"You can easily get into a rut when cooking by buying the same ingredients and not knowing how to use other ingredients. None of those additions are fattening, but they add so much flavor. I appreciate grocery shopping, experimenting, and cooking in the kitchen so much more."
Credit: Sara Fitzgerald

Before retiring in Falls Church, Virginia with her husband, Sara Fitzgerald worked as a journalist in new media development and interactive media policy, and started her own consulting company. Living so close to Washington D.C., she's been involved with numerous presidential campaigns, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. We recently spoke with Sara about how she discovered the Cooking Light Diet, and how it has changed her life since joining in February 2016.

How did you hear about the Cooking Light Diet?
I was an occasional reader of the magazine, and I always buy the holiday issues to find ways to make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners less fattening. I signed up this year [for the Diet] around the time when New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, but this year in particular, my husband and I didn’t go on our usual trip in January to a warm weather destination, so I didn’t have as much motivation to look good in a swimsuit sitting poolside.

Around February I looked in the mirror and thought, "This is the age where the extra pounds begin to show," and it’s really easy to find yourself sitting in front of the TV sipping on wine and snacking. I’m lucky that I’m already pretty healthy, but I didn’t want to take my health for granted, so I decided to do something about it. I started using different apps to track my food, but I signed up for the Diet in February of this year.

What are you favorite ways to lighten traditional holiday dishes?
Stuffing is something everybody loves, and I like to substitute farro and other interesting grains for bread. My son worked as a professional chef and went to culinary school, so I always like to step up my game during the holidays to catch his attention. Broccoli or green beans are great additions instead of more fattening foods to add some alternatives to the table.

Are there any holiday breakfast recipes you like to make for family?
Most of us think "Calories be damned" during holidays, but I’ve tried to lighten up breakfast with a breakfast strata. You can use lighter milk and cheeses when making casseroles and use different fillings. Baked eggs shakshuka is a novelty breakfast for family during holidays and a great way to throw in some festive red for Christmas. It’s a tomato and red pepper sauce that you can make ahead, freeze, and when you’re ready to eat, pop them in the microwave and add the egg on top.

I’ve also done zip-top bag eggs for guests and family. I make a buffet line of ingredients and everyone gets a quart size bag with two eggs and any ingredients and then we sous vide the eggs by cooking them in boiling water. Everyone is pleasantly surprised by the perfectly formed omelet at the end, and this breakfast is relatively low-cal in comparison to other holiday options.

Another one you could try is overnight French toast that would be easy for the holidays and you can keep it low-cal with whatever milk and flavorings you like. 

Does your husband enjoy the Cooking Light Diet recipes?
My husband is often surprised to find out when certain dishes that are really tasty are part of the Diet. We’re realizing you can still eat the things you like on the Diet, such as ice cream for dessert, but he’s been able to maintain his weight and probably even lose some weight during these months on the Diet together. 

Why do you personally enjoy the Diet?
You’re not starving yourself or bored with the options. I've learned to pay more attention to the portion sizes and particularly for two people eating, we’ve gotten better at saving leftovers. You actually get to make the choices yourself, then the shopping list ensures you’ll have the things you need.

What kind of exercise do you enjoy?
I live in a very walkable community, and I’m part of an organized hiking group that meets biweekly. The key part of my exercise regimen is working for an hour, three times a week, with a personal trainer.

What do you think of Cooking Light Diet Facebook page?
The Facebook community is a great support system for weight loss. A virtual community is helpful because people can share information about recipes that work well, questions about a recipe, and share tips as you go along. It’s a good place to share those ideas without having to meet in person. 

How has the Diet improved your time in the kitchen?
You can easily get into a rut when cooking by buying the same ingredients and not knowing how to use other ingredients. I’ve really enjoyed perking up my taste buds with little things I’ve never tried that can make a big difference, such as goat cheese and Asian flavoring. None of those additions are fattening, but they add so much flavor. My neighbor across the hall is also doing the Diet, and we swap and share ingredients. I appreciate grocery shopping, experimenting, and cooking in the kitchen so much more. 

Join the Cooking Light Diet community today and see what Joan and thousands of other members have discovered using this revolutionary meal planning service. Thanks for sharing, Sara!

Members following the Cooking Light Diet, on average, lose more than a half pound per week