My name is Neale Bacon. I have lost (so far) 200 pounds with no pills, potions, shakes, short cuts or surgery. Join me for tips and tricks I learned on this journey. There may even be a laugh or two along the way.

Archive for the ‘portion control’ Category

Super Healthy Snacking!

Are You a Super Snacker?

SuperSnackerNo I don’t mean THAT kind of super snacker. Snacks in and of themselves are not bad. As my readers know, I don’t believe in the bad food label. There are healthier choices and less healthy choices. This guy has definitely made some unhealthy choices.  I want to look at a few healthy snack ideas for you to consider when the cravings come calling.

What kind of snacker are you?

I find snackers fall in 2 groups, sweet and savoury. That is – those who like chocolate, candy, ice cream etc. Those are the sweets people. I am in the second group – the savoury. We prefer chips, nuts or almost anything salty and crunchy.

Super-Power Snacks

Imagine you can choose between two snacks. They can be crunchy or sweet but both are tasty. One of them will make you stronger, happier and fuel your brain power. The other will make you weaker, slower and more reduce your immunity.

Which Snack Would You Choose?

Store-bought and packaged snacks, chips, crisps, cookies and candy are snacks that sap your power despite our thinking they boost energy with a “sugar high”. It can be hard not to choose them. They are fun, and hit the taste sensors! But they are often full of sugar and chemicals that cause havoc in your body and destroy your health.

The good news is that snacks can be fun and tasty too while still being healthy. Even better, they are full of vitamins and other great things you need for a strong body and mind that ages gracefully.

Fun Fruit

Fruit is the ideal snack. Firstly, it tastes great! Also, there are so many different fruits to choose from: Apples, grapes, cantaloupe, raspberries… There are even fruits you’ve probably never heard of or tried, like star fruit, dragon fruit and jack fruit.

star-fruitThis is star fruit. It is a bit tart and very juicy.



And this is dragon fruit. It’s flesh is kind of like a really big kiwi.dragonfruit

There is one you may have seen in supermarkets that looks like a coconut on steroids  durianwith all kinds of pointy bumps.This is called durian and is for the adventurous only. It looks and smells and kind of tasty like smelly feet. Kind of like the Limburger cheese of fruit.

When you eat fruit for a snack, you can count on it giving you energy. This is because fruit is made of natural sugars. Natural sugar isn’t like the chemically laden bad sugar that can give you cavities. Fruit’s sugar is like nature’s energy reserve created specifically for your body.

Fruit is also full of vitamins such as:

  • Vitamin C (boosts your immunity)
  • Vitamin A (increases eyesight and skin health)

If you aren’t crazy about the fruit you’ve tasted so far, head to the farmers market and try some new fruit that is in season, or you can buy frozen fruit which is almost as good.

How is that possible? Well fruit that is picked to be frozen is picked when it is fully ripe and has had a chance to gather all the nutrients. Fruit picked that has to be shipped 100’s of miles is picked before it is ripe and does not have all it’s nutrients. It doesn’t ripen on that journey, it just changes colour.

One of my favourite snacks is pairing fruit with a little cheese.

Victory Veggies

jicamaVeggies can be hard to love because on their own they can seem bland and tasteless. But did you know that there are more than 400 different kinds of vegetables? Surely you can find a handful you like in all of those!

The veggie on the left is one of my absolute favourites. It is Jicama (pronounced HICK-a-ma) It tastes very much like peas or peapods and is really sweet and juicy.

Veggies are the goldmine for nutrition and make for some pretty delicious snacks.

Here are a couple of good things veggies have plenty of.

  • Protein is what your body is made of—your muscles and your hair. You need it to grow. And you can get it by eating veggies, like beans and broccoli.
  • Fiber keeps everything inside your digestion in check and your body working like it should. It also helps you to feel full. Veggies are chock full of it.

veggie protein

This doesn’t have to be complicated

We tend to gravitate to what’s easiest. Most fruit and veggies are just pick up, quick wash, and eat. It just takes a few minutes to put together a really healthy snack.

Supermarkets sell baby carrots in bags or even in snack packs, though those are usually combined with high fat dips. Don’t like the baby carrots? Cut up carrots and celery. Celery also goes great with a little nut butter.

sweet-potato-friesDid you know you can make fries with sweet potato?

Here’s a recipe you might want to try.

Sweet Potato Chips



  • 1 large sweet potato (yam)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or other spices if you are watching your salt intake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Wash the sweet potato slice it as thinly as possible, or cut into french fry type pieces. Try to keep all your slices the same thickness so they’ll bake evenly. Soak them in water for about 10 minutes.

Pat your slices dry and put them in a bowl with the olive oil. Toss them with a fork until they’re coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put a cooling rack on top of it. Lay your sweet potato slices on the cooling rack and sprinkle them with salt. Put the whole tray in the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes to an hour until the chips curl up a bit and just turn brown a little. Enjoy! 

So, the next time you need a snack, remember to reach for something that doesn’t come from a package and see how you feel after eating it!

Remember, if it comes from a plant, eat it. If it made in a plant, don’t.

Until next time, have a healthy and happy day!



Pyramids, Plates and Portions! Oh My!

I think people very often overlook one of the most important things when it comes to losing and maintaining weight – portion sizes. The other thing is to learn the difference between a serving and a portion. I want to look at both of these today.

Trying to figure out how much we should eat of which foods can be a bit confusing between food guides and pyramids, and even the differences between countries as to what those portions should be.

The United States introduced a new program a few years ago called My Plate which makes it so much simpler and I have recommended it to people for ages. It simply shows how you food should be portioned on your plate.

Basically it shows that our plates should be 1/2 a combination fruits and/or vegetables, 1/4 grains and 1/4 protein, with a small portion of dairy on the sides.

The website for my plate is


In 2016, Health Canada introduced it’s version called the Eat Well Plate and no offense toeat-well-bien-manger-eng-1 my American friends and readers, I kind of like it better for a couple of reasons.

First it just combines the fruits and vegetables to be half the plate. It also shows the meat and alternative section to actually be a bit smaller than 1/4 of the plate.

I am not a vegetarian, but for many, many years our plates, especially with dinner, were very meat centered. There was a big portion of meat, then whatever few vegetables and potatoes on the side. It also shows water along side the dairy and even shows the importance of having a little fat and oil in our diets.

Health Canada has a terrific website with lots of good tips and ideas. Check it out at . I know that’s a long one. Just look up Health Canada.

You can order portion plates from different companies that can help reinforce this idea of portions in their proper perspective. I have shown the one I just bought from a company called Diva Dish but there are lots out there.

I have found them handy when I go to events like a church potluck. It is so tempting to go overboard. We say we will just have a little of everything so people know I tried their food.

That can add up very quickly, so I will use my portion plate and just take the items I really want to try while still keeping to the right balance.

On both sides of the border, there have been food pyramids. I always found them a little confusing. Again Health Canada streamlined it in The Canada Food Guide which you can download or order printed copies from their website.

I found a new pyramid when I was taking my course as a Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist course and the main feature I like is that it shows exercise as the base of the pyramid. This is a very important point. There is a saying that you can’t outrun a bad diet. This is so true. The two have to go hand in hand.lwm-pyramid

The point I am trying to make is find a system that works for you. Find something that shows you what your food portions should like at each meal as well as totals for the day. For food portions for the day, I like the Canada Food Guide as it lays it out pretty clearly, and breaks it down for men and women and for different age groups. Order or download yours at

So now, what’s the difference between a portion and a serving? A good way to learn about this is by analyzing food labels. Here is the label for Cheerios. (I am not doing an endorsement for Cheerios, just using this as an example of label information)

If you look, it says a serving size is 2/3 of a cup, and there are about 9 servings in the box.

When was the last time you measured 2/3 of a cup of cereal? Most people don’t measure. They just dump their cereal into their bowl, and it is very easy for this portion to end up being 2 or even 3 servings.

This is one of the ways people go over on the food consumption on a daily basis. The worst part for their health is that they THINK they have done it right. People will think, “well I just had a bowl of cereal for breakfast so I had one serving of grains” but they have actually had 2 or 3.

If you do that with serving sizes through the day, you could end up having double or triple the servings you should have.

Here’s another one that will surprise you. Many years ago, the serving size of soda was around 5 or 6 ounces. Now the most common serving size is 20 ounces. It says right on the bottle that one serving is one bottle. This means that where a single serving used to be 5 or 6 ounces, it is now 20. Even when Pepsi used to have a jingle that said “12 full ounces, that’s a lot”, 20 ounces is close to double of that 12 ounces.

I saw something very disturbing recently. A famous convenience store chain was having a sale on their icy slush drink, which in essence is ice and sugar syrup. The deal was your could bring your own container and fill it for 89 cents or something.

I saw two high school age kids walking down the road and each of them had a 4 litre (a gallon) milk jug full of this ice and sugar syrup concoction and all I could think of was How many calories are in that?

How many servings are there in a small candy bar? One, right? Not necessarily. I was at a diabetic conference once and the speaker was talking about food labels. She asked how many had eaten a sugar free candy bar and most of the hands in the room went up.

She then showed us labels side by side of a regular chocolate bar and a “diabetic” or sugar free bar. The calories were within 10 calories of each other – but the diabetic bar said it was two servings. That means the calories were actually double those of the regular bar. If you don’t look at serving size, you can easily overlook something like that.

Just watch your portions, plates and pyramids and it gets so much easier.

Until next time, have a healthy and happy day.


The Vancouver Wellness Show

The Vancouver Wellness Show ( )is an annual event that my wife and I never miss. In fact this year is their 25th anniversary. There is a lot to see, do, sample, taste and learn. There are workshops, lectures, cooking demos, fitness demos and more!

It was this past weekend (March 3,4,and 5) and it was at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.

Now granted, and I say this in all fairness, there are some alternative wellness booths that make me shake my head, with people standing on something that looks like a paint mixer, or lying on a table with coloured lights blinking around them.

We even saw one booth that had a tent set up that people sat in with strobe lights flashing. I am not sure what that was supposed to do, but I am surprised no one had seizures from it.

Sadly there are also lots of booths of pills, potions, shakes and other short cuts and you all know how I feel about those.

The good news is that there is tons of other stuff for everyone, even if ,like me, you want to just learn about real healthy food and snacks and living a healthy lifestyle.

vida-plates-packI had read on Facebook of a company called Vidadish                            ( that makes a portion control system. As my readers know I am big on portion control. I will also say they vida-water-bottlehave not paid me for this. I bought my products but wanted to share what I liked about it.

I bought kind of a starter set. It cost me $30 which was a show
special that included a bonus water bottle. It also has a sample 7 day meal plan inside.vida-plates-open

vida-platesIt comes with the meal plate and the snack plate. They both have nice tight fitting lids so they are good for home, work or
even on the go. If you are familiar with the American “My Plate” system, it is similar but divided a bit differently. It is hard to see in my photos but they are even labeled with a C for complex carbs, P for protein and a small section labeled F for fats.

vida-protein-sectionIn the complex cards section goes your vegetables and grains, in the protein section is obviously for meat or other protein sources. The small section is for healthy fats like a low fat cheese for example. One feature I really like is the protein section is removable so you can heat up your meat. If you took some chicken breast and a salad for example, you could heat up the chicken without having to heat up the salad.vida-snack-plate

As I mentioned, it comes with a snack plate which is in 2 sections for complex carbs and protein. It would be good for apple on one side and peanut butter on the other.

One note – these are hand wash. They are not dish washer safe. They are leak proof, unbreakable and BPA free. Check out their website!

One thing I am always looking for is healthy snacks. I am not a sweets person but more of a savoury person. In other words I prefer chips to chocolate. I found a great snack from Zak Organics ( and they make a yummy nutritious snack called Crunchy Peas. These are roasted chick peas and come in 4 flavours, Sweet Cocoa, Garden Herb, Smokey Bar BQ and Seas Salt and Lime.


zak-organic-labelThey had a special of 4 bags for $20 so we bought one of each. I also bought a few small snack size bags. I have to tell you, they are delicious! They have the crunch and saltiness of chips, but these are chick peas which are high in protein. In fact acording to the label, there is 5 grams of protein per serving (1/3 cup). There is also 140 calories per serving.

I have to admit I had 2 servings at once (2/3 cup) and mixed 2 different flavours. You take your time and eat them one or two at a time and have a long lasting healthy snack. A serving has 120 mg of sodium which is 5% of your RDA so some of you that have to watch your sodium may have to watch your intake. Trust me, they yummy and very addictive!

maple-walnut-copyI am a big peanut butter fan but a lot of friends have been getting me pecan-butter-copyto look at other nut butters. not for any allergenic reasons, but for some healthier options.

We found a company called Better Butters(  from Sechelt BC. They had an amazing assortment of nut butters and after samples quite a few, we settled on Maple Walnut and Pecan Butter. I had the Maple Walnut this morning on my toast and it was soooooo tasty.

mwo-shells-white-cheddar-1We managed to pick up some free boxes of Annie’s Organic Mac and
Cheese ( Annie’s makes a lot of really great organic products. Our granddaughter is a big fan of mac and cheese so we want her to have a healthier brand and she loves it! We like it because Annie’s uses real cheese with no artificial flavours, synthetic colours or preservatives.

snacks_cookies_snickerdoodle_cr___They also make a great product similar to  Teddy Grahams called Annies Snickerdoodle Cinnamon Sugar GLUTEN FREE Bunny Cookies. Warning – these are highly addictive!

The show isn’t just about food though. You get to talk to a lot of people about healthy living and healthy things to add to your life. There are health talks for women, families and general health.

I attended a really interesting lecture by Dr. Jason Marr on the difference between Diet and Nutrition. He is a naturopathic doctor at  Evoke Integrative Medicine in Vancouver. He spoke of the difference between simply the food we put in our mouth (diet) and the effect of that food on the body (nutrition).

I have never really listened to a naturopath before, and found it really interesting. It is an approach to medicine that puts the patient first – treats them as an individual, not just as a patient.

I had hoped to stay long enough to see the Chair Yoga workout, but my wife and I pooped out before that.

We brought our little granny cart with us, and it came home fully loaded with giveaways and products we bought. If you live in the Vancouver area, circle it on the calendar for next year!

Until next time, have a healthy and happy day!


Snack Attack!

Snack-Attack-Logo-300x2221One of my biggest challenges on the road to weight loss and healthy eating is snacking. I seem to have my healthy meals down OK but snacking, especially in the evening can be a problem, and I am sure I am not alone.

Snacks are OK, but you need healthy snacks, and you need to watch how big your snack is or your snack becomes another meal.  The dictionary defines snack as a small amount of food eaten between meals.

If your snack is a couple of sandwiches and a pile of potato chips, that’s a meal. From a calorie perspective, if it is over 300 or 400 calories, it could be called a small meal.

I chose to call this entry “snack attack” because snacking can easily get out of hand and can attack your success on this journey.

Once I realized that I am a snacker, I had to change what I snack on and when I snack. Let me explain the “what” first.healthy-snacks

I found some great healthy snack ideas on the Canadian Dietitians website. Here are just a few.

  1. Medium piece of fruit like an apple or a banana
  2. 250 ml (1 cup) of frozen or fresh fruit like peaches, blueberries, strawberries etc.
  3. A stalk of celery with low fat cottage cheese (my own preference is with low fat or natural peanut butter)
  4. 2 cups air popped popcorn (watch the butter and salt)
  5. 1 cup cut up veggies like carrots with some hummus.
  6. 1/2 a bagel with some peanut or other nut butter. (I like the Weight Watchers thin bagels)

If you want to read more about snacking ideas, check out

Almost more import than the snack itself is when and even why you are snacking.

Do you snack a lot at night? It’s a habit I have to really work to control. If you graze all night long as you sit watching TV, you can take in an amazing amount of calories. After that you go to bed and those calories just lie there. You haven’t had enough activity to burn them off. Don’t think though, that because you went for a walk with the dog, that it entitles you to another snack. Trust me, you did not burn it off.

Another “when” is to look at what you are doing while you snack. Are you actively doing something else?  For example, I have to force myself not to snack while I am on the computer. If I am working on writing a new show, or researching something or even writing this blog, it can be really easy to focus on the activity and not the food.

tv_nighttime_snackingIf you are focused on something, you may be unaware of how much you are actually eating. Snacking while watching TV can be bad too. If you get really involved in the show, you can be mindlessly shoveling food.

The other thing that is important is to ask yourself WHY you are snacking. For example, are you really hungry or are you bored? Are you snacking out of habit, like making a snack to have while watching TV because that is what you always do?

Habits can become deeply ingrained. I remember when my mom quit smoking. She always said the hardest time was first thing in the morning because she would have that first cigarette and coffee. It was a habit that started her day.

I have been reading some fascinating articles lately on so called healthy snack bars, only to find out that they are almost as full of calories and sugar as a candy bar. If you do have to have a snack that comes in a package, read that label carefully.

Another snacking trend is the 100 calorie packages of cookies and other snacks. First off, none of them are particularly healthy for you but at least the portion control is in check – right? Maybe not.

We were talking about these 100 calorie snacks at a TOPS meeting once and I said I like the 100 calorie chocolate chip cookies because I eat a bag and think “Wow I got to eat a whole bag of cookies!” while one of the other members said “I look at it and think ‘It’s only 100 calories – I can have 3 more!'”

The 100 calorie snack packs can be handy if you need a snack on the go, or at work, but you can save money and have a healthier snack by packing your own.

I love the fact that you can get Ziploc bags in a snack size. They are perfect to put in a few nuts or some trail mix or even some of that air popped popcorn, and they can go in a purse, briefcase, gym bag or even a coat pocket.

Something I do that seems to help cut down the snacking urge is having water or other drink nearby. Often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty.

I find a warm beverage (in my case tea) seems to give more of a feeling of satiety (being full). I am not saying drink coffee or tea all day because they are both diuretics, but you might try a nice chicken or vegetable broth.

Be careful with commercially made broths, especially those concentrated cubes as they are often LOADED with salt. Look for natural broths or even better, make you own.

I have a preference for vegetable broth myself with chicken broth being a good second. I find them nice to sip on and they really do keep the hunger at bay.

So to summarize, keep the size of your snack small, keep it healthy, and keep yourself from being too focused on your activities to pay attention to the snacking.

In a work environment, keep healthy snacks nearby so you are not tempted to go to the vending machine or convenience store.

A trip to the dollar store for some small containers for snack on the go is a good idea too.

I hope that helps you to prevent Snacks from Attacking you!

Until next time have a healthy and happy day!





Was the Easter Bunny Good or Bad for you this year?

Easter hares in the grass with chocolate eggsEaster is one of those holidays where a person’s healthy eating plan can take a serious hit and as Dr Phil would say, runs off into the ditch. Those little chocolate morsels carry some not-so-little calories.

Did you know that 1 count ’em 1 Cadbury Cream Egg has 150 calories, 6 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar. Do you like Peeps? I find them like mushy chalk but that’s just me. For the Peeps peeps, there is 140 calories and 34 grams of sugar in just 5 peeps. How about my wife’s favourite Reeses Peanut Butter eggs? In 4 eggs there is 160 calories, 9.6 grams of fat and 15 grams of sugar.

I don’t want to get onto my soapbox or anything, but as a man of faith, I am amazed how the most important holiday in the Christian calendar has become all about gorging on chocolate eggs and bunnies. It is almost as amazing as how Christmas became about a fat guy in a red suit breaking into your house to leave gifts, but I digress.

Besides all the obvious goodies like chocolate bunnies, Easter also comes with Easter Dinner which in some cases rival Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners as a time when people think “It’s a holiday, why not?”

I can give you a few reasons “why not”. Let’ start with an Easter breakfast. One of my favourite Easter things used to be the Hot Crossed Bun. That was until I found out each rolls contains as much as 150 calories or more. Maybe you have cinnamon buns instead. They can even be higher. Of course you have to have bacon too right? Average cut bacon can be as much as 100 calories for 2 strips and who has just 2 strips right? If you have the thick cut, there is even more.

Easter dinner in a lot of homes consists of glazed ham, at 70 calories for 2 ounces, glazed carrots at 100 calories roughly for 1/2 a cup, and mashed potatoes at 250 calories per cup without the gravy. Maybe a couple more hot crossed buns or dinner rolls for 200 or 300 more calories and it all adds up pretty quickly.

What do you do skip the holiday? No, just follow some guidelines for all big holidays and their accompanying foods – use moderation. Remember the portion plate or for my American friends, the My Plate diagram. Half your plate should be veggies, with 1/4 being starches (like potatoes or yams) and 1/4 for your meat.

We had ham, mashed potatoes as well as oven roasted potatoes and a new dish my wife invented – Easter Cauliflower. She used purple and orange cauliflower and roasted them in the oven with some seasoning and a bit of grated cheese. I was able to have some of each and not go off the rails with my calories.

Later that night for my evening snack, I had one of my squeeze fruit, a small portion of baby carrots a 3 tiny chocolate carrots, so I didn’t deprive myself. I just kept asking myself how much would I have to do to work off the extra goodies.easter-candy-calories

I have mentioned before I belong to a weight loss support group called TOPS which stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly. They published this little chart on what you have to do to burn off your Easter goodies. If you read the fine print, this is based on a 144 pound woman, so as they say, your mileage may vary.

Today’s blog is a little bit shorter than usual, because it is still a holiday weekend, and because it is a nice sunny day where I am. Besides that, I have a few chocolate carrots to walk off.

Until next time, have a healthy and happy day!