This may be one of the most difficult times of the year to eat healthy. It’s constantly snowing, the sun rarely shines, and you probably haven’t gotten any fresh air in weeks. What’s better than warm bowls of pasta, steaming cups of chili, and creamy crocks of soups to keep us snug and toasty? In addition, instead of burning calories outdoors, we head to restaurants to avoid winter isolation. It doesn’t take a genius to see how easily the scales can tip the wrong way during the winter months. However, you can still enjoy your favorite comfort foods and meals out if you follow my trusted portion control tips.

1. Start your meals off right: Studies have shown that filling up on high-fiber and low-calorie broth-based soups or salads (without high-calorie dressings) can help you to eat less at meals and reduce your total calorie intake. Or, try eating the vegetables on your plate first.

2. Downsize your plates: Shrinking your plates, bowls, AND spoons/forks helps you eat less. This may seem ridiculously simple but there’s actually a formal movement called “The Small Plate Movement,” that aims to promote smaller portions through smaller plates. According to the Small Plate Movement, you can drop 18 pounds this year… just by changing plates! Instead of a 12-inch plate, use a 9- or 10-inch plate and you’ll eat 20-22% fewer calories per meal. Read more at

3. Slow down, savor, and be mindful. Turn off the TV and all distractions so you can be present during your meal. It’s no surprise that when you’re distracted, you’re likely to eat faster. Researchers have found that people who scarf down their food end up consuming more calories than they would at a slower pace. Fast eating affects the hormones that influence fullness. It takes the brain about 20 minutes to register fullness. But if you’re a speed eater, you can eat colossal-sized meals because your brain doesn’t get the message that you’re full.

4. Don’t get over-hungry: This is my Number 1 rule for healthy eating! If you get to the starving point, you’ll never be able to eat sensibly and control your portions. Snack healthfully throughout the day and keep the hunger beast at bay.

5. Get to know your visual cues: There’s no way around it…you need to know the recommended portion sizes for common foods. Memorize these visuals so you’ll always know the proper portions!






  • 3 oz meat: deck of cards
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter: a golf ball or a ping-pong ball
  • a baked potato: a computer mouse
  • 1/2 cup cooked pasta: an ice cream scoop
  • 4 oz fish: a checkbook
  • a bagel: a hockey puck
  • 1 oz nuts: a handful
  • 1 oz cheese: 2 dominos
  • 1 tsp oil: tip of thumb

Blakely FIT is offering $50 off new client assessments courtesy of Sandy Sfikas, RD until March 15th. Receive the support you deserve and customized workout plan that can make all the difference. Just mention “Sandy” at time of scheduling.

Owner Michelle Blakely is an NSCA certified personal trainer, USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach and Healthy Moms Perinatal Fitness course attendee. Blakely FIT offers outstanding personal training exclusively for women. Operating out of an independent training studio in River North, clients are treated the highest level of professionalism, exceptional program design and one on one attention.

“I have been working with Michelle for almost a year.  It has been the best investment I have ever made and have never felt better about myself.  Her approach was helpful to me as a beginner and continues to be so as I have moved to an advanced stage.  I am ecstatic with my results as I never imagined my body could get into this great shape.

Michelle is patient, encouraging, and thorough… Michelle is simply the BEST!!” DB

Call or email to schedule your appointment. I’d be delighted to help you find your success.

Kind Regards, Michelle 773-680-6824


Check out my new blog on Healthy In Chicago!

Read about stress-free ways to eat healthy on Thanksgiving in my latest post for Healthy in Chicago.

Read about Mindful Eating in my new post for Healthy In Chicago.

Read my article for Fitness Formula Clubs on why “diets” never work.

This familiar inquiry is something I’ve been hearing from my clients lately as a response to my probing into their diets, inquiring about “extraneous” calories from salad dressings, sauces, dips, cheeses, creamers, spreads, etc. So, what’s the deal? Is it really worth it to give up that slice of cheese on your sandwich at lunch or the creamy dressing on your evening salad?…You bet!

We all know that it takes burning a whopping 3,500 calories (500 calories for 7 days) to lose one measly pound. If that were easy, I wouldn’t have a job. In other words, every little thing counts when it comes to downsizing your diet.

Even if you’re eating a well-rounded, nutritious diet, you may be consuming too many extra calories from pointless condiments and toppings. Picture this:

At breakfast you have whole grain toast with cream cheese and a large mug of coffee with cream. The fiber from the toast is terrific but 2 tablespoons of cream cheese can add up to 100 calories and 10 grams of (mostly saturated) fat. Onto the cream…2 to 3 tablespoons will cost you 60 calories. So in one meal you added 160 extra calories of crap.

At lunchtime you are starved. Surely a piece of cheese and mayo can’t possibly kill your turkey sub sandwich. Depending on how much is on the sandwich, you could be mindlessly adding 150 calories to your otherwise perfectly healthy mid- day meal.

So far, that’s 310 “extras” and it’s not even dinner yet. It’s been a long day and you decide to treat yourself to dinner out. There are countless mistakes to be made at a restaurant. Be prepared with these tips:

Skip anything that’s crispy or deep-fried. If you are having a burger, consider eating half of the bun or discarding it. Order a salad, with low-fat dressing on the side.

Steer clear of mayonnaise, cheese, crispy noodles, croutons etc. If you’re ordering fish or poultry, ask for it to be broiled, steamed, baked, or grilled. Hide from cream-based soups and order broth or vegetable-based soups instead.

Sideline creamy sauces. Ask for all dips, spreads, salad dressings, and sauces ON THE SIDE. I promise you, this will make a difference in your diet.

Say “dry” when it comes to toast and baked potatoes.

Just saying no to certain extras may not seem like it will make a big difference. However, these small shifts add up, and more importantly, they can be a precursor to more significant lifestyle changes.

I know that us girls secretly wish we could eat like the men in our lives. Think about it…we all know at least a few guys who manage to maintain their weight without counting calories or feeling guilty about what goes into their mouths. Let’s uncover some of the healthy traits that go along with eating like “one of the guys.”

1. Men don’t feed their emotions: They may not have all the healthiest habits, but I rarely see men who binge on chips or ice cream after a break-up. Instead, they hang out with their friends and keep busy. Besides, what does stuffing your face to do help a difficult situation? Take a cue from a guy and distract yourself with fun activities that don’t involve food.

2. Men ditch the “all or nothing” attitude: How many times have you treated yourself to a side of fries or an extra slice of cake only to think “To hell with it…bring on the pie!” Women are extra hard on themselves when it comes to food. Next time you make a food blunder, dust yourself off and let it go. Don’t waste your time feeling bad about what you ate.

3. Men don’t snack all day: Believe me, I’m a HUGE snack proponent. Healthy snacking is a great way to get in essential nutrients while not becoming over-hungry at mealtimes. BUT…it’s easy to over-do it on the snacking or snack for the wrong reasons. If you aren’t hungry–or don’t have anything healthy to nosh on, deep-six snack time.

4. Men eat the real stuff: There are VERY few men who eat fat-free or low-calorie foods all day (are there any?). Instead, they eat the real stuff, and they get real satisfaction from it. Women on the other hand, may eat more of a low-fat food than a full-fat food just to chase that satisfaction. Why consume more when you can have small portions of rich food and feel full and content!!?

5. Men skip the sweets: I don’t know why, but most guys I know could care less about cookies, chocolate, cake, ice cream, and/or candy. They would much rather enjoy a juicy steak or a big burrito. It turns out they may be on to something. Protein-filled foods like meat and beans help to keep us full..and less likely to want “something sweet.” The next time you’re not quite fully satisfied at a meal, try to fill up on protein and fiber instead of heading towards the candy bowl. You’ll feel better and save calories too!

Check out my latest blog post on Healthy In Chicago.

Lately everywhere I look, I see new coconut products promising to boost health and cure most ailments. Obviously I’m skeptical, so I’ve decided to a little research of my own. 

Coconut milk drink: This stuff is an alternative to cow’s milk and is dairy-free and made from coconut cream without any added sugars. Sounds good so far! However, like most other cow’s milk alternatives, coconut milk is not a good source of calcium, so be careful if replacing it for your trusted moo juice. Find out more at

Coconut water: It sounds like it would be delicious, but I have to warn you–the taste is quite “acquired” if you know what I mean. Cocount water is s known for its electrolyte content and is marketed as a sports drink. However, the sodium content is too low for post-exercise electrolyte replacement. If you enjoy the flavor, you can rest assured that it’s low in calories and has no added sugars. It’s also a pasteurized drink so it’s fine for pregnant women. For more information check out

Coconut oil: Just like other oils used in cooking, coconut oil is high in fat (120 calories and more than 13 grams of fat). However, unlike some healthier oils, coconut oil has much more saturated fat. Curiously, proponents claim that it can help with weight loss by providing a sense of fullness and killing the craving for carbs . Sounds a little too good to be true, right? There are no valid research studies that prove coconut oil’s role in weight loss. It does however have a very high smoke point, due its high saturated fat content. This makes it very useful in cooking and frying. Just use it sparingly! 

While coconut products won’t ruin your diet or health plan, I wouldn’t rely on them to drastically improve your health and well-being. It’s safe to integrate them into a varied diet and to enjoy them in moderation. 

It comes every day whether we’re ready or not. Sometimes we’re prepared and  occasionally we’re  adventurous and head out with no plan in sight. The truth is, lunch can be the most difficult meal of the day. While you need the energy to venture through the afternoon,  there’s no option of hitting the couch post meal. In other words, you need the right combination and amount of food to fill you up without putting you to sleep. Bringing your lunch is a sure-fire way to save money and calories. But what on earth is there to eat?

I’m not cruel enough to recommend you eat or buy an uninspired turkey sandwich every day. However, the turkey sandwich is often appointed as a “standard” lunch because it does have the right ratio of nutrients (almost). Pair it with a glass of skim milk and handful of almonds, and you’re on the money. You have complex carbs in the bread (make it wheat), lean protein in the turkey, and calcium and more carbs/protein in the milk. The almonds add in some healthy fat.

So, if you stick to a plan or a guideline, the possibilities become endless. Start with protein (lean meat, tofu, fish, or beans) and build upon it with complex carbohydrates (like whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain crackers, or tortilla chips) and finish it up with some fat like low-fat cheese, peanut butter, olive oil, nuts, or avocado. This combination of nutrients will give you sustained energy and satisfaction beyond a boring plate of lettuce.

To help visualize portions, check out the ridiculously handy Bento Boxes For more compartmentalized boxes, take a look at Both sites offer recipe ideas and photos to inspire and motivate!

Whether or not you get a bento box, or just stick with your trusted brown bag, here are some of my favorite mid-day meal ideas:

Salsa bean bowl: Mix 2 different types of beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, navy, etc) together with low-fat cheese, salsa, and avocado slices. Eat it plain or with a few baked tortilla chips.

Hummus wrap: Spread hummus onto a Flat-out wheat wrap or other wheat tortilla. Add drained tuna and chopped celery and onions. Eat with a side of purple grapes and ounce of peanuts.

Peanut butter and apple sandwich: Spread low-fat peanut butter on a sandwich thin or bagel-thin. Add thinly sliced apples as the filling. Eat along with low-fat yogurt topped with flaxseed and berries.

If you need even more simplicity, grab a Lean Cuisine or other frozen low-fat meal replacement. They’re not ideal, but they’re just about the right amount of calories to send you into the second half of your day. Aim for at least 300 calories and add at least 1 cup of veggies or a piece of fruit to top it off. Don’t worry about the sodium content…restaurant meals are almost twice as high in salt.