Out on the town without packing on the pounds

This post is intended for adults 21+.

 We all want to go out with our friends on the weekends and enjoy ourselves.

But when you’re on a diet, it’s not always easy. Here are a few of my tips to enjoy a night out while still maintaining your goals to get healthy!

1) Make your own drinks at home. Not only will it save you cash) Have you seen what drinks cost in Chicago?) Just because you’re cutting back on calories doesn’t mean that you can’t make delectable drinks. I recommend Skinny Mixes  (5 calories per 4 oz serving) and Skimpy Mixers (15 calories per 4 oz serving) – just add a shot of your favorite liquor and drink up! I also recommend to pair it with a fun looking glass. Why not?

2) Please keep this one quiet or you could get into a lot of trouble. Just ask my boyfriend what happened on my 21st birthday at a sports bar in Las Vegas. If you can’t make your own drinks at home, bring small mixers with you that can fit in your purse. While there are low-calorie options you can order at the bar, they tend to have caffeine (rum and diet coke) or are extremely bitter. That’s why I will bring with me zero-calorie  Crush Liquid Enhancers, Icee Zero Liquid Water Enhancer or use half of a Crystal Light packet (the size intended for a 16.9 oz water bottle). Add to a vodka and soda water and presto! You have a great tasting, fruity drink with only 100 calories. Remember to order soda water and not tonic water, which has a ton of calories.

3) Bring your own snacks with you in your purse! The temptation can run high to binge on pizza or other delectable late-night bites when you’re out. I particularly like Reese’s Puffs Treats because they are large and only 100 calories.  They will seem like a guilty indulgence, but they aren’t!

4) This doesn’t relate to diet, but just to health in general. Remember to always stay safe when you’re out at night! Don’t leave your group of friends and NEVER leave your drink unattended.

How To: Make a Low-Calorie Creamy Cheesy Chicken Macaroni

Q: What could be better than chicken nuggets, cream sauce, pasta and cheese?

A: A delicious baked combo of all four that lacks calories but doesn’t skimp on flavor!

As a child, I would only eat something if it contained either a) chicken nuggets, b) pasta or c) cheese.

Now that I am much older, my palette has become much more sophisticated. I only eat raw fish, water and kale.

Okay, I’m just kidding.

I still crave a) chicken nuggets, b) pasta and c) cheese.

Unfortunately, when I started my diet, my favorite foods were out of reach. They seemed to be only a distant memory, floating among the clouds. I felt trapped in my routine of eating plain chicken breast every single day.

I’m being serious when I say that the day I discovered FiberGourmet pasta changed my life. It was as if I had received a gift from up above. The magical pasta can be purchased online in many popular shapes including rotini, spaghetti, fettuccine and elbow macaroni.

Although it tastes the exact same as your standard supermarket pasta, it has 70 less calories per cup. Somehow, the makers of FiberGourmet were able to put more fiber into their products, which ultimately takes calories out.

Ever since my discovery, I have made many of my own pasta inventions. No longer were the cream sauces and cheese out of reach.

This recipe combines my life-long favorite foods into a single low-calorie dish. It has quickly become one of my favorite creations. It has also become a favorite of the kids I babysit. They have no idea how low-calorie it is!


Start to finish: About 30 minutes

Servings: 2

  • 1 cup dry Fibergourmet Light Elbow macaroni
  • 4-5 sprays of butter spray
  • ¼ cup Great Value Classic Alfredo sauce or any other light alfredo sauce (45 calories or less per ¼ cup serving)
  • ¼ cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 Tyson fully-cooked chicken nuggets
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • Stovetop pan and drainer (for cooking pasta)
  • Small oven-safe glass or metal pan

Image Heat the oven to 350 F. Spray the small oven-safe glass or metal baking pan with 4-5 sprays of the butter spray, making sure to coat the sides of the pan.

 Cook and drain 1 cup dry Fibergourmet Light Elbows according to package on stovetop.


 Carefully pour pasta into the oven-safe glass pan. Add the alfredo sauce and stir until mixed.


Top with chicken nuggets and shredded mozzarella cheese.


Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Add one tablespoon grated parmesan cheese. Serve with a smile!


 Nutritional information per serving: 325 calories.

Optional dessert: I like to wrap up this meal with another former “forbidden food” – a 110-calorie slice of Carrot cake, courtesy of Chicago-based online retailer Simply Scrumptous!


Downtown Quick-Service Food Swaps

Sometimes we don’t have all the time in the world to grab a bite to eat.  While there is practically a McDonald’s on every street corner in downtown Chicago, your options lay far beyond the deep-fried. Today, I’m going to explore a few of my favorite quick-service restaurants that offer healthier options.


Click HERE to see a closer map of all the restaurants listed below.

Instead of going to Chipotle —>Try Protein Bar

Craving a burrito (and NOT a salad bowl)? Try out Protein Bar’s signature Bar-ritos. Offering eight different options ranging from BBQ to Green City Vegan, all Bar-ritos are wrapped in a warm tortilla and under 700 calories.

At the corner of State Street & Lake Avenue.

Instead of going to Jimmy John’s —>Try Hannah’s Bretzel

With all gourmet sandwiches under 600 calories, Hannah’s Bretzel is worth a visit if you work in the Loop. The sandwich shop offers way more than the standard turkey club. Try something different with the apple thyme brie sandwich, featuring fresh organic apple crisps.

233 N. Michigan Ave., concourse level.

Instead of Epic Burger —>Try M Burger

In terms of calories, the epic battle between the two Chicago burger joints has been won by M Burger. You can now request your burger made “salad style” which replaces your bun with a lettuce wrap. This eliminates nearly 200 calories from your daily count. If this doesn’t sound delectable to you, I promise that you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you won’t miss the bun.

5 W. Ontario St.

Instead of Lou Malnati’s —>Try Uno Pizzeria & Grill

We Chicagoans love our deep dish pizza places, but they’re not exactly catering to the calorie-conscious. However, if you find yourself among a group of pizza lovers, it would be wise to suggest Uno. While (sadly) no one has invented a low-cal deep dish, Uno offers an array of options less than 500 calories, including baked pastas, chicken dishes, sandwiches and skinny drinks.

29 E. Ohio St.

Note: Many of the dining establishments listed offer additional locations in the Chicagoland area, so be sure to check each restaurant’s website for more information.

Advice from a Chicago Health Junkie

Today I sat down and spoke with the most active person I know, my close confidant Scott Solomon. He has not eaten anything fried in 10 years, and hits the gym seven days a week, even during blizzards and on holidays. He shares with me his advice for someone seeking a healthier lifestyle in Chicago.

ImageSolomon (at bat) playing baseball in high school.

Q: So when was the last time you missed a workout at the gym?

A: I honestly can’t even remember. I like to go every day unless I have a prior commitment, but I can usually get in at least 15 minutes no matter what. I prefer to go for around two hours. Exercise invigorates my soul. It is important for me to stay fit. It helps me feel good about myself. Not only do I feel good, I feel refreshed. My mind is clear and I am able to think. It relieves tension.

Q: Wow, that is quite a commitment! Who inspired you to become so active?

A: I took after my dad, who was a swimmer for as long as I could remember. He used to play basketball, baseball, softball and tennis. I wanted to be just like him ever since I was a kid.

Q: So when an Xsport Fitness opened a block from your home, you and your father were first in line to join, right?

A: Yes, we were. I was 14 years old. You are supposed to be at least 16, but they allowed me to join because nobody minded. I didn’t get in the way of other people. Even after my father passed away (in 2008) I continued to go to Xsport every day. I froze my membership when I was studying at the University of Illinois, but now that I am back in Chicago, I’m back at the gym. I’m still locked into my $35 a month contract.

Q: The rates have now gone up to $50 a month for a new member. Would you still say that Xsport is the ideal gym even with a higher price tag?

A: Absolutely. There are dozens of locations in the Chicagoland area, and all of them are included with your membership. They have free parking, a rock climbing wall, a hot tub, swimming pool and basketball courts. I think the included amenities offer a good value for the money compared to other gyms. Although the included facility at U of I wasn’t bad either.

Q: What would you recommend for someone trying to get in shape in Chicago?

A: Well, they could join me. I could take them under my wing. Just kidding. I would say to start out nice and easy. Join a gym. Go three times per week, even if its just walking on a treadmill. There’s the great social aspect of a gym too. I consider mine to be an extension of my home. I have made many life-long friends there. People will not judge you as long as you are out there trying your hardest. If people know you want to be there, people will encourage and motivate you to get to your goals.

Q: Beyond going to the gym, what other activities would you recommend to stay fit? 

A: Riding a bike along the lake path is nice, obviously. I would say, though, to get a dog. Not only is taking it for a walk or run great exercise, but its also a great way to meet women. When I went out with my dog, women flaunted over him. They would say how cute he was. Then they would start flirting with me.

Q: Switching gears a bit here, you also keep a strict diet with no fried and all-natural foods. How do you do it?

A: I used to have stomach problems, so I was forced to change my diet. I could probably eat a lot of fried foods and not gain weight because I exercise a lot. Even though my stomach is better now, I keep my diet because it helps me feel better. I think that a lot more people could benefit from a healthier diet.

 Q: Any last words of advice?

Join a gym, get a dog, try your hardest and stay away from deep dish pizzas!


Well hi there. My name is Holly. I am a 21-year-old gal living in the city of Chicago. In 2012, I dropped the nearly 35 (oops – see pic) pounds that I gained my freshman year of college.

I have been able to keep off the weight for nearly 1 year 1/2 now, and I hope to share my insights with you as to how I lost, and continue to maintain my weight. So to start, I would like to present my top three ways that I keep myself fit.


(3) Portion control: This is a biggie, and probably the most important – but it’s not the most fun, which is why I’m keeping it at #3. In order to lose weight, I used the MyFitnessPal app and website. It helped me set realistic calorie goals on a daily basis. Seriously, I had no idea what was in everything that I was eating. It allows you to track both your  daily calories and exercise. It also has an impressive database of foods (including Chicago specific places, like Portillo’s!) and the app features a barcode scanner that inputs any food in your pantry. C’mon, who doesn’t like scanning stuff?

(2) Don’t go crazy: Paleo? Gummy bear cleanse? Eating nothing but raw eggs or whatever the new craze is? DON’T DO IT. Honestly. Everyone I know has failed on a fad diet. Even if they lost weight initially, they weren’t able to keep it off because those diets don’t teach you how to change your lifestyle for good  (you’re not going to be bringing your gummy bears with you to your wedding, are you?)

While it takes a bit longer, healthy eating and exercise is the only way you can truly achieve your goals.

Another thing – don’t go crazy! Especially if you’re losing 20+ pounds, you like, can’t not have a treat once in awhile (I’m not talking about a “cheat day” here – those don’t work either. I’m referring to the occasional indulgence.) And to compensate for that indulgence, I would recommend making it into an occasion. Love to veg out eating ice cream and watching Sex in the City re-runs? Instead, grab some low-cal froyo at Starfruit Cafe (a Chicago original!) and catch Miranda’s wild antics on the treadmill.

Speaking of exercise..

(1) Get ready to WERQ: This is the MOST FUN of all which is why I am putting it at #1. I hate exercise. Like, I really hate exercise. Not because I can’t do it, but because it’s just so boring. Ladies, I have found an answer to your woes. And it’s WERQ fitness. Without angering the creators of WERQ (Chicago natives, of course) because they dislike any comparison to the Z-word, WERQ is sort of similar to Zumba. Except with hip-hop and rap music, which gets you going hard. I can burn 400+ calories in a one hour class, and it flies by. It just is…fun. Check out the video below to see what I mean:

Click here to find a WERQ class near you!