Best Practices From The National Weight Control Registry

Barbell and Measuring Tape

Keeping-it Off and Preventing Further Weight Gain are the Keys to Weight Maintenance

I did a blog post on this topic a few years back, but it is worth repeating the lessons learned from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR).  This registry is the largest study of individuals who have maintained their weight loss. As a dietitian who has helped people lose weight, I can tell you that despite the difficulties with losing weight, it is ten times harder to prevent yourself from gaining the weight back. That is why it is so important to learn from the participants in this registry and discover what their strategies, or best practices, are regarding successful weight loss maintenance.

There are over 10,000 people in the NWCR and they have maintained an average weight loss of 66 pounds for more that 5 years. These are significant numbers and serve as a source of inspiration. Here’s what they have in common regarding their eating and exercise habits:

  • All lost weight with a combination of diet and exercise, but many different types of diets were used
  • They stick to a low-fat, restricted-calorie diet
  • Self-monitoring is used, such as weekly weighing and recording food intake and activity
  • Many eat breakfast everyday
  • They engage in 60 minutes of physical activity everyday with walking as the most frequent activity reported

That last one is a tough one. It can be difficult to fit in an hour of exercise everyday, but it is a proven method that works to prevent the pounds from creeping back up. Basically, the results show us that you cannot maintain your weight loss by just restricting calories; daily exercise needs to become part of your new, lean lifestyle.

The good news about exercise is that studies show it can be broken-up into “chunks”, so it is not all or nothing. If you do not have time to exercise for a solid hour, you can do 20 minutes, three times a day. Also, the more you exercise the easier it becomes as you begin to enjoy the benefits of sleeping better at night and having more energy during the day. Keep in mind that greater than half of these “big maintainers” watch less than 10 hours of TV per week, so they are leading an active lifestyle. That is really the key – staying active like the successful participants of the NWCR.

Click on this link to learn more about the NWCR and to read some inspiring weight loss stories. Click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave a comment – do you have any best practices regarding weight loss and weight loss maintenance to share?


Citrus Tea Cake with Blackberry Maple Syrup


This tangy tea cake mops up the blackberry maple syrup


During the warm summer months, I still want dessert (of course), but I want it to be lighter and brighter, just like the season. My tea cake fits the bill with its sweet orange and tangy lemon and blackberry flavors. Serve it warm with the syrup drizzled over the top and a generous amount pooled on the plate as well, so the cake can soak up the syrupy goodness from the bottom. Whipped cream is essential. It can be enjoyed for breakfast too – I may have experience in that regard.

Quick tip: When cooking or baking, it’s very helpful to read your recipe through and have all of your ingredients, bowls and pans assembled prior to starting. In French, the term for this is: mise en place.



Mise en place keeps you organized in the kitchen


What are your favorite ways to eat blackberries?  Are you a “mise en place” kind of cook? Please comment below and let me know if you try this recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Summer!


Citrus Tea Cake with Blackberry Maple Syrup


3 T lemon juice

¼ C (approx..) whole milk

1 t vanilla extract

1 T orange zest

1 ¼ C flour

¾ C quick-cooking oats

1 t baking soda

½ t salt

½ C + 6 T butter (14 T total), softened

2/3 cup firmly packed, light brown sugar

1 egg


Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 8” X 8” pan.

Create flavored buttermilk by mixing 3 T lemon juice with enough milk to make ½ cup total. Swirl in vanilla extract and orange zest and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, oats, baking soda and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until well blended, 1 – 2 min. Beat in egg and flavored buttermilk. Stir in dry ingredients at a low setting for 1 – 2 min.

Spoon cake mix into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25 – 28 min. until toothpick in center comes out clean. Do not turn off oven because you will use it for the blackberry maple syrup.

Let cake cool and serve warm with blackberry maple syrup and whipped cream.


Blackberry Maple Syrup


2 C fresh blackberries

½ C Pure Vermont maple syrup, dark

2 t lemon juice

1/8 t ground cinnamon

¼ t orange zest

1 T butter, cut into 4 pieces

Oven should already be preheated to 375°F from the cake. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and place blackberries in the pan.

Using a small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients and pour over blackberries. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven and remove the foil.  Stir the blackberry mixture with a spoon. Leave the pan uncovered and place it back in the oven for 15 more minutes.

Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with warm citrus tea cake and whipped cream.






A Farmer’s Market Staple: Zucchini

Zucchini Pie


A Toasty Casserole – Get it Before it’s Gone!


I’ve marked my calendar and have my reusable shopping bags ready for the opening of my town’s farmer’s market in a week and a half. Yes, I’m counting down the days! After the harsh, but not too harsh winter and the chilly spring, the farmer’s market is a welcome and familiar sign of summer – like an old friend I’ve been longing to see and catch-up with. Also, one of the new vendors has homemade, flavored iced teas, so I will be there when they open at Noon. I better bring my large travel mug as well.

Later in the summer, while I sip my iced tea and shop at the market, I will be sure to put zucchini in my bag. It is one of my favorite summer vegetables, even though botanically speaking, it is actually a fruit. The dishes that can be made with zucchini, from breakfast to dessert, are as abundant as the vegetable when it’s ready to harvest and seems to multiply at an exponential rate. If you cannot wait for local zucchini, use green squash which is usually available year-round in the grocery store.

I am posting my favorite zucchini recipe below compliments of my Mom (aka Grandma Rita). I did alter the recipe a bit, primarily reducing the oil, because the original recipe was too greasy (Ma agreed). This zucchini “pie” has no crust and is baked in a square pan, but just work with me and let’s call it a pie. Zucchini is a good source of folate, potassium, vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. Choose zucchini that is 8 inches or less in length for the best flavor. Zucchini pie can be served warm as a side dish or main course, but is also delicious when enjoyed cold for breakfast. If doubling the recipe, use a 9 x 13 pan.

What is your favorite summer recipe? Do you enjoy visiting your local farmer’s market? Let me know in the comments below and, of course, let me know if you try this recipe. I hope you enjoy it – straight from Grandma’s kitchen.


Zucchini Pie


2 ½ cups zucchini, shredded (2 – 3 med.) *see below

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

1 ½ cups (4 oz.) cheddar cheese, shredded

1 ¼ Cup Bisquick

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ t salt

1/8 t pepper

½ t basil

½ t oregano

1/8 t garlic powder

1 – 2 T parmesan cheese, optional (for sprinkling)


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 8 x 8 x 2” pan with non-stick spray.

*Scrub and pat dry zucchini. Cut each zucchini in half and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Shred the zucchini using the large holes of a cheese grater or food processor.

Place shredded zucchini in a large bowl and gently press with two or three paper towels to remove some of the moisture.

In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil and remaining ingredients. Pour egg mixture into the bowl of zucchini and mix until zucchini is evenly coated.

Pour into greased pan and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Bake 35 – 45 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

Healthy Shepherd’s Pie is the Ultimate Comfort Food




















There’s nothing like meat and potatoes to warm you up inside. This Shepherd’s Pie recipe is a healthier version than the original. With lean meat and veggies, it will warm you up without filling you up. The potatoes can be made the day before to speed-up prep time. Enjoy this nutritious twist on a traditional favorite!

Shepherd’s Pie


2 – 3 lbs. baking potatoes, enough to equal 4 cups mashed
1/2 – 1 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tspn. salt
1/8 tspn. pepper

1 1/4 lb. 90% lean ground beef
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. balsalmic vinaigrette dressing
1 tspn. oregano, dried flakes
1 tspn. basil, dried flakes
1/2 tspn. salt
1/8 tspn. pepper
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite, diced tomatoes, undrained
1 bay leaf
1 cup corn, cooked

2 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. water

Spray 9 X 13 in. casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350.

Wash and peel potatoes and cut into even pieces, approx. 2-3 in. cubes. Place in large pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook 15 minutes or until tender, using a fork to test. Drain water from pot and place pot and potatoes back on low heat and add milk a little at a time, along with cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Beat at medium speed with electric beaters until smooth. Set aside or place in refrigerator if making the rest of the recipe later.

Cook ground beef in large, non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned. Drain fat and set aside ground beef. Wipe drippings from skillet and add olive oil, warming over medium heat. Add carrot, pepper, onion and garlic and saute for 8 minutes. Add ground beef to the vegetables and add dressing, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over med-high and then reduce heat to medium and cover and cook for 25 minutes. While meat mixture is cooking, cook corn (either frozen or canned) and warm-up potatoes. When meat mixture is done, remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

Place flour in small bowl and gradually whisk in water to create a thick, soupy paste. Add to meat mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Spread meat mixture in casserole dish and sprinkle with corn. Spoon potatoes on top and spread to the edges of the pan. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly around edges, remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Alphabet Soup with Vegetables and Beans


Delicious Pasta and Bean Soup is Loaded with Veggies

Evidence is mounting on the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet – a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy fats. Low-fat dairy foods, lean red meats, fish, skinless poultry and eggs are also included in the diet, if desired, but in moderate amounts. This way of eating can lower the risk for heart disease and diabetes and may help prevent certain cancers as well. A recent study in Greece followed 2,500 adults for 10 years. They found that those individuals ranked in the top third as being most adherent to a Mediterranean diet had a 47% decrease in risk for developing heart disease compared to individuals that did not follow the diet (ranked in the bottom third).

Following this diet may be a complete lifestyle change for you, but small goals can help get you there. One way to increase your vegetable consumption is to start your lunch or dinner meal with a salad or vegetable soup. This pasta fagioli soup, or pasta and beans soup, with it’s savory tomato-based broth, is full of vegetables and flavor. It’s also a wonderful light meal with some carrot sticks and hummus, even though my teenage son has declared that soup is not a meal. However you enjoy this comforting soup, you’ll know it’s good for your heart.

Did you try this recipe? Do you have a favorite soup you enjoy? Please click on the title of this post and scroll to the bottom to leave a comment.

Alphabet Soup with Vegetables and Beans


1 sweet or yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 green squash, halved, seeds scooped out with a spoon, halved again and chopped

2 yellow squash, halved, seeds scooped out with a spoon, halved again and chopped

3 carrots, sliced in half and chopped

3 celery sticks, sliced in half and chopped

1 cup fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, chopped

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) petite diced tomatoes

1 can (15.5 oz.) cannelloni (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

32 oz. vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 ½ cup alphabet pasta*

¼ tsp. Pepper

1 tsp. Salt

1 Tbsp. Dried parsley

½ tsp. Dried oregano

1 tsp. Basil

1 Bay leaf

Warm olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 8 minutes.

Add green and yellow squash, salt and pepper and dried herbs (except bay leaf) and sauté another 5 – 8 minutes.

Add spinach and sauté another minute until wilted.

Add beans, tomatoes, stock, water and bay leaf and increase heat to medium-high until simmering.

Once simmering, add pasta and reduce heat to medium once pasta begins to simmer. Let simmer 10 minutes until pasta is cooked through. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer 10 more minutes. Add more water if desired. Remove bay leaf before serving.

*For chunky pasta, like elbows, cook pasta separately and add to the soup during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Recipe compliments of

Slow Cooker Eggplant Stew: Summer’s Bounty in a Crock Pot


If you are up to your ears in vegetables from your garden, this ratatouille should do the trick. It’s a hearty vegetable stew, also known as ratatouille, that is delicious by itself or served over whole grain pasta, cous cous, quinoa or rice. I’ve even spooned it on slices of toasted French bread and used it as a pizza topping. Feel free to adjust the recipe to include your favorite vegetables, but don’t forget the chick peas (garbanzo beans) – I love those little guys, don’t you?


3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
5 cloves minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
3 small Italian eggplants, peeled and chopped
1/8 tspn. pepper
3/4 tspn. salt
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 medium zucchini, seeded and chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tspn. thyme flakes
1 1/2 tspn. basil flakes

Heat oil on med. heat and saute garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add eggplant and season with salt and pepper, cooking 5 more minutes. Turn heat to low and cover, cooking an additional 5 – 8 minutes or until eggplant are tender. Transfer to slow cooker and add peppers, zucchini and chick peas (garbanzo beans).
In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, basil and thyme and mix well. Pour into crock pot and stir all ingredients together. Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours and high for 4 – 5 hours.

Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Mouthwatering Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Mouthwatering Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Summer is not over yet and I have made these delicious scones several times over the season, buying the berries from south to north in the process. I started in July with blueberries from New Jersey, then moved on to my local farmer’s market in the beginning of August. By the end of August the most flavorful blueberries were from Maine, and now I’m finding the choicest berries from Oregon and Michigan. The blueberries add sweetness and moisture to the scones and the delicate crumb topping makes them irresistible. Serve with a hot cup of tea and fruit preserves – what a treat! It’s an indulgence you can feel good about too because blueberries are considered a “superfruit” – loaded with antioxidants and fiber. Enjoy for breakfast or as an elegant dessert!

3/4 C flour
1/4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tspn cinnamon
1/4 C butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

Stir together dry ingredients and cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles crumbs. The crumb topping is optional but highly recommended!

2 1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn non-iodized salt
1/2 C butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 eggs
1/4 C whole milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 – 2 C blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 F and grease an 11-inch diameter circle in the center of a baking pan. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients and cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together eggs, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Gently add the blueberries and use your hands to combine. Add flour to your hands as needed since the dough will be sticky. Pat the dough in a 9-inch circle in the center of the baking pan. If using, press the crumb topping into the dough. If not using the crumb topping, press sugar (a coarse baking sugar if you have it) into the dough. Use a serrated knife to divide the circle into 8 scones by gently pressing the knife down 1 inch into the dough. Bake 30 – 35 minutes and test with a toothpick inserted in the center to see that it comes out clean – avoid the blueberries when inserting. Allow the pan to cool for 15 minutes and then transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright