Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weight Watchers Tips & Tricks

As I've shared in prior posts, I am a Weight Watchers member. Since becoming a member, I've developed a strong appreciation for the program's many benefits, including...
  • The support of Weight Watchers peer members and meeting leaders
  • The accountability of meeting attendance and regular weigh-ins
  • Delicious and healthy recipes
  • Encouragement focused on healthy living practices, including regular physical activity
  • Nutritional tips and tricks
While I appreciate all of these benefits and more, I thought readers (many of whom might not have any personal Weight Watchers experience) might appreciate learning about a few of the nutritional tips and tricks. Why, you may ask? Because such tips and tricks can help you transform your own tried-and-true recipes into lower-fat, healthier meals. Here are a few of my favorites...
  • Egg whites. Before the involuntary "Yuck!"'s and "Eww!"'s commence, I readily admit that plain egg whites make a lousy replacement for regular eggs. That said though, in omellettes covered in salsa or baked into recipes, egg whites can taste just as good as eggs, but with zero cholesterol or fat, and 1/3rd the Weight Watchers points.
  • Cooking spray. Need to coat a baking pan or skillet? Are you roasting something in the oven you'd normally brush with oil? Using store-bought cooking spray (or, better yet, a reusable oil sprayer) can often deliver the same results without adding fat.
  • Low-fat/reduced-fat ingredients. Unlike their fat-free counterparts, low-fat or reduced-fat ingredients, including dairy (or soy) products and mayonnaise, often taste just as good as those with more fat. And such substitutions reduce both the Weight Watchers points and contribute towards a healthier diet.
  • Whole grains. Though whole-wheat (or brown rice) pastas and other whole grains aren't always lower in calories (or Weight Watchers points), such ingredients make for more filling, more satisfying meals... And they're better for you.
In recent months, I've used the above nutritional tips and tricks (and others) to create or adapt a number of recipes. Just this past weekend, I made a much healthier version of a recipe I've enjoyed for years, which I've shared below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tim's Spaghetti Pie


A gluten-free, low-fat, and vegetarian version of a traditional spaghetti pie, made in a large lasagna pan to allow for most of the servings to be frozen and saved (via Foodsaver) for convenient future meals.


1 cup(s) Onion (s), red, raw, chopped
1 cup(s) Peppers, sweet , red, raw
4 tsp Minced garlic
2 cup(s) Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
32 oz Tomato sauce, canned
32 oz Canned diced tomatoes
16 oz Spaghetti, whole-wheat, uncooked, Note: Substitute brown rice spaghetti for gluten-free meal
1 cup(s) Cheese, cheddar, shredded, low-fat, Note: Substitute Veggie brand for lactose-free meal
1 cup(s) Cheese, mozzarella, part-skim, shredded, Note: Substitute Veggie brand for lactose-free meal
1 cup(s) Cheese, soy, parmesan flavored
8 oz Egg whites
16 oz Cheese, cottage, low-fat (1%), Note: Use Lactaid brand for lactose-free meal.
1½ cup(s) Spinach, uncooked, Chopped
3 fl oz Wine, red
1 tsp Dried oregano
1 tsp Dried basil
½ tsp Dried thyme
½ tsp Sea salt
¼ tsp Pepper, black


Spray pan with olive oil cooking spray. Dice sweet pepper and red onion, place in oiled pan and sauté with garlic over medium heat for ◴ 3-4 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms, red wine, and spices, continue to sauté ◴ 2-3 more minutes, until onion  is translucent. Add canned tomato products and sea salt/pepper to taste, bring to a boil and simmer for ◴ 30-45 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken. Remove sauce from heat and reserve approximately one-quarter (i.e. ~2 c./16 oz.) for a future meal (Note: I freeze the extra sauce in a disposable, freezer-safe container).

Bring a big pasta pot filled with water to a boil, add uncooked spaghetti that's been broken in half, cook per pasta directions. Pour cooked pasta into a colander, rinse with cold water, drain well, toss with egg whites  and Parmesan, and spread evenly in the bottom of a large lasagna pan that's been oiled with olive oil spray. Spread the cottage cheese over the pasta, sprinkle diced spinach over the cottage cheese, spread remaining/non-reserved sauce on top of the spinach, and top with the shredded cheeses (Note: You can prepare in advance to this point, cover the pan in Saran wrap and foil, and bake the next day. Just be sure to add 10-15 mins of cooking time to offset the refrigerated chill).

Cover with foil, bake ◴ 20 mins at 350F, remove foil  and bake for ◴ 10 more mins. Let stand for ◴ 10 mins, mark into 12 equal servings and serve. Each serving is 8 Weight Watchers Points+* (Note: I freeze the leftover servings and, the next day, seal them up via Foodsaver for convenient future meals).

* Points+ value is calculated based on 24 oz. of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, as ~1/4 of the sauce is reserved for future use.

NOTE: If you'd like to share this blog via social media, here's a sample tweet:
  • A few favorite @WeightWatchers #tips & tricks, accompanied by a yummy #recipe: #healthy #lowfat #spaghettipie

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