Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gobble, Gobble! Watchin' that calorie intake...

Not that I'm watching the clock or anything, but it's almost time for the holiday weekend. Woooot! I'll be hitting the road in a few short hours and heading down to Florida, where I'll spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and his family before heading to a friend's wedding in Naples, Florida, on Saturday. I'm looking forward to a fabulous weekend filled with food, football, sun and good friends. Speaking of turkey, according to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat between snacking and eating a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. That's the equivalent of more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat. Yeah, yeah...I know what you're thinking...If the holiday menu is so packed with fat, why even bother trying to eat healthy? My response is, by reducing the amount of fat and calories in your snacking and main holiday meals, you can help prevent the 5 to 10 pounds of weight the average person gains between Thanksgiving and New Years.
Here are a few "Low-Fat Holiday" tips from the American Heart Association:
* Eat lower-fat and reduced-calorie foods for days in advance of the holiday feast, and for days after.
* Prepare for handling your worst temptations; if you want both pecan and pumpkin pie, take a tiny slice of each, instead of an average serving.
* If cooking, provide low-fat foods, or ask if you can bring a low-fat dish.
* After the meal, start a tradition -- a holiday walk, for instance.
* You can also reduce the calories in a meal by using lower-calorie products. Try using a low calorie sweetener in your tea or coffee or a casserole that requires sweetness.

And here are a few sucralose-sweetened holiday recipes, courtesy of Splenda.com, to help cut those calories.

Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Chocolate Pecan Pie

And because I'm super awesome, here is a fabulous video that will certainly leave you feeling thankful you watched it. See how I tied the Thanksgiving theme into it? Either way, Muppets + Bohemian Rhapsody = Epic Win.
Safe travels and have a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Save the ta-tas!


Okay, apparently it's time to add my two cents to the political firestorm surrounding the mammogram issue. Unless you've been living under a rock the past week, you've heard about the U.S. Preventive Task Force's recommendation that women in their 40s forgo annual mammograms unless they have certain risk factors, like genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to breast cancer. The task force also said self-exams are useless and recommended women over 50 get mammograms every other year instead of annually.

And what was the basis of their decision? Apparently, a review of clinical data showed that annual mammograms have only reduced the risk of breast cancer death by 15 percent. At the same time, the panel of doctors and scientists concluded that such early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies, without substantially improving women's odds of survival.
"Harms of screening include psychological harms, additional medical visits, imaging, and biopsies in women without cancer, inconvenience due to false-positive screening results, harms of unnecessary treatment, and radiation exposure," the panel said.
Of course, it's important to note that these new guidelines are influential but not binding. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, emphasized that the task force does not not set federal policy or determine what services are covered by the federal government.

"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer and they still are today," said Sebelius. "Keep doing what you have been doing for years - talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you."
All I have to say is, I understand that many women have had to go through painful, and often costly, procedures only to discover a "false positive." But having lost friends and loved ones to breast cancer, isn't the anxiety worth the possibility that it could result in an early breast cancer diagnosis for someone else?

So please, please, PLEASE ladies...listen to the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, both of which still recommend routine annual mammograms starting at age 40. I just hope that the nation's insurance companies don't use the panel's recommendations as a reason to stop paying for mammograms.

Alright, my rant is finished and I'm climbing off the soapbox. By the way, I'll be working on some recipes this weekend in preparation for Thanksgiving...so I promise to post some yummy, low calorie recipes and menu ideas next week before the big day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh nuts!

Hmmm...I just found out it's Georgia Pecan Month. Since I live in Atlanta and love pecans, I should have no problem finding ways to celebrate, right? Heh. Seriously, though, if you're looking for a heart-healthy snack, pecans certainly fit the bill.

Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans may decrease the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In other findings, a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that nuts like pecans may aid in weight loss and maintenance. Many more pecan-related benefits can be found here, so be sure to read up if you're unconvinced.

I find that pecans lend themselves to some of the most delicious recipes. Pecan pie? Yes please! Sweet potato casserole covered in pecans? Don't mind if I do! So here are a few sucralose-sweetened, low calorie recipes featuring pecans.

Savannah's Praline Cheesecake

Cinnamon-Pecan Monkey Bread

Sweet Southern Pecan Pie

Spicy Texas Pecans

And here are some fun facts for you, courtesy of the National Pecan Shellers Association:

* Pecan trees usually range in height from 70 to 100 feet, but some trees grow as tall as 150 feet or higher. Native pecan trees – those over 150 years old – have trunks more than three feet in diameter.

* There are over 1,000 varieties of pecans. Many are named for Native American Indian tribes, including Cheyenne, Mohawk, Sioux, Choctaw and Shawnee.

* It would take a line of over 10 billion pecans to reach the moon! |

* Albany, Georgia, which boasts more than 600,000 pecan trees, is the pecan capital of the U.S. Albany hosts the annual National Pecan Festival, which includes a race, parade, pecan-cooking contest, the crowning of the National Pecan Queen and many other activities.

* Some of the larger pecan shellers process 150,000 pounds of pecans each day. That’s enough to make 300,000 pecan pies!

* The U.S. produces about 80 percent of the world’s pecan crop.

Finally, I know Glee has NOTHING to do with pecans...but dang, that show got me all misty-eyed several times last night. And I loved the wonderful diva-off between Rachel and Kurt in reference to who would sing "Defying Gravity," the show-stopping tune from "Wicked." I found it truly heartwarming when Kurt later revealed that he deliberately flubbed the high note for his father's sake. If you haven't started watching this gem of a show yet, please tune in. You're missing out.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Raising the holiday fun while lowering the calories

How did it get to be November already? Does anybody else feel like this year has flown by in record speed? Yeesh. Anyway, now that Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is in eyesight, many of us are looking forward to weeks of cooking and baking, attending parties, hosting parties, buying and wrapping gifts, decorating the house and more. What I mean is, 'tis the season of stress, parties and weight gain!
The good news, according to researchers, is most people only gain one or two pounds during the holidays – an improvement over the five to ten pound weight gain statistic frequently cited. The bad news, though, is that the extra weight rarely comes off.
But while the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years is filled with high-fat and calorie laden food and beverages, you don't necessarily have to nix the festivities or push aside that slice of pumpkin pie. Here are a few tips to help stay trim during the hectic holiday months.

Stay active. A lack of exercise is one of the primary causes of weight gain during the holidays. Find time between social gatherings, errands and shopping for physical fitness – even if it just involves taking extra laps around the mall or walking up the stairs at work. A 30-minute workout every day will work wonders when it comes to weight maintenance.
Cook healthy. Make simple healthy recipe substitutions when baking to lower the calories. Choose fruit and veggies instead of high-fat appetizers or desserts and consider foods or beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes - such as sucralose - to enjoy your favorite meals without the additional calories. For example, drinking a diet soda can save 150 calories a day. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss. Choosing sugar-free chocolate will save you 50 calories a day, or five pounds, by year’s end.
Portion control is key. Eat regularly throughout the day but practice moderation. Keep serving sizes on the smaller side and you can enjoy your favorite holiday treats without having to bust out the elastic waistband pants.
Limit the celebration. Eat a few sweet treats when you are at a special event. Try to avoid the cake and cookies, though, when you're hanging out at home. In fact, in the days or hours leading up to a big soiree, consider eating lighter than usual to help compensate for the added calories later.
Don’t show up hungry. Before heading to a party or holiday dinner, take the time to eat a healthy snack. A small salad or cup of soup with help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later.
Don’t diet during the holidays. Avoid starting a fad diet in an effort to lose ten pounds before that big holiday party. Stay healthy, but don’t be too restrictive. The focus should be on maintenance during the holidays rather than weight loss.
Pre-make healthy meals for those hectic shopping days. Stock up on frozen dinners or make large batches of salads, pasta and other healthy, low-calorie meals so that leftovers can be easily and quickly reheated. This will help prevent any last-minute takeout orders or snacking on fattening foods.
To help get you started, here are two sucralose-sweetened recipes. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Gingerbread Cake

Spiced Apple Mulled Cider