Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Slim Down with Slim-Fast (& Giveaway!)

What's that? It's nearly time for back to school? Not around here it isn't!

August is usually the hottest month here in Ohio, and that means beach weather. Our family is planning a trip to Lake Erie in August, and I'm already a little nervous about knowing I'll have to be in a bathing suit for part of that trip. As much as I'd like to wave away body concerns and say it doesn't bother me, the truth is it does. Not as much as it used to, but I still want to look and feel my best when swimming and building sand castles with my daughters.

Slim-Fast is helping me reach my summer slim down goals by providing me with nutritious shakes, meal bars, and snack bars that are delicious, filling, and help me keep my calories and cravings under control. I used Slim-Fast earlier this year to shed ten pounds and get myself right on the edge of a healthy weight. (And I've kept it off!) Now I'm counting on Slim-Fast again to help me lose a few more pounds and get me to my goal weight before I step into that bathing suit.

The Slim-Fast plan is simple. One shake or meal bar in the morning, one at lunch, and then a balanced 500-calorie dinner. You also get three snacks to keep cravings at bay between meals, and you can either try one of their 100-calorie snack bars (which taste like indulgent candy bars!) or any other 100-calorie snack that you like, such as a cheese stick, small cup of nonfat yogurt, a piece of fruit, a handful of almonds, or any other treat that suits your tastes!

If you add up the calories you'll see the plan budgets for about 1200 calories a day. I try to work in running or strength training a few days a week, and for me I usually increase my calories by 100 on those days. (I've found that's what works best for my metabolism - you may need to find what best works for you in those situations.) The shakes have 10 grams of protein in them, which helps me feel content between meals. The snacks, for me, are really all about indulging and feeling like I'm getting a treat.

I've been back on the plan for a little over a week now and have already lost one pound, which is a big deal for me. This close to my goal, I have to fight hard for every pound lost. I'm excited to see the scale moving down again - Slim-Fast makes it so easy for this busy mom to have nutritious meals no matter how much is going on in my life. I can't wait to WOW everyone next month!


Enter to win one of TWO Slim-Fast “Summer of WOW!” Swag Bags. The bags have everything you’ll need to turn heads on the beach, including a $20 gift card to a top department store to add to your WOW! wardrobe, a bright beach tote, a premium infuser water bottle and a sampling of Slim-Fast products designed to help you look your best before you hit the beach.

To enter, just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. Two winners will be chosen after the giveaway closes on Thursday, July26.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post was created in connection with my appointment as an Ambassador in the Slim-Fast® Summer Slim-Down Challenge. Visit to join the conversation.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

McDonald's Is Changing Up The Face of Fast Food (& Giveaway!)

About a month ago, I had the chance to meet with McDonald's Head Chef Daniel Coudreaut, aka Senior Director of Culinary Innovation. That's a really long title that means he's the guy in charge of creating all of the new menu items for McDonald's.

Now, I know that when you think of health food, McDonald's probably isn't the first thing to pop into your mind. It probably doesn't even make the top ten. Chef Dan is working to change that perception, however. We sat down for lunch together where he explained to me and the other bloggers and media present how his goal is to make the McDonald's menu more nutritional while still making it a great choice for fast, tasty and reasonably priced meals.

Before we go any further, I want to add: there are a lot of tasty-yet-not-so-healthy food options at McDonald's. I know this, and I'm in no way trying to claim that McD's is THE place to go for health food. My family visits McDonald's about once a week, and the kids consider it a treat. I strongly believe it's all about moderation, and while I'm featuring some of the new, lower cal and all-natural menu items here, I'll add that I don't believe there's anything wrong with treating yourself now and then, either. You'll never take away my french fries...I'll just have a small size instead of a large now.

Many of the newer menu items have been developed with an eye for more fresh produce, natural ingredients and fewer calories. Chef Dan's most prized creation thus far, he said, is the oatmeal - packed with whole grains and already a popular breakfast item.

Chef Dan explaining the process of developing a new menu item

We got to sample the summer fresh Blueberry Banana Nut oatmeal (only 290 calories) and I have to admit it was really good. Sweet, but not too sweet, and not at all soupy or mushy. The oats had a great consistency and the blueberries were ripe and perfect. I never would have considered fast food oatmeal before trying this, but now I can see choosing this for a quick breakfast on the road without the guilt of greasy breakfast food.

After the oatmeal we were introduced to the Grilled Chicken Southwest Salad with a spicy Southwest dressing. The salad has a roasted corn and black bean salsa with tortilla strips and a lime wedge. It was deliciously spicy with flavors of pepper and cilantro. 

 Words cannot describe how sinfully delicious this is.

Chef Dan explained that not only was this a tasty lunch item, but the premium salad contained three cups of vegetables in a serving! I couldn't even finish my salad even though I really, really wanted to. Since then this salad has become a regular for me when my family has a dinner out at McDonald's.

The biggest shocker for me, though, was the new Cherry Berry Chiller. I love this blended fruit juice and ice drink, but the bright red color made me leery of giving it to my children. My oldest can't have artificial colors and I generally steer clear of artificial flavors, too. Chef Dan's shocker for me: the Cherry Berry Chiller is ALL NATURAL! No artificial colors, no high-fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors. Just fruit concentrate, ice, fruit and vegetable juice for coloring and citric acid - that's it! Suddenly I feel guilty for not sharing with my kids. (Well, only a little...these drinks are delicious!)

Cherry Berry Chiller paired with a fruit & yogurt parfait

I love that McDonald's is creating new foods for their menu that are packed with whole grains and natural ingredients. Yes, they'll always have the Big Mac and french fries, but the emphasis is about choices, not forcing nutrition on people. It's great that I can go to McDonald's now and put together a meal under 500 calories that is tasty and filling, or I can still choose to have a double cheeseburger if I want.

The changes to Happy Meals are another decision I can fully support. All Happy Meals now come with a kid-size box of fries (we call them a "shot" of fries) and a bag of apple slices. My kids no longer have to choose between two sides that they like, and the combo shaves nearly 100 calories off of the old meal with fries alone.

Providing greater variety in a fast food setting is a great idea and I love many of the new selections coming from Chef Dan and McDonald's!

Want to try McDonald's new oatmeal for yourself?

I have three coupons for a free McDonald's oatmeal to give to three lucky readers. (Note: they expire in August 3, so please be aware of timing.)

To enter, just leave a comment below telling me your favorite food item from McDonald's - easy-peasy, right? Make sure you leave an email address so I can contact you if you're a winner.

One entry per person, US residents only. Entries close on Tuesday, July 10 at 11:59pm ET. I'll randomly select 3 winners and then get your free oatmeal coupons in the mail for you to enjoy!

Good luck!

Full disclosure: I enjoyed a complimentary lunch while talking with Chef Dan, as well as coupons to redeem for other free menu items. I'm also a member of McDonald's Family Arches Community and have received free food items in exchange for feedback. All opinions are my own, including my wish that there was an addiction support group for the cherry berry chiller.