general sense, this statement is true. Protein coupled with whole-grain foods can slow the release of carbohydrates (sugar) into the blood stream. This allows the blood sugar levels in the body to be more evenly regulated.

    Adding protein to meals and snacks to balance the amount of carbohydrates helps to balance the need to over-produce insulin, thus allowing for a constant small stream of energy.

  3. Q: What are some healthy, minimally processed and affordable sources of protein?
    A: Protein foods may come from animal sources or plant sources. Healthy sources of animal proteins include: lean chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese. Plant-based proteins include: beans, legumes, nuts, nut butters and soy foods such as edamame and tofu. You don’t have to buy pricey protein powders or bars to get enough protein in your diet!

  4. Q: In what instances might someone need more protein?
    A: In certain conditions, a high-protein diet is recommended. Additional protein is needed when recovering from an illness or trauma, healing wounds and during treatment for cancer. A high-protein, low-carb diet can be used as part of the treatment for epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Following a high-protein diet should be discussed with your health care provider before making any dietary changes.


This week I’m excited to have Jen Ede, Editor of TOPS News magazine and fellow TOPS member, as my special guest blogger.

If you’ve been wanting to incorporate more organic food into your diet, but are balking at the price tag, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Get to know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are shopper’s guides put out each year by the Environmental Working Group that list produce carrying the most, and the least, amounts of pesticides. Generally, fruits and vegetables with thin skins, like strawberries, peaches, spinach and tomatoes, have the most pesticide residues, even after washing and peeling. If you’re trying to reduce your exposure to pesticides, it makes sense (or cents) to choose organic here. Avocados, cantaloupes, cabbages and onions, for example, have thicker skin and absorb fewer pesticides, so if you’re on a budget, buying these conventionally is OK.

  2. Buy local. Many farmers at your local farmers’ market grow their produce using minimal or no pesticides, but because of the high price of organic certification, can’t officially use the label. Get to know your farmers and their growing practices, and see if this isn’t a way to save money on organic foods. Bonus—once you’ve gotten to know your farmers and their food, you can share other things, like delicious recipes. Another sure way to save money is to make sure you eat everything you buy! Visit to find a farmers’ market near you.

  3. What’s on sale? Find lower prices on organics by perusing flyers at your local grocery story and wellness discounts that might be available through your insurance company. If your eating plan or recipe calls for one type of vegetable or a fruit, and you see that another is on sale, you can usually swap one in for the other to save a few bucks.

  4. Hit the bulk bins. Flour, grains, legumes and other pulses don’t cost much but pack a nutritious punch, and buying organic versions of these items costs just a little more. Visit your local grocery store or co-op and bulk up your pantry without breaking your wallet.

  5. Celebrate small change. Remember that an ideal “clean” diet isn’t really possible to achieve, so be proud of yourself for any and all progress you’re able to make in reducing pesticides and eating healthier foods.


September is a great time to be a sports fan here in Wisconsin. Our pro football team just kicked off the regular season with a win, college football is underway and baseball is still swinging. Game-day get-togethers are a fall staple and usually involve food, food and more food. Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy tailgating treats while staying on track with your weight-loss goals. This past weekend I made cauliflower buffalo “wings,” featured in the August/September issue of TOPS News magazine. I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, but they turned out to be very tasty and were even husband-approved. Here’s how you can try for yourself:

  • Cauliflower florets
  • Vegan or regular butter
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Sweet paprika
  1. Steam cauliflower until tender.
  2. Melt butter, then carefully whisk in lemon juice and hot pepper sauce.
  3. Combine cauliflower with butter mixture in a pan, and simmer until bubbling and browned.
  4. Sprinkle with paprika.

You may also want to try tossing the cauliflower with the mixture and roasting instead, or even wrapping in tin foil and warming on the grill. If you’re tracking food exchanges, one ½-cup serving counts as one vegetable, one fat and one free exchange.

When you can balance game-day treats with healthier options, it’s a win-win situation!

Members, you can find more tasty tailgating options in the August/September issue of TOPS News or in the Members Area of under Healthy Eating & Recipes.

Be Back Soon

Wellness Wednesday is on a little break and will be back on September 14. In the meantime, check out Blogs, Videos and More. See you soon!

I can

One of the top questions we receive as a weight-loss organization is, “How do I get motivated?” This is difficult to answer because the definition of motivation is different for everyone. One person may be pushed by numbers such as scale readings, blood pressure or cholesterol. Others may be more encouraged by praise from friends and family. Inevitably, the follow up inquiry then becomes, “How do I stay motivated?” No matter how devoted to a new exercise regimen or workout plan, everyone in their own right has had that feeling of, “I just don’t want to go to the gym today.”

So maybe the answer to how you can get and stay motivated is that there is no answer at all. It’s been said that we can act our way into right thinking faster than we can think our way into right acting. We need to stop thinking about all the reasons why we should go to the gym and instead make the conscious decision to just go.

We all know the benefits of daily exercise—an increase in energy level, a positive mood, burning calories, moving with ease and ultimately feeling great about yourself. To many of us, this isn’t new information. So on the days where we are “just not feeling it,” does that one excuse really outweigh all these other benefits?

Lately, I feel like I’ve been lacking any and all motivation to go to the gym. But, when I do go, I always feel so much better. I wish I could bottle that post-workout feeling and use it for “motivation” but instead, I have to repeat two simple, but effective, little words: JUST GO. That way, when that stubborn little voice in my head tells me that I can “always go tomorrow” I can quiet it with these two little words and just lace up my gym shoes—motivated or not.

Last reply on August 31, 2016 by Stacey Garcia


Lately, in an effort to save money on groceries, I’ve been actively working toward "Fridge Zero". This term, coined by a friend and coworker, refers to using up all of the food (with the exception of condiments) in your fridge before buying new items. This has helped me get more creative with meals and is how I stumbled upon a new go-to recipe for fish tacos. I love them because they’re easy to make, delicious and pack well for lunch as long as you keep the ingredients separate. Here’s how to make them:

  1. You’ll need corn tortillas, veggies (I used thinly sliced radishes and purple cabbage) and cod. I bought frozen cod when it was on sale but any protein will do. If you’re not a fish fan, you can always use chicken, pork or even your favorite veggie or soy-based protein.
  2. Pop the corn tortillas in the toaster, cook or bake the cod and prep the veggies.
  3. Assemble your tacos and top with cilantro, a dab of mayo and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Now you can enjoy “taco Tuesday” any day of the week!

Last reply on August 18, 2016 by Rebecca L. Eckheart

Halfway there sign

So many times I find myself saying, “I can’t believe it’s already (enter current month name here).” Time flies, and it seems to go especially fast in the summer months as we try to balance work, summer activities and making time for healthy habits. We’re more than halfway through the year and it’s a great time to check in with ourselves, and where we are with our healthy goals, with these three tips:

Look back at the year so far and reflect on what’s going well and what could be going better. Maybe you’re nutrition is pretty solid but you haven’t been as physically active as you’d like due to a health setback. Jot down what’s going well, and how you can build on that, along with what may need to be tweaked a bit. For example, if nagging knee pain is interfering with your walking or jogging, maybe you could look into a low-impact pool workout or class.

Enjoy what you’re doing—and stick with it. This may sound silly or obvious, but it can be easy to get caught up in a plan that doesn’t have staying power because you don’t actually like the choices you have to make to stick with the plan.

Set SMART goals for the remaining two quarters of the year. I love SMART goals because they help make a larger goal more manageable. Consider setting a small goal or two to achieve before the end of September and another goal or two to complete by December 31. Think of these goals as checkpoints along your path to health.

We may not be able to slow time down, but we can still finish the rest of the year strong!


It’s an exciting day here at TOPS Headquarters. A number of our employees are anxiously awaiting our very first delivery of fresh veggies and herbs from a local farm as part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). With farmers’ markets in full swing and produce coming in abundance, we thought we’d share our top four strategies for getting more summer fruits and veggies into our daily meal plan.

Eat it raw. So simple, yet sometimes so hard. When you get home, take some time to divide your purchases into “raw” and “cook” piles. Wash all the items you can eat raw and cut them, if needed, into bite-sized pieces. Place on the top shelf of your fridge, where you can’t help but see them, and you’ll always have an easy and healthy snack to grab. Hummus and low-fat yogurt-based dips make for great dipping.

Blend it in. Herbs and greens are excellent additions to your morning smoothie (try mint and a little bit of spinach with your bananas and strawberries). Cold soups, like gazpacho or cucumber-yogurt-dill, can also help ease the heat of these hot summer days. They’re very low in calories and high in antioxidants, to boot.

Grill it, grill it good! Most summer fruits and veggies are great flame-broiled. Try grilling your Romaine lettuce for a twist on the classic Caesar salad. Summer squash and zucchini are delicious low-carb sides. For a decadent dessert, enjoy grilled peaches over low-fat yogurt. Spray whatever you’re grilling with pan spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add your favorite herbs and spices for flavor.

Don’t recreate the wheel. If your healthy-eating plan is already working for you, find ways to make new fruits and veggies work within it. Are you usually eating a side of spinach with dinner? See how you like swapping in collard or turnip greens instead. Have a beloved recipe for cabbage rolls that you just can’t part with? Try making them with Swiss chard. Love turkey tacos? Add a tasty crunch to the top with thinly sliced radishes. Sometimes, the less you mess with your daily routine, the better the small (but sustainable) tweaks end up being.

What tips work for you? Share in the comments section below.

Last reply on August 17, 2016 by Maggie Thorison

apple donut

Have you ever said or thought either of the following?

“I was bad this weekend—I ate way too much chocolate.”

“I’ve been really good—I haven’t touched any bread in three days.”

We’re familiar with asking a waiter to hold the dressing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ask him or her to hold the guilt, too? After all, when we refer to foods as “bad" or “good”, in a way, we’re saying that we’re bad or good when we eat those foods. I find myself saying that I was “bad” more often than I should, usually after indulging over the weekend. One of my new goals is to stop labeling foods, and stop labeling myself, in this way.

Part of the TOPS approach to healthy eating is that there are no “good” or “bad” foods—all foods can fit, within reason. Many of our members who have reached their goal weight say that, barring any health condition or food intolerance, they can—and still do—enjoy their favorite treats. They may have to change their approach to these foods and adjust the portions, but they don’t have to give up the foods they love. Just imagine: what would you do if there were no “good” or “bad” foods and all you had to do was eat?

Delve a little deeper into this topic with us in the August/September issue of TOPS News magazine. When we balance our healthy foods with a few indulgences, we can lighten up without feeling deprived.

Last reply on August 18, 2016 by Maggie Thorison

Profile image
What If...
Maggie Thorison
June 8, 2016


Stop and think about the word “if” for a second. What may seem like two harmless little letters can lead to infinite possibility...or endless self-doubt. As we navigate our weight-loss journey, it can be easy to let “if” perpetuate the latter.

“What if I can’t do it?”
“What if everyone looks at me?”
“What if I fail?”

We can essentially let our brains “what if” us right out of taking that first step or trying something different and new.

But what if (and here’s where the infinite possibility part comes in) we used these two letters to tap into potential we didn’t even know we possessed?

“What if I just try it?”
“What if everyone is really nice?”
“What if I succeed?”

Part of why I love being involved with TOPS is hearing our members’ success stories. Many members reflect on what their lives would be like if they hadn’t taken that first step to better health. What if they had given up? What if they couldn’t play with their kids or grandkids? What if they had to watch life pass them by?

It’s easy to let “if” protect us from all of the things that could go wrong. But what if you instead let “if” be what connects where you are now to anywhere you want to go?

Last reply on June 9, 2016 by Karen Tinlin

beach and beach chairs

Wellness Wednesday is taking a little vacation. Check back on June 8 for a new post!

Last reply on May 26, 2016 by GUEST


Spring is here and gardening season is in full bloom. It might seem like gardening and sticking to a weight-loss plan have very little to do with one another, but there are actually a number of parallels. Last spring, I was convinced that I was going to master my first garden and enjoy fresh vegetables all summer long. How hard can gardening be, I thought. Unfortunately, my ambitious green thumb turned into a sad little garden filled with weeds, pests, and a few inedible, mushy vegetables. Fortunately, I did learn a few things.

You have to start small. Just like with a new exercise or weight-loss plan, it can be tempting to want to dive head-first into something and expect to master it right away—but it doesn’t generally work that way. I had hoped to grow farmer’s market-worthy bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, and greens. But, with no vegetable gardening experience and no researching ahead of time, I probably would have been better off starting with a few small pots of herbs instead.

Regular maintenance is a must. Turns out, you can’t just toss seeds in soil and expect to grow beautiful and delicious veggies. You have to make sure you have good soil and the right amount of sunlight and water. Not to mention keeping up with pruning, staking tomatoes, and finding ways to keep critters from turning your garden into their own personal salad bar. Similarly, it’s the healthy choices you make every day that sow seeds for weight-loss success.

It has to fit with your lifestyle. Before you make a new decision, whether it’s to grow your own garden or try a new meal plan, it has to fit with the flow of your lifestyle. As it turned out, between work, traveling most weekends, and other hobbies and obligations, I just didn’t have the time to devote to a new project like a garden. Likewise, make sure your plan for health fits with who you are and what you’re willing to make time for.

So, maybe my gardening adventure wasn’t such a flop after all. I learned a few lessons and it inspired me to take a new approach. This summer, TOPS Headquarters is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drop-off site. This means we’ll have fresh vegetables delivered weekly by a local farmer for employees who are interested. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.

How will you plant your own seeds for weight-loss success this summer?

Last reply on May 11, 2016 by GUEST


This week I’m excited to have Jen Ede, Editor of TOPS News magazine and fellow TOPS member, as my special guest blogger.

The other day, when I was walking out the door for a workout class, my brain decided to try and trip me. “We haven’t gone in forever—it’s going to hurt so bad!” “Eh, we can go tomorrow.” “You know, there are a lot of shows we could be catching up with on TV.” The same thing happened a few days later, over the weekend, when my alarm went off for a Saturday morning class. My brain kicked in again, urging me to hit the snooze button. “Ugh, it’s so early! We never get to sleep in.” “Nobody will notice if we’re not there.” “We have all day! All those things we planned to do right after class can totally wait until later on.”

Losing weight and getting healthy isn’t just about the physical—for many (and for me), it’s by and large a mental game. It has been hard to get my brain on board. No matter how established my schedule, no matter how others encourage me about my good eating and exercise choices, ultimately the commitment is mine to keep or break. And, in the past, in the face of anything that would bring me instant gratification (Donuts … beer … the chance to go out to eat), I’d fold like a house of cards. But I feel stronger now, because, along with support from my chapter, family and friends, I also am learning better ways to take care of myself. Sometimes, this self-care is at odds with what my brain wants to do at any given moment. I’ve had to learn how to reason with myself.

I’m happy to say that, despite my brain’s best attempts, I made it to class both days. In response to the first set of excuses, I said, “Brain, you’re right. We haven’t gone in forever and the first time really is going to hurt. But the second time will hurt less, and the third will hurt even less than that.” On Saturday morning, I said, “Brain, we never, ever regret it when we go to the gym. Let’s just get in the door—that’s a victory in and of itself.” It turns out that I was absolutely right. The second time hurt less and I had a ton of energy to run the errands I needed to after class.

When we plan ahead with food, we make better choices. When we make sure to work movement into our day, we feel good and have more energy. There is no excuse for us not to do this, yet our brains seem to provide us with every excuse in the world. Self-discipline is a muscle, truly, and it gets stronger every time we exercise it. What do you say to your brain when it’s making excuses for you?

Last reply on May 3, 2016 by GUEST


Do you remember what it was like when you were a child and someone told you that you couldn’t do something? If you were anything like me as a kid, this made you want to do whatever that thing may have been ten times more. This is how I feel about putting certain foods off limits; the minute I tell myself I can’t have something—whether it be chocolate, cheese, or fried foods—I want that food ten times more. What if, instead of telling yourself you can’t have certain foods or second helpings, you simply put them off for a bit? Enter the power of deferring.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who used to be a smoker. She explained that, when she was trying to quit, she would tell herself and her friends, “I’m not smoking right now.” She told herself that the cigarettes would be there if she truly had to have one. She hasn’t touched a cigarette in years. This same deferral tactic can be applied to food. Say you’re enjoying pizza as a special treat and you want another slice. What if you told yourself that you’re welcome to have long as you wait ten minutes? You might find that this less restrictive mindset puts you back in charge of your choices and takes the power away from the food.

Losing weight and keeping it off is the ultimate in delayed gratification—you make choices now that don’t show immediate results. But if you practice just a little patience, and tell yourself that the treats you enjoy aren’t off-limits, you’ll be healthier in the long run. Who knew that putting something off could actually be a good thing?

Last reply on April 13, 2016 by GUEST


Wellness Wednesday will be back on Wednesday, April 13. To help keep your healthy habits from taking a break, check out past postings including, when to choose organic fruits and vegetables how to prevent food waste, and tips for setting a SMART goal. You can also head over to our Blogs, Videos and More page for more great info. Happy spring!


If you’re watching calories, you may think that you have to go without some of your favorite foods. But, rather than feel deprived, I prefer to look at this as an opportunity to add, or experiment with, other foods like vegetables. One way to cut calories and carbohydrates is to swap regular rice for cauliflower “rice.” All you have to do is toss cauliflower florets in a food processor and give them a whirl. Here are some of my favorite ways to use cauliflower rice.

  • Make a cauli-omelet. Sauté cauliflower rice in olive or coconut oil, add a couple eggs or egg whites, and you have a delicious way to start your morning.
  • Try a stir-fry. Replace regular rice with cauli-rice in your favorite stir-fry recipe. If you’re not quite willing to swap all of the regular rice, go half rice and half cauli-rice.
  • Mash with potatoes. Experimenting with new ways to add veggies to your favorite side dishes is a great way to gently persuade family members to try more nutritious options. When I first made mashed cauliflower for my husband it turned out like watery mush. The next time, I boiled the cauliflower florets with potatoes (which I know he loves) and it was much tastier. If a dish doesn’t turn out the first time, don’t be afraid to tweak it and try again.

Hungry for more ways to use vegetables? Check out my past blog on zucchini noodles. Bon appétit!

Something else to check out: Members, try our delicious and gluten-free cauliflower pizza crust by visiting the Healthy Eating & Recipes page in the Members Area of Once there, click Recipes and you’ll find this recipe under Baked Goods.

Last reply on March 17, 2016 by GUEST


March is National Nutrition Month® and is a great time to take a look at your meal plan. Maybe your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier didn’t quite pan out as you hoped, or maybe you’re ready to spring clean your diet. If you’ve done even a little research you’ve likely found a plethora of nutrition advice available online, in magazines, and through well-meaning friends. The trouble is this can make it all too easy to choose a diet that may be, at best, ineffective or, at worst, dangerous. That’s why I turned to registered dietitian and nutrition expert for TOPS Dena McDowell. Dena shared with me her top three tips to consider before choosing a meal plan.

  • Meet with an expert! A registered dietitian is the nutrition expert who can help you sift through the media’s diet claims and provide education and meal planning that is right for you. This person will help recommend the appropriate calorie level, meal plan and exercise to help promote weight loss based on your personal experiences and health history. Dietitians can also help teach behavior modification and encourage lifestyle changes to help you achieve overall health goals. Before starting any meal plan, you should check with a local registered dietitian to make sure that what you are doing is safe for your health.
  • Keep it simple (and balanced). If the diet that you’re considering has numerous rules of food to include or avoid, that should be a red flag. A healthy meal plan should not exclude foods or food groups*. By doing so, you’re missing out on key vitamins and minerals essential to maintaining overall health. This may cause nutrient deficiencies in the long term.
  • Don’t forget about portion control. If the diet says you can eat unlimited foods every day or certain days, you should question the rationale and long-term effectiveness of this type of meal plan. Meal plans that allow “cheat days” or unlimited portions of foods do not teach the behavior modification needed to see lasting weight loss. The only exception to this rule is unlimited portions of vegetables. If you see a meal plan that is balanced in food groups and says you can eat unlimited portions of vegetables, then I say go for it! This is a great choice to help weight loss as well as improve overall health.

*Everyone is unique and no one meal plan will work for all. If you’re abstaining from animal products or other food groups for health, religious or ethical reasons, we respect that and wish you well on your journey to health. This is meant to be more of a caution against choosing fad diets that exclude groups of foods. As always, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian for the plan that’s best for you and your unique needs.

Last reply on July 7, 2016 by Linda C. Huoni

Keep Moving

Change of shoes for the gym - check. Extra layer of gym clothes - check. Ice scraper for car - check. Extra driving time to account for slippery road conditions - check. Motivation to actually go to the gym - check (sort of). Who knew working out in the winter could be so much...well, work? Here in Wisconsin, winter can seem to drag on forever. Finding motivation to get or stay active is difficult enough without adding another barrier like lousy weather. That’s why the one thing that I try to keep in mind this time of year is to always be looking for ways to move.

This can mean marching in place during commercials, trying to beat yesterday’s step count, challenging a friend or coworker to see who can get more steps, and so on. This may also mean you have to deviate from your normal exercise routine, and that’s okay, as long as you always have a back-up plan. For example, I’ve been struggling to make it to my workout class three times a week lately. But, rather than throw my hands up and do nothing (which is what I’ve done in the past), I’ve made it a goal to get a minimum of 10,000 steps every single day. If this means marching in place in my living room at 9:30 at night to get those last few steps, then that’s what I have to do.

When you’re working toward your healthy goals, keep in mind that barriers like bad weather or a busy schedule are only barriers if you allow them to be. No matter what time of year it is, aim to look at each day as an opportunity to be a little bit better than you were yesterday.

Last reply on March 1, 2016 by GUEST

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Going with the Flow
Maggie Thorison
February 3, 2016


The other night, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make my workout class the following evening, I had the ambitious idea to set my alarm for 4:30 AM to get up and ride my stationary bike for an hour before work. This will be great, I thought. I’ll get my exercise out of the way first thing in the morning and won’t have to worry about it all day! By the time 4:30 rolled around, the only thought I had was to throw my alarm clock across the room. My ambitious idea had two big flaws: 1) I am not a morning person and 2) I find riding a stationary bike boring (no offense to anyone who enjoys this form of exercise. It’s just not for me.)

My idea was flawed because it didn’t fit with my lifestyle, what I enjoy, or who I am. It didn’t go with the flow of my life.

In my last blog I talked about setting SMART goals. Before setting a goal, it’s always a good idea to take time for a little personal reflection. Make sure the goal you are setting is a good fit for who you are and what you like. With a little practice, your goals will feel more like habits and less like one more thing you have to add to your endless to-do list.

Some of us are morning people, others are night owls. Some of us love working out with a group, others prefer a solitary stroll or jog through the neighborhood with only the company of our thoughts. We’re all different and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to weight loss and wellness. We just have to find what works best for us and what fits with the flow of our lives.

Last reply on February 11, 2016 by Ellen R. Alston

Smart Goal

Starting a new weight-loss plan is no small endeavor. It can be easy for questions like, “How many calories should I be eating?” “How often should I exercise?” “How do I stay motivated?” and “What if I fall off track?” to overwhelm us before we even take the first step. That’s why setting a SMART goal is a great tool for breaking your overall weight-loss goal into small, manageable steps. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Part of the TOPS approach to weight loss is that it’s better to lose weight slowly over time than it is to go full steam ahead—only to give up or revert back to old habits. Here are tips to help make SMART goals work for you.

  • Keep it simple. Life can be complicated enough without adding an elaborate goal that doesn’t work with your schedule and daily life. For example, if you have a jam-packed workday and a busy schedule at home, maybe vowing to work out for an hour every day isn’t realistic. Choosing instead to set an alarm on your phone to get up and move a little every hour during the workday could be a better fit.
  • Find a SMART goal buddy. The last time our workplace TOPS chapter set SMART goals, we all paired up and texted our partners a picture of us performing our goal. Our “SMART goal selfies” proved to be a fun motivator and a way to stay accountable.
  • Celebrate yourself. When you achieve your SMART goal, treat yourself to something special like a massage or a new shirt for the gym. I’ve been eyeing a new pair of running shoes and plan to treat myself if I achieve my personal goal of going to the gym three times a week for ten weeks.

The road to weight loss can be bumpy. But if we pave it with small, simple goals, we can make the journey worthwhile and set ourselves up for long-term success.

Last reply on July 13, 2016 by Angela Yvette Ziama


I always enjoy curling up on the couch with my dog and watching year-in-review specials. They serve as a captivating reminder of the past year’s highlights, lowlights, and breakthroughs. They can be a heartfelt tribute to the people or things we said goodbye to. And it’s always entertaining to see what was trending in the past year (selfie sticks, anyone?), who became famous or infamous, and what words were officially added to our vocabulary. Fun fact: the words awesomesauce, hangry (a combination of hungry and angry), and mic drop were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015.

As you look back on 2015 and think ahead to 2016, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your own personal year in review as it relates to your weight-loss journey. Specifically, take time to think about the following.

  • A memorable highlight and/or setback that impacted your weight. What can you learn from this?
  • Something you said goodbye to, or plan on saying goodbye to, or something you plan on saying hello to. For example, is there an unhealthy habit you’d like to finally kick? Or is there something you’ve always wanted to try, like a new exercise class?
  • What one word defined your journey in 2015, and what one word would you like to define 2016? My word of choice for 2016 is “determined.”
  • What will be your “mic drop moment” for 2016? If you’re unfamiliar with a mic drop, this was a trending word for 2015 and is something you do (figuratively speaking) after an awesome performance. Think of it as spiking a football in the end zone after a touchdown. If you’re a TOPS member, maybe your mic drop moment for 2016 will be reaching KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly) status.

If you’re ready to try something a little different from the usual New Year’s resolution, give these questions some thought, jot down your responses, and keep them somewhere where you can look at them every day. With a little planning and patience, there’s no reason your 2016 can’t be “awesomesauce.”


There’s no shortage of healthy holiday eating and food advice this time of year. As a weight-loss and wellness organization, we are happy to share this type of advice on everything from choosing holiday cookies to making a broccoli Christmas tree. But food isn’t the only part of the holidays that can be challenging to navigate. Let’s not forget about the people. We all seem to have that one pushy relative who insists that you have to try her famous pecan pie that she only makes once a year, or the in-laws who expect you to make room for multiple holiday feasts. This got us talking during our last workplace TOPS chapter meeting and we wanted to share our advice for navigating through three common holiday eating situations.

The multiple dinner situation. It’s not uncommon to be expected to attend several holiday meals in one day, especially if you’re trying to keep multiple sets of relatives happy. But how do you keep up appearances and enjoy multiple visits without feeling totally overstuffed? Plan ahead! For example, if you know that Grandma Gladys has a recipe for mashed potatoes that can’t be beat, and you’re heading to her house that evening, be sure to save room. And don’t be afraid to be choosy. Try to avoid eating the foods you don’t truly love just because they’re there.

The food forcer. Food forcers don’t necessarily mean to be pushy. In many families, sharing food may even be a way of showing love. But how do you turn down Aunt Mary’s famous pie without hurting her feelings? One simple way is to politely say that you’re full from her delicious meal but that you’d love to take a piece of pie home. You could even ask her for the recipe if she’s willing to share.

Unsolicited comments. When you’re trying to make healthy choices, you may encounter the relative or friend who “misses the old you” or wonders why you’re “eating all that healthy stuff.” Lifestyle changes can be scary to the people who are closest to you, and this can lead to hurtful or obnoxious comments. Remember, this is your life and you’re choosing what’s best for you. That being said, having your responses planned out ahead of time is never a bad idea and you can be assertive while still being polite. Try not to dwell too much on what others say. This just robs you of valuable energy.

We may not be able to control what people do, say, or how they feel, but we can control how we respond. We are in charge of the healthy choices that we make, not only during the holidays, but all year long.

Last reply on March 17, 2016 by GUEST

Enjoy the Little Things art

We’re often reminded to stop and appreciate the little things in life. Whether it’s a beautiful sunny day, a co-worker surprising you with coffee, or an unexpected compliment from a loved one, it’s these little things that get us through the day and give us something to smile about. It’s important to keep the little things in mind on our healthy lifestyle journeys, too. We may be working toward a larger goal like losing 50 pounds, dropping two pants’ sizes, or finishing our first 5K, but it’s important to celebrate the little victories along the way - no matter how small they might seem. Maybe you smile when your exercise app sounds a buzzer each time you reach your 10,000 steps. Maybe you get excited when you turn your leftovers into a healthy lunch instead of hitting the drive-thru. Or maybe you pat yourself on the back for making it to the gym, even though there are at least a dozen places you’d rather be.

Whatever little victories keep you going, don’t ignore them. After all, it’s the little things in life that can help us make a big change.

Last reply on November 18, 2015 by Sherilyn Cavallero

Flu Road Sign

Did you know that nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to the flu each flu season? And do you ever feel like you have to start from scratch with your workout routine and healthy eating plan after you’re hit with the flu or a nasty cold? Don’t spend your vacation days on unplanned sick time or let the flu derail your healthy habits. Arm yourself now against cold and flu season with these five tips.

  • Practice good hand washing skills by humming the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after visiting germ “hot spots” such as grocery stores, malls, airports and so on.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs are easily transmitted this way.
  • Wipe down and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like your keyboard and mouse, remote control and cell phone (your phone can carry more bacteria than a toilet seat!).
  • Consider getting a flu shot. It may even be covered in part or in full by your insurance plan.

Finally, keep in mind that the same healthy habits that help you manage your weight can also help you avoid the flu. Get plenty of sleep, eat your fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and get a handle on stress to give your immune system a boost. Don’t get let the flu blues get to you this winter. Instead, do all you can to prevent the bug so that you can plan, and enjoy, your time off from work.

Last reply on November 5, 2015 by Ellen R. Alston


Here at TOPS, we’ve made a veggie skeleton, we’ve made “candy corn” by layering yellow and orange peppers with cauliflower on toothpicks, and now we’re at it again. We bring you, the Halloween vegetable tray! If you’re planning on heading to, or hosting, Halloween festivities this year make your veggie tray anything but ordinary in just a few simple steps:

  1. Pick up Halloween or fall-themed cookie cutters at your local craft store. We used cookie cutters in the shape of a leaf and pumpkin for the tray pictured above.
  2. Use the cutters on vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers or zucchini.
  3. Serve with red pepper hummus (for its orange hue) or your favorite dip.

It’s that easy! You can save the leftover vegetable pieces for a salad, soup, or stew. Who says Halloween has to be all about the candy?

Last reply on November 5, 2015 by GUEST


Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin-spiced ice cream, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin frosting, pumpkin candy...if you’ve been in a grocery store lately you’ve probably seen one of these treats. We are officially in the season of pumpkin-spiced everything. According to Registered Dietitian and nutrition expert for TOPS, Dena McDowell, these foods have one thing in common...and it has nothing to do with actual pumpkin. Most of these treats are loaded with sugar and calories and lack the nutrients of real pumpkin. That’s a shame, too, since, according to Dena, pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium and antioxidants. To help you reap the nutritional benefits of this natural superfood, Dena shares the following tips for adding pumpkin to your diet.

  • Boost your fiber for the day by adding pumpkin puree to yogurt.
  • Need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Add cooked pumpkin to homemade muffins or cookies. Using pumpkin puree can substitute for oil or butter and will produce a moist and light final product.
  • Enjoy a hearty soup or stew made with pumpkin.
  • Don’t forget about the seeds! Lightly coat pumpkin seeds with olive oil and seasonings of your choice and bake. Enjoy this crunchy snack mixed with dried fruit.

If pumpkin-spiced treats are one of your favorite parts of fall, it’s perfectly okay to indulge every once in a while. Just remember that, sometimes, you can’t beat the real thing.

Last reply on February 18, 2016 by Judy A Culbertson


Working for a health and wellness organization, my team and I are often asked, “What’s the best form of exercise?” Well, swimming is an awesome way to burn calories and is easy on your joints...but what if you hate water? Running is a popular form of cardio and requires little more than a good pair of shoes...but what if you recently had a knee replacement? There’s always free weights which are an awesome way to build strength and burn fat...but what if weights just aren’t your thing? There are as many forms of exercise as there are excuses not to. But the long list of benefits for each of these means nothing to you if you don’t like it because you won’t do it. That’s why the best form of exercise is the one you’ll actually do.

I can’t take credit for the above statement, but it’s one of my favorites. Keep in mind I wrote this with my right foot propped up post-minor surgery. I can’t do my usual exercise routine and am even finding walking to be a challenge. But, I’m trying my very best to focus on what I can do rather than complaining about what I can’t do. I can do upper-body exercises, I can take short walks with my dog, and I can do some light stretching. And, more importantly, these are things I want to do. Well, until I’m able to return to my normal workout routine, that is.

The best form of exercise can change with age, tastes, or whatever unexpected curveballs life throws your way. The one thing that should never change is the drive to keep doing what you love in order to achieve a happier, healthier you.

Last reply on November 5, 2015 by Ellen R. Alston

Zucchini Noodles

If you’ve read some of my past postings, you may have noticed that I kind of have a thing for veggies. And I don’t mean that in an “I-always-choose-carrot-sticks-over-potato chips kind of way.” Far from it. I still enjoy foods like chips and the occasional cheeseburger; I just love the versatility of vegetables. I love the endless list of nutritional benefits and I love how they make me feel after I eat them. I realize that not everyone shares this love, and that’s totally fine. But, by being open to trying to new things, we may just be able to turn a dislike of veggies into a tolerate, a tolerate into a like, and a like into a love. One new spin on vegetables you may want to try is using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler on zucchini. Zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,” are a healthy and fun way to get in your vegetable servings. Here are three ways to try zoodles no matter where you fall on the veggie-liking spectrum.

Beginner (dislike to tolerate): Sauté zucchini noodles and mix them in with regular pasta like fettuccine or spaghetti noodles. If you’re not quite ready to trade your pasta for veggie noodles, this is a great place to start.

Intermediate (tolerate to like): Make a “pasta” dish using only zucchini noodles. I like to sauté the zucchini noodles in olive oil and add fresh garlic, salt, freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese. You can add a protein to make a complete (and delicious) meal. Plus, you still get to do the cool fork twisting thing that you do with regular pasta.

Zucchini master (like to love): Try a zucchini noodle casserole. Fall is in the air and that means comfort foods like soups and casseroles are sounding more appealing. Swapping pasta noodles (such as lasagna noodles) in your favorite casserole for slices of zucchini is a healthy spin on this classic comfort food.

Whether you’re grain-free, you’re tired of the same old same old or you have no idea what to do with the ten pounds of zucchini your neighbor just brought over from her garden, give these noodles a try. You just may develop a thing for veggies, too.

Last reply on December 5, 2016 by Marlys Davis


Have you ever pored over a recipe, carefully planning every ingredient, only for it to turn out to be a big dud? If you’ve ever cooked or baked, chances are you may have made a flavorless side dish or cookies that could pass for hockey pucks. It happens. Throughout our weight-loss journeys, TOPS encourages us to keep trying and to not be afraid of making mistakes. The same applies to our adventures in the kitchen. If we don’t keep trying, we may miss out on a really tasty recipe.

After a trip to the farmers market this past weekend, I think I may have stumbled upon my new go-to summer salad. And, the best part is, the recipe was totally unplanned and turned out delicious. It ended up being a hit at a Sunday afternoon cookout. In hopes that I inspire you too to be fearless in the kitchen, check out my three-step summer salad.

  • Wash and chop yellow tomatoes, mini sweet peppers and small cucumbers typically used for making pickles. Feel free to substitute other vegetables however you’d like.
  • Add fresh chopped basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Mix together and enjoy!

Sometimes, the best things in life are totally unplanned. Flops will happen in the kitchen, and in life, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. We may just have to change up the ingredients.

Last reply on August 27, 2015 by Maggie Thorison