Winning the Weight Loss Game

By Carol Ritchie, celebrity chef and To Life!™ Lifestyle Change Management Participant

One of the things I’ve learned on my weight-loss journey is to be prepared. With a little planning, you can navigate through fall sporting events, tailgate parties, and playoff games without blowing your diet. For a successful strategy, take a few minutes to think about the foods you associate with fall sports, and then think about healthier choices you can make instead.

Here are a few tips for a winning game plan:

1. Eat before you go. Don’t go to the event or party with an empty stomach. It pays to have a light, healthy snack so you don’t dive into the party dip as soon as you arrive.

2. BYOV – bring your own veggies. Volunteer to bring a low-fat dip with healthy vegetable dippers such as cucumbers, carrot sticks, celery, sugar snap peas, and even baked pita chips. Check out my recipes for cottage cheese garden veggie dip or hummus with red pepper swirl below, and be the hit of the party. It not only has great taste, but it’s a healthier option others may appreciate as well.

3. Drink light. Beverages have calories too. It’s easy to drink more calories than you realize, so watch what you drink. Beer, frozen drinks, and soft drinks go down easy, but the calories add up fast. It’s okay to have a moderate amount, but space them out over time, and take your own low-calorie soft drinks, water, or sparkling water to jazz things up.

4. Stay on guard. Watch for hidden calories in things like mayonnaise, chips, cheese, and oversized hamburger buns. You can have all these things in moderation. For an alternative, try making my Game Day Sliders (see below). They’re easy to make and can be part of a healthy eating plan. Use lean beef or ground bison on whole wheat slider buns, and bring plenty of healthy, fresh toppings for a delicious meal.

5. Beware of stadium snacks. If you’re heading to a stadium with concession stand temptations, you might have to look hard for healthier options. Avoid the obvious no-no’s like nachos and pepperoni pizza. Instead, look for popcorn without butter, a bag of peanuts (ones you have to shell are even better since shelling slows down eating), pretzels, or a small slice of cheese pizza are better options. Most important, be mindful of what you eat. It’s easy to fall into old habits we associate with sporting events, so you’re now retraining yourself to enjoy the event without all the fattening foods.

As someone who loves food and works within the food industry, losing weight can be a challenge. Thanks to the Methodist Weight Management Institute’s To Life!™ program, I’ve lost 24 pounds and 7½ inches from my waist and reduced my cholesterol by 30 points. By taking time to plan ahead, I’ve been able to stay focused on my weight-loss goals, while staying away from the temptation to “grab and go.” For more tips and recipes, go to

Methodist Health System To Life!™ is a mind-body-medical approach to healthy lifestyle change and lasting weight loss. To learn how you can be part of a hospital committed to helping its employees Lose Weight, Gain Health, visit us at For more recipes from Carol, visit

© Methodist Health System


Cottage Cheese Garden Veggie Dip

Serves 8

8 ounces low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese

1 cup chopped vegetables (broccoli, carrots, celery, green onions, bell peppers, etc.)

½ teaspoon dried dill weed

½ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve with colorful vegetable dippers.

Hummus with Roasted Red Pepper Swirl

Serves 8

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained

2 tablespoons tahini (ground sesame seed paste) (optional)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ cup roasted red peppers, puréed in a blender or food processor.

Combine garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and pepper in a blender and process for 15 to 20 seconds, until smooth. Place hummus in a serving bowl and top with a swirl of roasted red pepper purée. Serve with colorful vegetable dippers.

Colorful Vegetable Dippers

Once a week, cut and chop colorful vegetable dippers. Red, yellow, and green bell peppers, along with cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, fennel bulb, jicama, green onions, sugar snap peas, and tomatoes, make for festive, healthful dipping in hummus or cottage cheese. Keep in a decorative container so you can reach for them easily from the refrigerator all week long.

Game Day Sliders

Serves 4 (2 per serving); or 8 (1 per serving)

1 pound very lean ground beef (or lean ground turkey or ground bison)

Salt-free all-purpose seasoning

Wheat mini buns

Gourmet Toppings

Dill pickle slices

Red onion slices

Baby spinach leaves

Yellow tomato slices

Roasted red bell pepper slices

Colorful fresh bell pepper slices

Ketchup (low-sodium if available)

Mustard (Dijon, spicy, or yellow)

Preheat grill or griddle over medium-high heat. Form the ground beef into 8 mini-burgers. Season with salt-free all-purpose seasoning to taste. Grill the sliders for 3 to 5 minutes on one side, then flip and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through. Serve on wheat mini buns and allows guests to select their own gourmet toppings.





Posted Healthy Eating