Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Lemon Blueberry Cottage Cheese Muffins

I love these muffins. They are moist, tender, and don't feel at all like a diet food. They completely satisfy my craving for comfort carbs but they are still healthy: low in fat and sugar, high in protein and antioxidants, and flavorful. They keep well and reheat well in the microwave and can be frozen.


1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2-1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

finely grated zest from one lemon

juice from that lemon, enough to fill half of a 1/3 cup measure

2% milk (or whole) enough to fill the remainder of that 1/3 cup measure

1 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup small curd low fat cottage cheese

1 to 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen partially thawed blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400°. Put cupcake liners in 12 muffin tins. NOTE: I use only the brown parchment paper muffin liners on these muffins because they tend to stick to regular liners. If you use regular liners, you may want to spray them with cooking spray. The parchment liners are absolutely the best for all muffins and cupcakes.

In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Finely zest one lemon.
Juice the lemon and use enough to fill half of a 1/3 cup measuring cup.
Fill the remainder of the measuring cup with milk. Allow it to sit for five minutes to thicken into buttermilk.
Melt 1/4 cup butter.

Mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, melted butter, lemon zest, juice, milk, and vanilla either in a small blender like a Magic Bullet or with a stick blender like you see here. Mix it well until the cottage cheese is completely blended into a creamy consistency. If you don't have any blender, push the cottage cheese through a fine strainer then blend the ingredients.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture.
With a spatula, fold gently until almost mixed but some dry ingredients still remain. DO NOT OVERMIX as the muffins will be tough.
Add blueberries and VERY GENTLY fold into the batter so that you don't crush the blueberries and make the batter purple.

There will be a very slight bit of purple like in this photo, which is OK.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake at 400° for 16-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Once cool they can be put into zipper bags or leftover containers and can sit on the counter for several days or can be frozen.

For three muffins

The color code breakdown.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Garlic Butter Shrimp

 I love to take recipes that are typically high calorie and make them Noom friendly. This dish is one of my favorites and it's very easy to convert. Sorry, but no step-by-step instructions on this one because I was hungry and simply forgot!

The recipe is easy to make. First, put 2 oz of whole wheat spaghetti in cold water and heat to boiling then boil till tender. I always use the cold start method because it uses less water and cooks faster. While the pasta is cooking, spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and add 2 Tbl of chopped red or yellow peppers. Cook till almost tender, just a minute or two, and add a clover of garlic finely chopped and 1 Tbl green onions chopped. Add to the veggies 2 Tbl of Smart Balance Olive Oil Spread (or you can also use Earth Balance Olive Oil Spread) and let it melt. Add salt and pepper or lemon pepper. Keep warm. Just before the pasta is done, add the shrimp and toss just till warm. Do not overcook or they will be rubbery. Spoon mixture over drained pasta on a plate and top with 2 Tbl shredded parmesan.

Noom Log:

Black Bean Quesadillas

 I found this recipe on Dinner With Julie's site but modified it slightly. It's a super easy, super fast lunch meal that fits well within Noom's color code system. It's all green and yellow. 

I took a 1/2 cup of canned black beans and heated them briefly in the microwave. I then smashed them with a fork and added some taco seasoning. I heated a skillet with some cooking spray and laid a corn tortilla in the skillet then spread the bean mixture on half of the tortilla. I sprinkled 2 Tbl of reduced fat feta cheese on top and folded over the tortilla. Then I cooked it a few minutes on each side on medium heat till it was golden. It was delicious with a side of steamed green beans.


The Noom log for it:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Quarantine 15 and the NOOM Rejoin

(Ed Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with, not an employee of, and not compensated by Noom. I am just a very satisfied customer.)

The last year has impacted pretty much everyone on the planet. The day the lockdowns were announced, I was well below my goal weight. By the one-year anniversary of the lockdown I, along with most of the people I know, had gained 15#.

It wasn't due to lack of exercise, because all through that year I was walking, biking, hiking, doing my steps videos, and working in the garden. For me, it was much more about my emotional triggers: boredom, restlessness, loneliness, uncertainty. I've always been an emotional eater, and this was an Emotional Time with a capital E. Normally stress isn't an issue for me, but you add the stress of disagreements about masks, lockdowns and vaccines among friends and family and you have a recipe for storm eating and weight gain.

So, bit by bit, ounce by ounce, the weight climbed. On 4-20-21 I hit what I call a "trigger weight" on the scale, that one that makes you say, "OK this is where I draw the line" and decided to get control. I rejoined Noom under one of their special discounts for returning members, and I found the program to be freshly modified and relevant to these trying times, so I decided to do another mini review.

OK. First the positives:

One of the main problems I had with Noom was their individual "Goal Specialists," the coach you work with on a one-to-one basis, checking in at least once a week. In our group there was this constant questioning as to whether these were really even people or if they were computer generated because the feedback they gave was very automated and completely out of touch with our needs at the time. The responses always sounded like a canned response read from a script. In their defense, I'm sure that these counselors are very limited in the scope of their response by mandated corporate rules. The group coaches, on the other hand, were great: encouraging, full of ideas, and in touch. So I was very pleased when I rejoined to find that you now have the option of choosing between a "coached" approach and a "guided" approach. The "coached" approach was what I had before, where your coach would contact you once a week and you could contact them any time you needed M-F. The "guided" approach is where you only contact them if you have a question or need some specific help but they don't bother you. You still have your daily lessons and have your group assigned to you after two weeks, along with a group coach. This suited me perfectly because I already know what to do, I just need the accountability of the group and not some automatic response telling me what I "need" to do, even if it doesn't apply to my situation.

I also found many of the lessons had been rewritten to be more clear and had references to the challenges presented to us by Covid. The plan has now been structured to include a "Progress" button where you can pull up the graphic at the right. It shows you where you are in the course. I keep a daily "Noom Journal" and it's much easier to take notes from the lessons now because of the clearer structure. A note to get the most out of each lesson: if there are multiple choice questions that you answer that lead you to more pages, sometimes it's helpful to answer them one way, read the following pages, then hit the back button and answer them a different way to see what comes up. There are many of the questions that have multiple answers that apply to me and I've gotten a lot more from the program by doing this. The lessons are like tree branches that diverge into new areas depending on your answers to questions, but sometimes you just need them all.

The next thing I noticed is that their support response time has dramatically improved. I contacted support about an issue over an incorrect food item and they responded within just a couple hours. Pretty impressive.

One of the common complaints with Noom from members was that the billing and automatic renewal amounts were not transparent and difficult to access. This has also been changed. Now you just click on Settings-Manage Subscription and it pops right up. Easy peasy to see and/or change. 

OK now the negatives:

The iOS version of the app still needs a lot of work. In the Android version you could input a meal and then simply hit "save meal" and it would save it for you. You could also choose from previous days' meals and it would enter the whole meal again. Handy for people like me who tend to eat the same four or five breakfasts. Now you have to go in and create a meal and save it and then enter that meal from a list. Still a good function, just not anywhere near as handy because sometimes I like to mix up a few things in the meal but don't want to enter the whole meal again. The group chat function is also still way behind the technical times. It's not at all user friendly. There are so many successful forum programs out there that I just don't know why they can't fix this. It's hard to find threads and comment notifications are really wonky. This is true in both iOS and Android.

The food database still has a TON of errors in it. I try to report every single one I find, but there are many. Either the calories are off or the color coding is off on many foods. You can report an inaccuracy by hitting the More button while on a food page, then select Flag a Problem. My advice is to cross-check your info directly from your packaging and from other food sites like My Fitness Pal. Also, when entering a new food for them I found a glitch in the iOS app that won't allow me to enter info down past a certain point before it gets locked behind the keyboard screen. I reported this and they are working on fixing it. Again, I found the tech response to be vastly improved so I know they're trying hard to improve the app and the program in general.


After one month of rejoin I've lost half of my Quarantine gain. Noom really works, in spite of the few shortcomings. If you're willing to face yourself honestly and dig into the nitty gritty of why you overeat, then Noom will help you achieve your goals. 

In case you haven't already read them, here are links to my previous reviews. 

A Noom Adventure

An In-depth 16 Week Review

Graduation Day!

I'd love to hear your own experiences with Noom so comment away. And best of luck ditching that Quarantine 15!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Noom: A year at goal

Noom has become such a routine part of my life that I didn't even notice that I'd passed my year at goal aniversary a few weeks ago. So what are my takeaways after that year?

  • Noom works. It's a fundamental change in the psychological relationship you have with food, so the change is solid. It's not a diet, but rather an examination of what makes you overeat in the first place. Deal with that honestly, and you will have success.
  • Food is not my enemy. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that no food is "bad" or "off limits" or "evil". I can have that piece of chocolate cake - in moderation - and still succeed. I've learned, though, that certain foods will benefit my health more than others. The color-coding system for foods that Noom employs helps me to follow the balance of foods that I need to be healthy.
  • Noom fits in my life. You eat regular food, not purchased meals, so this is a sustainable lifestyle. You learn to eat foods you like, foods you can cook, not foods that you will never eat again once you finish the Noom program.
  • I feel strong. One of the biggest changes in my daily life is the increase of activity. Since I started Noom in January of 2019 when it was cold and miserable in St. Louis, I started with using the Leslie Sansone walk-at-home videos. I used these along with strength training at the gym. As the weather warmed, I walked outside and rode bicycles with my husband. Now that we're solidly in the midst of the Covid lockdown rules, we either ride our bikes long distance or I'm continuing to do one of the many videos I have used productively.
  • Staying healthy and fit requires dilligence. Good habits need reinforced daily.
  • A support network is critical. Even after I left Noom to continue on my own, I founded a Facebook group with some Noom friends to offer support when I needed it. My husband is unbelievably supportive of my efforts, and my family knows not to be food pushers. 
Once I reached goal last year, I increased my calorie intake to maintain goal weight and relaxed my weighing and measuring of food. I had set myself a five-pounds-over-goal limit at which point I would buckle down and lose them. I stayed within a couple pounds of my goal for over a year but in recent weeks, with the stress of the Covid lockdown, my weight had started to inch up by tiny increments. I reached that five-pounds-over-goal limit I had set for myself two weeks ago, so I rejoined Noom for an extra bit of reinforcement, support, and accountability. The five pounds is already gone in that two weeks, but I'm staying on for a three month term to focus again during the pandemic blues that I've been feeling. I'll go down a bit below goal to give myself some cushion.

All in all, I come away with this one thought: Being healthy, fit, and strong as I age is the key to my happiness. Since I'm in the Autumn of my life, I want to enjoy every minute of it. I want to run with my grandkids. I want to ride long distance bike rides with my husband. I want to sail and garden and hike and rock climb, and the only way to do all those things is to take care of myself. If you're on the fence about joining Noom, let me be the first to tell you that you are worth it!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Noom: A Five Month at Goal Update

I've been at or below my goal weight now for over five months. While I no longer pay a subscription fee to Noom, I still use the free app daily to log my weight and my meals. So what's my takeaway at this point?

1. The single biggest lesson I learned was to eliminate what they call "All or nothing thinking," that tendency to say that because you ate the donut for breakfast you completely failed so you may as well eat everything in sight all day and skip your workout. Instead, I've learned to say, "That may not have been my best choice today but I still walked for 30 minutes and chose a great veggie-filled dinner. Tomorrow I'll make a better breakfast choice."

2. I've found that I really enjoy being active, that it's no longer a chore to exercise but something I look forward to.

3. I'm still daily using the tricks of the trade I learned, like making the foods I want to choose visible in the front of the fridge/counter/pantry and hiding or tossing the ones that are detrimental to my healthy choices. 

4. I still need to be vigilant in some areas like trail mix. I don't want to eliminate it completely because it's a good source of protein for me, but it's one that is easy for me to lose control over.

5. I absolutely can't survive in this journey without the support of like-minded people. Many thanks to my friends and coaches in Noom who got me through the tough times and keep encouraging me even now at goal. If you're attempting weight loss and better fitness, find someone to partner with!

I recently saw a commercial for some nutrition product (sorry can't remember what one) and the tag line really stuck with me. "Don't strive for perfection. Work at being better. Strive to make one better choice each day." 

Couldn't say it any better.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Graduation Day! (A Noom Review)

259 Days. 37 Weeks. The last time I thought about those numbers was when I was pregnant. 37 weeks was considered the first full-term marker. After 37 weeks you could breathe a small sigh of relief. And so it was with me today.

Sixteen weeks into the program I did an in-depth review  which I'm pasting here rather than go over it all again. There is nothing in this first review that I would change as a result of the other 16 weeks. After this review section I'll talk about those additional weeks in the program.

It's hard to believe that I've been working on the Noom lifestyle change program for 16 weeks now. The time has flown by, not entirely due to Noom, but also to the fact that we've moved into a new apartment, helped our daughter fix up, pack, and clean their house that they sold, helped them move into their new house, and then moved out of our apartment and into the carriage house above the garage in our daughter's new home. All in 16 weeks.

The initial Noom program is 16 weeks in length. During that time, the NoomNerds (yes it's a real term) taught me about not only how and what to eat, but why I eat the things that I do. Each morning I open the Noom app and am presented with a screen for today. It includes a tab to weigh in (something you do every morning), a tab to log your meals for the day using their food database, and a couple tabs of lessons, or tasks, to complete. In the beginning, the lessons are light-hearted and a bit on the high school cheer leader-ish rah rah side, a point that almost led me not to sign up after my two-week free trial. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not the rah-rah cheerleader type. I realize the seriousness of being overweight, and I want professional help to deal with it. But...at the end of the two week trial period I was down 6.2 pounds so I decided to sign up and stick with it. The cost for the 16 weeks was $129. I measured that against my previous weight loss program through Weight Watchers, where I am a lifetime member, and it would have totaled $203. So I took the plunge. I'm glad I stuck with it because as you progress through the weeks the approach becomes less cheerleader-ish and more serious. If you were to find professional counseling with the same content, you wouldn't find even one session of this quality of counseling for the price you're paying for 16 weeks of Noom.

The early lessons help you to form your Big Picture: your end goal, why you want to attain that goal, and how your life will be different as a result. Right off the bat your focus is led inward to self reflection rather than an obsession with popular body image or scale numbers. There are lessons that help you to identify what type of eater you are, types of triggers and what trigger causes you to overeat, unhealthy thought distortions and healthy ways to measure success.

Right at the beginning you're paired with an individual coach. The coach checks in with you once a week, but he/she is available to you via the Noom message app whenever you need help. There is usually a delay in response time due to the fact that most of these folks have other jobs as well, but I never had a time when I felt like a question or need wasn't answered. I did have one issue early on with the coaching system. The individual coaches are clearly following a script in their coaching and a lot of times the script just didn't apply to me. I understand the need for some cross-program standardization in their individual coaching, but there needs to be more individual shaping of the coaching depending on the individual in the program. To explain this better, the average person signing up for Noom appears to be middle-aged and in the prime of their high-stress work environment. I, on the other hand, am retired, so I have virtually no stress in my life at all. In addition, I'm in the absolute perfect environment to have success on this program. I have all the time in the world to research, plan, shop, and prepare healthy food. I have excellent sources of healthy food close by.  I have 7 grandkids within shouting distance to walk with and get lots of exercise. I have an incredibly supportive spouse. So my needs are not about stress, but about persistence. As we progressed along, my coach began to get to know my needs and help was more appropriate, so all is well now and I find her support very valuable.

At the end of the two-week free trial you are placed in a group of people who started at the same time. My group consisted of about 50 people, but only about 20 actually ever participated in the group messaging. Our group is incredibly supportive, full of ideas, has a great sense of humor, and a very talented group coach. It has been a tremendously positive experience, but I understand from a few other folks that their groups are not quite as good, so this may not be a universal experience. The absolute key to a successful group is kindness, encouragement and respect. If you can't be kind, encourage those not like you, and respect the fact that different things work for different people, then be silent. At the beginning of our group we had one member that was caustic, was deeply critical of anyone who was doing different things than what she thought was the best way. It got so bad that the offending member had to be transferred out. If you find you're in a similar situation, don't hesitate to be proactive and to get with your individual coach about the issue so they can take care of it before it gets out of hand.

Now, a word to the Noom app. This is my one and only serious gripe with Noom. Their technology is very, very behind the times. The messaging app has a few major flaws, such as the fact that there are no "threads," just a running conversation. This makes it almost impossible to locate a previous message that you wanted to save (like a link to a recipe online or something.) There is also a serious flaw in the messages read function. If you go into the group conversation the new messages will have a NEW flag on them and new comments will be highlighted in red. All good so far, but if you only read the first one and then have to go do something else and leave the screen, when you come back all the new messages will no longer be flagged new. It appears that the NEW function is per entry into the conversation, not on a message-by-message basis. With so many really good messaging platforms out there it's hard to believe that they couldn't find one to use that allows threads and flagging based on individual messages. Granted, I'm a techie, but I hear a lot of other people complaining about the same issue.

The second technological issue is with the food database. While there are some good aspects to it like being able to save a meal that you eat frequently, I've found a ton of errors in the database itself. A huge percentage of brand-specific foods that I log are not correct according to the package I'm looking at and generic foods are not specific enough in their description. Since I've found over 100g difference in some of the apples that I eat, I've taken to weighing each one and logging by grams rather than just "1 apple." Don't depend on the barcode scanner either without verifying the calories on the label of the product. A huge percentage of them are wrong. Another very minor issue is that if you plan all of your meals in the morning, you have to go all the way back out to the main menu between each meal which is several screens. There should be a function that allows you to save that meal and enter the next, a suggestion I've made and has been forwarded to the appropriate people.

Another very minor issue for me was the lack of program instruction in the beginning. There was very little instruction on how to use the food database and it was weeks before I found out I could save my meals. I was almost to the end of the sixteen weeks before I found out I could share a meal to the group.  It took days before I even figured out I could log my exercise. There are a lot of things that make the journey easier and I feel like there should be a tutorial that shows you all of these things. There is a help section in the menu but it's not very complete or intuitive. A simple tutorial with all of the shortcuts would be extremely helpful. I suspect that you could find most of these shortcuts given the time, but in the beginning you are so overwhelmed by what you're learning that it's hard to spend hours a day playing with obscure buttons to see what they do. I also felt a little lost as I approached the end of the sixteen weeks. I needed more information on what would happen if I did or did not sign up for another session so I could make an informed decision, help I needed without asking a hundred questions of my coach.

One of the most profound differences between Noom and any other method I've used to lose weight is the fact that Noom is not a diet program. It's a lifestyle change program. While they will teach you how to choose foods that will benefit your overall health, they don't specify what foods. They stress balance and variety, but one whole week of lessons is dedicated to looking at different food choices like low carb, high protein, vegetarian, vegan, intermittent fasting...you name it. The emphasis is in getting away from labeling food as "good" or "bad" and in saying "I choose to or not to eat such and such." The emphasis is on balanced, whole health including food, activity and happiness. The other huge difference is that the program is designed to train you to be able to do it on your own. No lifetime membership required here. They want you to build good habits, to learn to make good choices, to better your health and happiness and then....they kick you free. Yes, you heard me right. I'ts a scary prospect, a bit like I'm sure little birds feel when they get thrust from the cozy nest, but let's face it folks. We're grownups and we can learn to do this without somebody monitoring our weight and progress with a weekly meeting. Not to say you're left without support if you need it. The relationships that you form with your group members go on after you leave. We've all exchanged emails and I formed a closed group on Facebook so we can keep in touch.

So at the end of my first sixteen-week session, and as I sign up for another sixteen-week session to cement these new habits over a maintenance period, what's my takeaway?

In sixteen weeks I...

lost 35.4 pounds
took 1,171941 steps
walked 506 miles
climbed 2,088 floors of stairs
learned to take the stairs instead of the elevator
learned to correctly estimate portions
learned to change my all-or-nothing approach to success
made my husband a much happier home environment

What makes Noom different? Because it's not a diet. It's a course in YOU.

It's important to note that if you don't like to take an honest look at your motivations then this program will not likely work for you.

It takes about an hour a day for me to work through the tasks and to log my meals. Then there's the increased exercise which takes about another hour a day for me. So if you want to try Noom, be sure that you have the time to properly commit to it, and the desire for genuine success, even if it means discovering some things about yourself that you don't really like.

Six months ago I would never have believed you if you had said I would be here at my goal weight again. I had given up hope, pretty settled in the belief that I would be fat the rest of my life. I was very unhappy with my body, with myself and my lack of ability to fix this. So to say that on this day at the end of my sixteen weeks I am a different person is an accomplishment of huge proportions. So the final end-all be-all is the question, "Would I recommend Noom to someone else?" And to this I can only answer an emphatic "Yes!" 

At week 21 you have two choices. You can either have your coach reset you back to the beginning and you can go through the lessons again, or you can continue on to what they call "Post Core" which is a maintenance training program. If you're not at goal weight yet, then most people reset to the earlier lessons to refresh their memories on core principles. On May 4th I had reached my old Weight Watcher goal of 155# but my doctor recommended that I try for a lower weight at my age and current height. (It seems that I've shrunk almost 2" over my life due to a back injury many years ago.) After some checking he recommended 145# as my new goal. Since I was very close to that goal at the end of the 20 weeks I decided to go straight into the maintenance portion. I reached my new goal on June 18. I continued to lose a bit more while figuring out what my new maintenance calorie budget was going to be and I've been firmly below 140# for over three months now.

The Post Core section of the program is kind of like a baby bird getting pushed out of the nest but the momma bird still brings it food while it flaps around pretty helplessly on the ground. The lessons are all reviews of key principles and there are only one or two of them each day. There is only a weekly required weigh-in but the tabs for daily food logging and exercise are there to be used. They assume by this point that you're ready to discipline yourself to log your food and exercise without constant reminders.

Some Noomers that I've spoken with don't like the Post Core program. I admit it was a bit scary at first, that being pushed out of the nest. There was this sudden realization that you have to be the grown-up in the room and no one is going to do it for you. I quickly adapted to it and was actually rather pleased to find that it gave me confidence to do it on my own. By the end of my second 4-month session I was ready to graduate. In reviewing my notes, I found a quote that showed up at the 15 week mark in one of the tasks:

   "While you'll always be a part of the Noomily, (Noom nerds name for the Noom family...) once you've developed, practiced, and solidified the skills you need to lead a healthy lifestyle today and every day going forward, we want you to be on your merry way."

That's one of the unique things about Noom. No, they don't want you to pay a membership fee for the rest of your life. No, they don't want you to buy their brand name food the rest of your life. They want you to learn, grow, and do it on your own. I was a little taken aback by this. Every other diet/food plan I've ever participated in wanted you attached at the hip for life.

Now that I've graduated, I've entered a new phase for me. I'm still using the app to log my weight, food, and exercise daily. I'm using a journal to jot my thoughts down. I'm learning to see this new me, this healthy me, this active me for whom food is a part but not the controlling whole. It's  been an amazing ride, this journey with Noom, one I'm forever grateful for. How appropriate that the upcoming Thanksgiving season is my season for celebration.

So if you have any doubt about whether to take the Noom plunge, take a look inside and see if you're ready to be honest with yourself, then dive right in. I promise you that the results of your hard work will be worth it.

After: at goal