Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here." Clark Griswold - Christmas Vacation.

Well, gang, this will be my last entry until 2011. I’ll be heading down to Gainesville, FL, later this week to spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family before flying to San Antonio, TX, for my cousin’s New Year’s Eve wedding. While I am sad that I won’t make it back to Chicago for the holidays this year, I will get to see my family at the wedding next week. All in all, good times!

So this is my official "Happy holidays!" post. For any of you planning or attending holiday parties and family dinners in the next few days, here are a few sucralose-sweetened recipes that will help provide at least one or two low-calorie options on the table.

Happy Holiday Pumpkin Pie

Holiday Spiced Tea

Gingerbread Cake

Elegant Eggnog

And just because I'm in the spirit, I thought I would include a bunch of clips from some of my favorite Christmas movies. Happy holidays y'all. Be safe and I'll see you back here in 2011!











Friday, December 17, 2010

Have a Holly, Jolly Friday...it's the best day of the week!


Despite the massive amounts of work that I have to wade through today, I'm in good spirits. Why? Well, I only have a few more days of work before I'm on vacation until 2011. YAY! I heart December. From the holiday music and decorated houses to Christmas movies on the telly and gingerbread lattes at Starbucks, it all makes me happy! And if you're like me, you're also dealing with a full schedule of holiday parties. We have several more to attend tonight, which will include "white elephant" gifts, festive cocktails, rich snacks, sweet treats and more. So how does one avoid piling on the pounds when so much egg nog and fudge is around? Here are a few tips to surviving the holiday season with minimal weight gain.

* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before hitting the big holiday party food spread. A small salad, slice of cheese or cup of soup will help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later. Try choosing foods that are lower in calories or high in fiber – make sure to eat small portions of fruits and veggies throughout the day. That way, you won’t feel famished by the time you reach the party, but will still have some extra wiggle room (calorie wise) in order to opt for that special holiday treat.
* When fixing your plate, make sure the bulk of it is fruits and veggies. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some gingerbread. Just don't eat the entire loaf.
* If you're eating dinner at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* If you're handling the cooking, avoid adding lots of butter, salt and fatty dressings. Create healthier versions of favorite baked goods by using fat-free milk instead of whole milk and applesauce in place of oil. Sweeten your beverage, casserole or dessert with a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose. To thicken a liquid without adding fat, use one of the following: flour, cornstarch, potato flakes, yogurt or fat-free evaporated milk. And remember, many holiday favorites are packed with nutrients. Sweet potatoes supply potassium and fiber and are loaded with the antioxidant vitamin A, cranberries are high in vitamin C and dried fruit and turkey can also be nutritious options.
* Try not to get seconds until a few hours after you've eaten the first plate.
* Always eat dessert last.
* Drink lots of water. It will help fill you up. And remember that every fruit drink, soda, glass of wine, pint of beer and sweetened coffee comes bearing calories. This is not to say you have to give up all your favorite beverages to prevent packing on the pounds. All foods and beverages can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan. You can save calories, for example, by drinking sucralose-sweetened products such as light lemonade or diet soda.
* Take a walk after supper or get in a morning or afternoon workout before arriving to the party. By sneaking in extra physical activity every day, you are more likely to keep that waistline trim.

Remember, the holidays are a time for spending time with family and friends. You don’t have to deprive yourself to prevent weight gain. With a few simple steps you can maintain your weight while celebrating the season.

For more sensible holiday eating tips, visit the recipe section of www.caloriecontrol.org.

On a slightly different note, are there any Community fans in the house? I absolutely loved their stop-motion holiday-themed episode earlier this month. Here's a highlight:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's not so warm out there!

Ugh. I’m not feeling good. Instead of eating the healthy salad I brought for lunch today, I made the mistake of eating a piece of fried chicken, two brownies and some baked brie with crackers – all leftover food from a retirement party at work yesterday. Now my stomach hurts. I think it was just too much sweet and grease at once. I might have to take an extra fitness class tonight to make up for that. Speaking of fitness, I've been trying to run two or three mornings each week (in addition to my usual lineup of evening fitness classes) the past month to help counteract all of the holiday-related indulgence. Frankly, it's been a bit too cold this week to do it. I know, I know...I'm a Chicago girl living in the South - I should NOT be kvetching about brisk weather. Still, there is nothing fun about trudging out the door at 6 a.m., in jogging clothes in 20-degree temperatures. My bed is way too cozy for that kind of craziness. Anyway, for all of you outdoor athletes braving the chilly temperatures, here are a few of my favorite, low-calorie beverage recipes to help warm you up.

Spiced Hot Cranberry Cider

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Holiday Spiced Tea

Peppermint Mocha Delight

Friday, December 03, 2010

This Old Cub

I’m feeling pretty blue today. Even though it’s Friday – and I’ll get to enjoy a free steak dinner and a comedy show, courtesy of my boyfriend's company holiday party - I awoke to the news that Ron Santo, the legendary Cubs player and broadcaster, passed away. The 70-year-old North Side icon died of complications from bladder cancer. Trust me when I say that hearts all over the Chicago area are breaking today. As Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts explained, "Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans."

For those unfamiliar with his work, Santo was a star third baseman and part of the 1960s Cubs teams featuring Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. He earned National League Gold Glove awards five straight seasons and was a nine-time NL All-Star. He later became a passionate and heartfelt broadcaster who couldn't help cheering his team from the radio booth for two decades. Much like another beloved Cubbies icon, Harry Caray, Santo butchered names and sometimes lost track of what was going on in the game while serving as a color commentator. But he was beloved by the Cubs Nation because he epitomized the long-suffering fan: he made no apologies for his on-air cheerleading or his utter frustration over a bad play.

Unfortunately, Santo never witnessed his favorite team going to the World Series - or his longtime goal of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite career numbers that place him among baseball's all-time great third basemen. He was up for the Hall of Fame on 19 occasions, and first appeared on the Veterans Committee ballot in 2003, only to fall short each time. His number, which was retired by the Cubs several years ago, now flies on the foul pole at Wrigley Field.

Ron, you’ll always be a Hall of Famer in my book. RIP and hope you're kicking back right now, sharing a beer with Harry Caray.

Okay, I know this is primarily a food and health blog. So for anyone looking for some low-calorie dessert recipes - which is always a popular request this time of year - here are two sugar-free pie recipes...an ideal sweet treat since today is National Apple Pie Day.

Nostalgic Apple Pie

Cranberry Walnut Apple Pie

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cut the Fat in Half on Thanksgiving


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 tomorrow. You heard that right - 4,500 freakin' calories! And sadly, those figures only include snacking and the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, not breakfast or late evening munching.

The average holiday dinner alone can carry a load of 3,000 calories. And most of us nibble our way through more than another 1,500 calories in dips, chips, appetizers and drinks both before and after the big meal. To put it into visual terms, the average person may consume enough fat at a holiday meal to equal three sticks of butter. UGH.

But there are ways to cut down on some of the gastronomical excess. Reducing the amount of fat and calories through simple substitutions can help prevent the average weight a person will gain during the holiday season. Extra exercise can also ward off the pounds.

Here are some "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 in the 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 physical fitness-related tradition -- a holiday walk or friendly game of football, for instance.

Other ideas?
* You can also reduce the calories in a meal by using lower-calorie products. Try putting sucralose in your tea or coffee or use it in place of sugar in a sweet casserole.
* Use fat-free soup in your favorite casserole (fat free mushroom soup has 70 calories per 1/2 cup serving vs. 120 for the regular)
* Use chicken bouillon to simmer the celery and onions for your turkey stuffing -- instead of sautéing them in butter. (one bouillon cube has 5 calories, a tablespoon of butter has 102 calories)
* Try low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail (40 calories per 8 oz. serving) in place of the regular (140 calories).
* Light sour cream (35 calories per 2 tablespoon serving) has about half the calories of regular sour cream (60 calories per serving). Fat-free sour cream has 25 calories per serving.
* Fruit pie filling has 90 calories per 1/3 cup serving; the light version has 60 and the sugar-free version only has 35.

Here is a sample Turkey Day menu, featuring lower-calorie recipes, courtesy of the Calorie Control Council.

And here are two more sucralose-sweetened holiday recipes from Splenda.com.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

And because I love the Peanuts gang, here is a clip from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Enjoy and have a safe, wonderful holiday weekend!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Control the Sweet Cravings

I found this article, written by a dietitian, that features some really good tips on controlling those sweet-tooth cravings.

As she notes, sugary foods can wreak havoc on blood-sugar levels and widen the waistline. In addition, a high intake of added sugar is associated with lower levels of good HDL cholesterol and higher levels of unhealthy triglycerides, as well as metabolic syndrome.

The World Health Organization says that added sugars should make up less than 10 percent of our total calorie intake. The American Heart Association recommends a more stringent daily limit of added sugar: not more than 100 calories for women, 150 calories for men. However, USDA estimates show that most of us consume more than 300 calories of added sugar every day. Yikes!

So here are some steps to prevent those sugary cravings next time they strike:

1. Pay particular attention to how you start your day. A breakfast high in sugary carbs can trigger the cycle of sugar cravings for the rest of the day. Try to eat within two hours of waking, and throughout the day, try not to go longer than four hours without eating. Remember to incorporate appetite-squelching protein-rich, high-fiber foods that contain a little fat with every meal and snack. This will help prevent those mid-afternoon energy slumps that leave you craving sugar.

2. Scan labels and check the nutrition facts for grams of sugar. To put the numbers into perspective, a sugar packet contains 4 grams of sugar. So a large soft drink with 85 grams of sugar would be akin to downing more than 20 packets of sugar.

3. Cut back on the stuff that can really make an impact. There are the obvious cookies, cupcakes, pies and ice cream, but the bigger culprits may be sources of hidden sugars, such as yogurt, coffee drinks, smoothies, cereal, granola bars and "fiber" bars.

4. Find other sweet-tasting snacks such as a protein bar, sugar-free flavored iced coffee, peanut butter and low-sugar jelly sandwich, low-fat plain Greek yogurt with a no-calorie sweetener (like sucralose). Want something sweet after a meal? Try popping a piece of sugarless gum or sipping a cup of coffee, tea or sugar-free hot cocoa. Sugar-free Jello and pudding can also help take the edge off a sweet tooth with little or no calories.

Hopefully some of these tips will get you through the busy holiday season!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Man v. Pizza

Are there any Man v. Food fans in the house? I'll admit, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure. The host, Adam Richman, essentially travels to different cities in each episode to sample - or should I say, tackle - notorious plates of food, ones that feature things that been charbroiled or smoked or fried or smothered in cheese, chili, french fries and other high-fat items. It's basically a heart attack on a plate with a side order of diabetes. That's why I worry that Richman will not be long on this Earth - not with those types of eating habits. Still, it's an entertaining (and nauseating) show.
I mention this because an acquaintance will soon be participating in the "carnivore challenge" at Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria outside of Atlanta, a contest made famous on an episode of Man v. Food. Here's the deal: two people, an eleven-pound carnivore pizza and only one hour to eat it all. Even Adam, the show's host could not conquer the seemingly infinite mounds of pepperoni, ground beef, Italian sausage, ham, bacon, cheese and sauce. Ugh.
Along those lines, though, today is National Pizza With Everything (Except Anchovies) Day. Seriously...look it up. So while I will not be condoning any overindulgence of rich pizza, I'm more than happy to provide some light, low-calorie recipes for all you pie lovers, courtesy of Splenda.com and the Hungry Girl website. Enjoy!

Party on a Pizza

The Great Greek Pizza

"Meaty" Thin Crust Pizza

And for any masochists, here is the video footage of the Man v. Food carnivore challenge. Blech!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Another reason to avoid sugar...


According to newly published research, regular consumption of sugary beverages is associated with a "clear and consistently greater risk of metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes." The findings, which were based on the meta-analysis of 11 published studies and published in Diabetes Care, appear to support claims that intake of sugary beverages should be limited in order to reduce risk of these conditions.
"Many previous studies have examined the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of diabetes, and most have found positive associations but our study, which is a pooled analysis of the available studies, provides an overall picture of the magnitude of risk and the consistency of the evidence," wrote the researchers, led by Vasanti Malik a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition, at the Harvard School of Public Health.
According to findings published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages more than doubled in the U.S. from 64.4 to 141.7 kcal per day between the late 1970s and 2006. Previous research from prospective studies has shown consistent positive associations between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and weight gain and obesity, as well as linking such beverages to other health risks high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
So my advice is, ditch the regular soda and grab a diet version. With that change alone, not only could you avoid possible outcomes like the one mentioned above, but you will also cut 150 calories a day from your diet, which could ultimately result in a 15-pound weight loss over the course of a year.
Need another reason to dump those sugary products? Experts say too much sugar can make your skin dull and wrinkled. At blame is a natural process that's known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products or AGEs. The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. The good news is, there are several ways to counteract this, such as cutting back on sugary sweets, wearing sunscreen and eating more antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts, and vegetables. And, of course, if you have a sweet tooth like mine - and are hoping to celebrate National Candy Day today (yes, it's for real!), just grab a sugar-free version (and a diet soda) instead.

Russell Stover Sugar-Free Chocolate

Hershey's Sugar-Free Candy (I'm partial to the Reese's peanut butter cups!)

Jelly Belly's Sugar-Free Jelly Beans

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Another year, another Halloween party...and once again, I have waited until the last possible minute to find a costume. So what should I be? I typically try to do something creative and homemade, rather than grabbing a witch, vampire, cat or nurse outfit from the local costume shop. Unfortunately, all of the ideas I've come up with require time and patience - neither of which I will have tomorrow. So please weigh in (as long as you don't suggest something like Lady Gaga, the Jersey Shore cast or one of those lame Twilight vampires...ugh!) if you have any fun ideas - I'll be hitting up the local thrift stores tomorrow morning.

Moving on, I went to a haunted house earlier this week...well, according to several magazines and travel shows, I went to THE haunted house. I joined a group of friends at Netherworld, which is ranked one of the spookiest haunted houses in the nation year after year. I have to say, it was a trip! While it wasn't scary, per se, the costumes, makeup and scenery was almost awe-inspiring. From gargoyles flying out from the rafters above your head to statues that come to life and floors moving beneath your feet, there is never a dull moment at the joint. And for a stormy weeknight, the place was packed! It took about 30 to 45 minutes to get into the main haunted house, even with staff herding us in like cattle. And unfortunately, the crowded house meant that sometimes you would see the people in front of you get frightened by a guy or gal hiding in the corner - which then ruined the surprise when your group walked around the same bend a minute or two later. Still, the thrill was more along the lines of a sensory overload - squishy floors, vertigo-inducing tunnels, a hall of mirrors, walls that close in and wet things that drip on your neck and shoulders. As for the smaller haunted house on site, it was no less creepy and featured a gory theme straight out of "Deliverance" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." I saw it described somewhere as "redneck scary," which is pretty accurate - especially when you find yourself running past walls covered in cockroaches(BLECH!) while chased by a masked man wielding a chainsaw. Good times!

Okay, so back to Halloween. If you plan on buying candy, look for a lower-calorie version. Sugar-free chocolate, for example, can save 50 calories. Remember, you can indulge - just don't overdo it on the food and booze, especially if you're watching your weight. Either way, have a great, safe weekend!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scary Statistics!

According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 - a threefold increase from the current rate. Federal officials estimate that 1 in 10 have diabetes now, but the number could grow to 1 in 3 by mid-century if current trends continue. That is pretty alarming!

An estimated 24 million Americans have diabetes currently. The growth in U.S. diabetes cases has been closely tied to escalating obesity rates.

As someone with several diabetic relatives, this news makes me all the more determined to get in the best shape possible. Please, if you've been struggling with your weight, start adopting healthier habits - eat smaller portions, reduce your calorie intake and increase your exercise. And if you can't get over that sweet tooth, keep indulging in your favorite treats. Just choose the lower-calorie, sugar-free version - like cookies sweetened with sucralose. All of these steps could be the key to a longer, healthier future.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Frighten Away those Halloween Pounds

Although I'll be in town for the first time in almost a month, this weekend is going to be insanely busy. Between concerts, sports (big day for my beloved Badgers - even ESPN College GameDay will be in Madison on Saturday night - u-rah-rah!), a surprise birthday party for a friend and a trip to see the air show, I won't have much downtime. And did I mention that we'll be shopping for Halloween costumes AND attending a neighborhood Halloween parade this weekend? Like I said, no rest for the weary!

Speaking of Halloween, I know it's still two weeks away. But if you're anything like me, you're already fighting the temptation of all those cheap bags of candy at the grocery store. Between the holiday parties and baskets filled with high-calorie treats, Halloween can be less than kind to the waistline. So how do you prevent packing on the pounds while still participating in all the spooky festivities?

According to this article from the Calorie Control Council website, foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners provide a simple way to enjoy your favorite treats without the additional calories. For example, choosing sugar-free chocolate will save 50 calories a day. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a five-pound weight loss. Drinking a diet soda can shave off 150 calories a day - or 15 pounds - by year's end.

Here are a few more tips to surviving Halloween without gaining weight, courtesy of CCC:

* If you are throwing a party, serve reduced-fat popcorn or fat-free pretzel twists or sticks. Toss in some chocolate candies, as an added treat, but watch portion sizes.
* Instead of caramel apples, try serving whole or sliced apples with fat-free caramel sauce.
* Cut out bread (try a reduced-fat or light version) with a Halloween cookie cutter. Serve with smoked turkey, reduced-fat cheese, tomato, lettuce and other sandwich "fixings."
* Use sugar substitutes and applesauce to replace oil and sugar when baking treats for Halloween.
* Choose candy that is sugar-free, reduced-fat or is made with a sugar substitute like sucralose.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Low-fat choco milk? Do tell!

I'll be honest. I'm not a huge milk fan. It's just something about the taste that throws me off. However, if you add it to cereal, or alongside a PB&J sammich or a plate of oreo cookies, I'm all over it. And chocolate milk? YUM!! Used to be one of my favorite things as a kid...heck, even as an adult. Sadly for school kids, it seems most U.S. school district menus no longer carry flavored milk.

However, there is hope! Tate & Lyle has created proprietary chocolate milk drink formulations that have slashed calories and sugar by as much as 30 percent, resulting in flavored milk drinks with calorie and sugar levels approaching those typically found in low-fat white milk. These formulas were created using custom blends of well-known and accepted sweetening ingredients, including sugar, crystalline fructose and sucralose.

“As a company focused on health and wellness, Tate & Lyle understands the challenges school districts face when determining the most nutritious foods and beverages to serve to its students,” says Dave Tuchler, Vice President, Global Marketing, Tate & Lyle. “Tate & Lyle is a strong advocate of developing leading-edge solutions that allow school districts to consistently deliver nutritious, lower-calorie meals with a healthier profile that parents approve of and kids enjoy consuming.”

Sweet!

Speaking of chocolate milk, are there any "Modern Family" fans in the house? There was a funny moment in a recent episode that involved adding a pinch of salt to chocolate milk to enhance the taste. Can anyone attest to the power of salty chocolate milk? Might have to try that trick the next time I drink a glass. Anyhoo, check out a clip of the moment in question. And if you haven't watched Modern Family yet, get cracking. Show is awesome!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The key to any good vacation...


I'm back! After a wonderful week of vacation in South Florida, I'm back in Atlanta, a little more tan, a little more rested...now trying to get my head in the work game again. Here are a few highlights of my trip to the Sunshine State: going to a Polish-Dominican wedding and watching the bride's family tear up the dance floor when the salsa band played; catching up with old friends across South Florida; sitting in a bar in South Beach and eventually discovering there's a monsoon outside when the bartender starts piling sandbags around the door; drinking sangria at a wonderful bodega in Key West before watching the sunset at Mallory Square; catching a rockin' bluegrass band at a fun dive bar; trying out dozens of different hot sauces and marinades at the Peppers of Key West taste test counter...and finally, watching the fish swim up while wading in the crystal clear waters along Bahia Honda State Park. Speaking of Key Lime Pie, I've now got a hankering for the tart and tasty dessert. For those that might not have known, the dish is named after the small key limes common throughout the Florida Keys. We actually ate some off the key lime tree at the inn where we stayed...yum! And in another FYI: key lime juice (unlike regular lime juice) is a pale yellow - as is the filling in the pie. Some cooks add food coloring to give the pie filling a green color, but this is largely frowned upon by folks in the Keys.
Anyhoo, a friend recently passed along this delicious, low-cal, bake-free Key Lime Pie recipe a few weeks ago. I think I just might have to whip some up this weekend, minus the food coloring, of course!

Key Lime Pie
8 oz sugar-free Cool Whip
1/2 cup Key Lime juice
1 can low-fat condensed milk
1 graham cracker shell or tarts

Mix above ingredients and refrigerate until firm.
Fill shells and eat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

South Florida, here I come!

I am so excited, y'all. This time tomorrow, I'll be packing my bags and getting ready to head to the airport. Yup, it's vay-cay time!! The boyfriend and I are heading down to South Florida for a long-overdue and much-needed vacation. Well, we're mostly going down for a wedding and to see some old friends. But I plan to spend a lot of the trip getting my tan on, lounging at beaches as far north as West Palm and as far south as Key West. Did I mention I used to live in South Florida? Yes, I know the area pretty well. And while I was never particularly fond of the Florida restaurant scene, I am stoked to get some authentic Cuban food again. Ropa vieja, mojitos, yellow rice, black beans, plaintains and fried yuca. YUMMY! So dry your eyes. I'll be back in early October with more sugar-free tips and recipes and a recap of all my Florida shenanigans. Until then, here is a low-calorie mojito recipe so you can enjoy a refreshing Cuban cocktail from the comfort of your home...while I enjoy mine from South Beach or a Key West patio, bwahaha!

Watermelon Frojito
Ingredients:
3/4 cup watermelon chunks, seedless or seeds removed
1 shot (1.5 oz.) rum
1 lime, cut into wedges
3 - 4 mint leaves
2 no-calorie sweetener packets (like Splenda or Truvia)
1 cup crushed ice or 5 - 7 ice cubes

Directions:

Place the mint leaves, half the lime wedges, and the sweetener in a tall glass. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lime wedges into the glass and discard those wedges. Crush and "muddle" the mixture until the juice has been released from the lime wedges, the mint leaves are thoroughly bruised, and the sweetener has dissolved. Set aside.
Place the watermelon, rum, and ice in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into the glass with the lime-mint mixture and stir well. Drink up and be refreshed!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stressed Out? Eat Healthy

I just came across this a great article on www.sucralose.org that discusses "soothing foods" in times of stress. I have a confession: I'm a total stress eater. When I get overwhelmed or emotional, I reach for that chocolate bar or bag of salty chips rather than some carrot sticks. It's a habit I've struggled with for many years. And apparently I'm not alone, since studies show people crave rich, high-calorie foods when stress is unrelenting, hence the term "comfort food."

Here are a healthy food tips to help stave off the stress. For a longer list, you'll just have to read the article!

Go nuts with almonds - A good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and E, almonds also contain magnesium and zinc. The B vitamins and magnesium are involved in the production of serotonin, which helps regulate mood and relieve stress, while vitamin E is an antioxidant that bolsters the immune system.

Grab a green, leafy veggie – Broccoli, kale and other dark green vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins that help replenish our bodies in times of stress. Many vegetables also contain potassium, which can be calming on the nerves.

Opt for whole grains - Whole grains including bulgur wheat, quinoa, wheat pasta, oats and brown rice, contain plenty of B vitamins and healthy fiber. They also supply complex carbohydrates that do not spike blood sugar levels in the same way that simple carbohydrates can.

Milk does a body good – Low-fat or skim milk is very high in calcium and B vitamins, which help to build bones and protect nerve health. In addition, milk contains protein, which stabilizes blood sugar.

Beat the blues with berries – Blueberries are jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which are potent stress busters. As an added bonus, they're high in fiber and low in calories.

Your diet plays a crucial role in your overall well-being. In addition to incorporating these stress-fighting foods into your diet, sugar-free products sweetened with sucralose allow consumers to enjoy their favorite desserts and meals without worrying about the additional calories. For example, choosing sugar-free chocolate will save you 50 calories a day – or five pounds – by year’s end.

Good advice! I'm certainly willing to give it a shot.

More information about recipes with a sugar substitute.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How do you like 'dem apples?

I never thought I would say this but...I actually found a relatively healthy dessert recipe on Paula Deen's website! Crazy, right? I mean, the chef known for her rich macaroni & cheese, deep-fried Twinkies, creamed corn and Krispy Kreme bread pudding with butter rum sauce actually posted a lower-calorie dessert recipe online. And I say that with lots of love because I have eaten at Ms. Deen's The Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah and enjoyed the experience immensely. That Southern Buffet is a delight - the fried chicken literally melts in the mouth! Anyhoo, back to the focus of my post...I just came across this Splenda-sweetened Apple Dumpling recipe on her site. Dee-licious! And did I mention that today just happened to be National Apple Dumpling Day?!

Ingredients:
2 cans crescent rolls
2 granny smith apples
1 stick butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/3 cup splenda
1 (12 oz) diet Mountain Dew

Directions:
* Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
* Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 wedges. Roll each wedge in a crescent roll. Place rolls in a 9 x 13 baking dish. In small saucepan melt butter. Once melted add splenda (or sugar) and cinnamon. Mix well. Spoon over crescent rolls. Pour diet Mountain Dew over rolls. Bake for 45 minutes.
* Notes from the Paula Deen Test Kitchen: Splenda is more difficult to mix in butter than sugar. Mixes better if butter is melted. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, Splenda and cinnamon. Remove the dumplings to a wire rack after cooking as the liquid still in the baking dish will make the dumplings soggy. The Apple Dumplings taste like mini apple pies.

More Splenda recipes here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fire up the grill without the calories


The weather here in Atlanta has been gorgeous (to me, anyway) lately. So to celebrate the end of summer, some slightly cooler temperatures, the beginning of a new college football season and a friend's newly constructed backyard patio, I'll be attending a BBQ tomorrow afternoon. Yes, I know...barbecues are NOT the best for the waistline. I should know - I've attending plenty of them this year. But there is a way to enjoy the festivities without tripling your daily intake of fat and calories.
Here are some tips, courtesy of www.sucralose.org:

Choose your marinades wisely. Using sauces such as Worcestershire, Chile, Soy, or light Italian dressing in place of salt or heavy sauces will add a lot of flavor with a few calories. If you are looking to flavor with spices, try garlic, onion powder, or chili powder. If sweet taste is what you are going for add a little fruit juice to the marinade. This will add a sweet taste while also tenderizing the meat. Also, a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose can help sweeten a marinade without the added calories.
Think beyond just meat. Barbeques don’t have to be a meat lover’s paradise. Try one of the sauces/seasonings listed above on steak or chicken skewers. In between each piece of meat, add pineapple, mushrooms, peppers or any other fruit or vegetable you and your family or friends enjoy. Cut the veggies into sizes that will cook well on the grill and then grill them for about 8 to 10 minutes. If you like seafood, shrimp or fish could be a great option for grilling whole or making into skewers.
When grilling chicken, make sure you remove all the skin. The skin of the chicken is where most of the saturated fat is found so removing the skin will remove this unwanted fat as well. If you are a chicken skin lover consider this: 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast with skin contains 8.8 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of saturated fat 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast without skin contains 4 grams of fat and 1.2 grams of saturated fat. Be sure to take the skin off before adding the marinade so you don’t lose the flavor along with the skin. When cooking other types of meat be sure to choose the leanest cuts possible and trim additional fat before cooking.
Portion distortion is still a problem on the grill. If you are making skewers, cut the meat in small pieces with loads of vegetables in between. If you are making burgers or steak, think “tapas” and cut them into smaller appetizer portions before cooking. For every piece of meat you have, try to have an equal amount of vegetable.
Traditional barbecues are centered on grilling meat, but don’t forget about the sides. Complement your meat with a healthful pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta and light Italian dressing. Or, going along with the tapas theme, make some mini appetizers such as bruschetta, hummus with olive oil and whole wheat pita, low fat artichoke dip, or a veggie tray. Take advantage of the delicious fruits in season and provide a fruit tray and a yogurt dipping sauce sweetened with sucralose for a low-calorie dessert that is sure to satisfy all your guests!

Hope these tips help at the next backyard gathering.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Get Physical!

Add this to the list of reasons why exercise is good. According to a new study, physical exercise can reduce a genetic predisposition to obesity by an average of 40 percent. The study, which has been published in Public Library of American Science Medicine journal, is based on examination of more than 20,000 British people. The research challenges the notion that an inherited propensity to obesity is impossible to overcome and boosts the case for the benefit of more exercise for anyone looking to shed some weight. So for any of you looking to lose a few pounds, remember to combine exercise with healthier eating habits for the best results.

In closing, I thought I would include this awesome clip featuring a "Physical" duet between Olivia Newton-John and Sue Sylvester. Enjoy and have a safe, happy Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Happy 90210 Day!

Today is 9/02/2010...Do you know what that means? It means that the dates -and stars!- have aligned to form 90210 Day! So in honor of that calendrical feat (is calendrical even a word?), here are a few clips from that glorious show adored by so many children of the late 80s, early 90s. And yes, I confess I was one of those children. So take a trip down Memory Lane and enjoy some of these old-school 90210 clips. God bless YouTube!







By the way, who else wanted to hang out with Nat at the Peach Pit back in the day? I used to think that place was so cool. Speaking of peaches, here are some sucralose-sweetened peachy-flavored recipes. Think I'm going to make one of these and watch some old BH 90210 episodes tonight. Enjoy!

Double Crust Peach Cobbler
Peach Flavored Green Tea Punch
Peach Almond Crisp

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.

One of the few regrets of my post-college graduation European backpacking adventure was not making it to La Tomatina in Spain. My friends and I had to choose between Pamplona's San Fermin festival - aka the Running of the Bulls - in early July or the giant tomato food fight, which is always held on the last Wednesday of August near Valencia. While we enjoyed our time in Pamplona, I've always wondered what it would be like to watch up to 40,000 people whip over-ripe tomatoes at each other on the streets of a small Spanish town.
Talk about entertaining...apparently the festival can't begin until one brave soul has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole to reach a coveted ham at the top. Yes, you read that right. And once the fight begins, participants are encouraged to "wear protective safety goggles and gloves." Cool!
Here's a little history about the event, in case you were wondering: The tomato fight has been a tradition in Bunol, a small town near Valencia, since 1944 or 1945. No one is completely certain how it originated, but theories include a local food fight among friends, a juvenile class war, a volley of tomatoes from bystanders at a carnival parade, a practical joke on a bad musician and the aftermath of an accidental lorry spillage. My favorite theory, though, is that disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration.
Regardless of La Tomatina's founding, it is still going strong all these years later, as photos of yesterday's event prove.
Some day, I hope to get back to Spain to check out the festival. Until then, I'll just have to enjoy my homemade Caprese salad, featuring wonderful Brandywine tomatoes and fresh basil from a friend's garden. Best.Lunch.Ever!
For all my fellow tomato fans, here are some wonderful, low-calorie recipes featuring all things tomato.

Tomato Raspberry Salsa
Sweet and Spicy BLT
Chicken with Red Mole

Friday, August 20, 2010

When life hands you lemons...


Stop me if you've heard this one...a group of health inspectors shut down a little girl's lemonade stand because she didn't have a temporary restaurant license. Sounds like a satirical Onion article or the beginning of a bad joke, right? Well, that actually happened in Oregon a few weeks ago. The Department of Health in Multnomah County shut down 7-year-old Julie Murphy's lemonade stand - where she was selling the refreshing drink for 50 cents a pop - when she couldn't produce a "temporary restaurant license." County officials later apologized for the incident, claiming that "a lemonade stand is a classic, iconic American kid thing to do," and that in the future, inspectors should use discretion and consider that food-safety laws are aimed at adults engaged in a professional business, not kids hawking lemonade. Seriously, people, what American child has NOT set up a lemonade stand? I know we used to do it all the time growing up, especially during those sweltering summer days. Speaking of lemonade, today is National Lemonade Day! So if you can't find a kid with a cheap lemonade stand in your neighborhood, try mixing up a batch of one of these. The sucralose-sweetened recipes are super yummy. Happy Friday!

Pear-Ginger Lemonade
Watermelon Lemonade
Blackberry Twist Lemonade

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cool Running


Once upon a time, back when I was young and skinny, I was a little speed demon. Seriously y'all, I could run! I was on the cross country team and was always one of the first to cross the finish line in any gym class race. And then, thanks to family genes, I started to struggle with knee issues. And while I continued competing in other sports, I gave up running. In recent years, I could barely even run a few blocks without feeling stiff and wheezy. Until now...
Inspired by some racing friends, I've decided to get back into the game. Several of them pointed me to this program, which eases newbies (or out-of-shape folk) into running. Your first couple weeks on the The Couch-to-5K ® Running Plan, for example, you might alternate jogging and walking for 20 to 30 minutes increments three times a week. The longer you do it, the more you run. So far, I'm really enjoying the routine. So for any other fellow couch potatoes, take a look at the program and see if it works for you. Maybe we can all compare triathlon notes in a year or two!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do you understand calories?


Hmmmmm, this is pretty interesting stuff. According to a recent USA Today article, most people don't know how many calories they should consume in a day to maintain their current weight. A nationally representative online survey of 1,024 people revealed that 63% can't accurately estimate the number, 25% won't even venture a guess and only 12% actually know the answer.
Experts say that calorie requirements are unique to each person, depending on gender, age, height and physical activity level. But more than 58 percent of respondents said they don't try to balance the calories they consume with those they burn.

Other survey findings:
•70% of people say they are concerned about their weight.
•54% say they are trying to lose weight; 23% are trying to maintain; 19% are doing nothing; and 4% are trying to gain weight.
•Of those trying to lose or maintain weight, most say they are changing the amount and types of food they eat and doing physical activity; 65% say weight loss is the main reason they're eating better.
•Among roadblocks people give for not sticking with weight loss attempts: lack of willpower, lack of time, not seeing results quickly and boredom.
•77% don't meet the government's guidelines of 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

If you're serious about weight loss and need help counting calories, visit the Healthy Weight Tool Kit section of the Calorie Control Council website. The beneficial page features food calorie, BMI, diet assessment and exercise calculators as well as an online food diary. You can also visit www.mypyramid.gov and enter your age, weight, height and activity level to pull up information on how to balance calories burned with those consumed.

Remember, there are a number of online tools to help assist in weight loss efforts. While you don't have to sacrifice all of your favorite foods to maintain a healthy weight, you certainly need to keep an eye on those pesky calories!

Friday, August 06, 2010

A low-calorie recipe on a summer day

Truth: other than cherry-flavored diet soda, ginger ale and root beer, I'm just not a big fan of carbonated soft drinks. One of my favorite sweet treats, though, is a root beer float. There is just something so satisfying about the combination of the ice cream with the beverage. Why? No idea. I just love me a root beer float on a hot day. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover that today is National Root Beer Float Day. You better believe I'm going to celebrate this particular food holiday. By mixing a Diet Barq's (or Mug or A&W, etc.) with a scoop or two of Breyers CarbSmart vanilla ice cream, you will find yourself with quite the delicious - yet low-cal summer treat. Go on and try it too. I dare ya!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Weight-Loss Websites That Work

Just read this article from U.S. News & World Report about effective weight loss websites. Speaking from experience, I've used both the Weight Watchers and SparkPeople sites and I emphatically agree that they can make a positive impact on weight loss or maintenance efforts.
According to the article, participants in a recent study that entered their meals and physical activity in online diaries at least once a month for roughly two years were more likely to lose weight—and keep it off—than others who did so less diligently. What I like about some of these weight-loss sites is that they're so interactive, providing everything from record-keeping tools, nutrition tips and recipes to message boards and support groups. Some are even personalized, tailoring meal plans and workouts to the individual.
So here are the five best ones, according to the article:

CalorieKing ($12 monthly, $85 for a year) - A food and exercise database linked to a personal diary converts meals and activities into calories so you can visualize if you're hitting your weight-loss goals. A drag-and-drop interface makes meal plans easy to create, even for the least technologically savvy. Guidance to successful meal planning is provided.

Nutrihand ($9.95 per month or free when you join with your nutritionist or dietitian) - It allows you and your counselor to work together online on meal plans, shopping lists, and fitness goals. You can print out reports to bring to your sessions. Diabetics who use insulin pumps can upload data from their glucometer on a private and secure network and chart or graph glucose levels, blood pressure, and other personal data to tweak pump settings and track health status.

SparkPeople (free) - The focus is on meeting simple goals: eat less, exercise more. Users can create meal plans based on calories and dietary restrictions, plan meals up to a week in advance, and save favorite meals to a daily log. Members exchange advice through forums, blogs, and message boards.

Vtrim ($695 for six months) - From the University of Vermont, Vtrim allows users to sign on for a six-month commitment consisting of 24 one-hour classes with approximately 20 other members guided by a Vtrim-certified "facilitator" trained in diet, nutrition, or weight management. Groups meet weekly in chat rooms to discuss specific habits geared towards healthy living. They utilize graphs, charts, body mass index, featured recipes, and other tools to help track calories. Although the price tag packs a hefty punch, Vtrim takes a sensible approach to dieting that focuses on changing behavior, not starvation.

WeightWatchers ($47.90 for the first month and $17.95 for each additional month, plus a $23.95 start-up fee) - Best known for its "points system," WeightWatchers bases its program on choosing healthy foods that satisfy hunger as long as possible. The site keeps track of food intake; provides recipes, meal ideas, and dining out tips; and creates personalized weekly progress charts. Signing up online won't allow you to attend local meetings, but it does allow you to access your plan from your cell phone.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pregnancy and a Sugar-Free Lifestyle


Hey gang. One of my pregnant friends asked me about this yesterday, so I wanted to clear the issue up. She was concerned that her love for diet soda and foods made with sucralose and other low-calorie sweeteners might harm the baby. The response is: not at all! Research has shown that sucralose does not have harmful effects on pregnant women or their babies. Obviously, while sucralose may be consumed as part of a healthy pre- and post-natal diet, a pregnant or breastfeeding woman should still talk to her physician or health care provider about consuming the necessary nutrients to support her and her baby’s health throughout pregnancy and infancy.
For more information on the topic, check out this "Myth of the Month" from the Calorie Control Council website.
"The use of low-calorie sweeteners in pregnancy has been well studied both in humans and in animals. Before approving the currently available low-calorie sweeteners, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that the low-calorie sweeteners are safe for all populations, including special groups such as the elderly, children, and pregnant and lactating women. Further, leading health groups such as the American Dietetic Association and American Diabetes Association support the safe use of low-calorie sweeteners during pregnancy. Low-calorie sweeteners can help pregnant women enjoy the taste of sweets without excess calories, leaving room for nutritious foods and beverages without excess weight gain. Excess weight gain during pregnancy has been shown to be harmful to both the mother and developing baby."

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cheers to Cheesecake!


Guess I'll be busting out the cooking apron tonight because tomorrow is National Cheesecake Day, my peoples! And fortunately, there are a ton of low-calorie cheesecake recipes for all of you fighting the sweet tooth.
Here are a few of my favorite sucralose-sweetened versions. Which one do you think I should whip up tonight? They're all so yummy, I can't decide!

Marvelous Mocha Cheesecake
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake Cups
Almond Cheesecake Bars

Speaking of sweet treats, my office is hosting an "ice cream social" this afternoon. Please send me strength because I'll need it to get through the event with minimal waistline damage! Here's hoping there are a few tubs of sugar-free ice cream over there.

More low calorie recipes here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Siren Call of Fro-Yo


Yogurberry, Yogli Mogli, The Yogurt Tap, Pinkberry! Every time I turn around, a new frozen yogurt spot is opening in Atlanta. Not that I mind. I'm a big fan of the chilled sweet treat, especially on a hot summer day. And seeing as how I'm hopping in a car this sweltering afternoon and heading up to a relative's lakehouse in Tennessee for the weekend, I think I just might have to grab a container of frozen yogurt for the road. By the way, I'm super excited. I haven't really taken a vacation yet this year, so it will be nice to sit my butt on a boat and soak in the rays for two days - even if I don't get to take any time away from work to do it. Anyhoo, back to my fro-yo craving: I think some pomegranate yogurt topped with strawberries, mango and kiwi might do the trick!

And for all you make-it-at-home types, here is a sucralose-sweetened frozen yogurt recipe. Have a great weekend!

Peach Frozen Yogurt

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cheering for Cherry Cola!


This day is officially awesome. After hitting the salad bar at a local Jason's Deli, I found a Diet Black Cherry soft drink by Boylan Bottleworks. It was the only one left in the display case and I GOT IT!! Honestly, it's total yum. Zero calories, no fat, carbs or sugars and a rockin' good, refreshing taste. I only wish it was easier to find. Does that mean I'll have to make a weekly trip to Jason's Deli just to get my Boylans Diet Cherry fix? Sigh.

Tricks to Suppress Your Appetite


Came across a recent MSNBC article featuring appetite-suppressing tricks. Oh, if only it were that simple! For some reason, my tummy doesn't want to listen to my head when hungry - or is it the other way around? Anyhoo, I'm willing to give a few of these a shot, so I'm including a few (but not all) of the highlights:

Rise and shine with protein. Nutritionists are always raving about lean protein, and for good reason: It keeps you fuller than other nutrients and takes your body more time to digest and absorb. But what you may not realize is that when you eat it also matters. A Purdue University study found that eating lean protein (such as Canadian bacon, egg whites, or low-fat yogurt) at breakfast keeps you satisfied longer than if you were to consume it at other times of the day.

Chow on potatoes. The no-carb craze made spuds out to be dietary villains, but these starches actually have appetite-slaying superpowers. They contain a special type of starch that resists digestive enzymes. Because potatoes take a while to break down, they stay in your intestine longer, delaying the onset of hunger pangs. Have a baked potato with dinner (a medium spud is only about 100 calories) or better yet, try potato salad made with vinegar instead of fattening mayo; chilling cooked potatoes increases their hunger-busting abilities.

Gobble up grapefruit. In a study at the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, people who ate half a grapefruit with each meal lost an average of 3.6 pounds in three months. According to Ken Fujioka, M.D., the study's principal researcher, these yellow-orange orbs lower your postmeal levels of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar and fat metabolism.

Chew on this. A University of Rhode Island study found that people who chewed gum for one hour in the morning consumed 67 fewer calories at lunch and didn't compensate by eating more later in the day.

Take a whiff. Smelling food can trick your brain into thinking you've eaten. One study found that people who inhaled a peppermint scent every two hours ate 2,700 fewer calories per week than they normally did — that's nearly a one-pound loss! Banana, green apple, and vanilla had similar effects in other studies. And the more often you sniff these aromas, the more weight you'll lose, say experts.

Well, color me interested. Guess I'll give it a trial run and stick a vanilla candle next to my computer (and bed at home), keep a pack of gum in my bag at all times and carry around grapefruit for a few weeks. What say you? Think these will prove effective? Here's hoping!

Friday, July 09, 2010

I can't believe it's not sugar!

As a kid, whenever winter rolled around, I always craved three sweet treats: fudge, hot chocolate and sugar cookies. And guess what? I still do! Yes, despite the name of my blog, I loves me some sugar cookies around the winter holidays...especially the ones decorated with frosting or sprinkles. YUM! But even though I'm now a sugar-free kinda gal, I've still found ways to enjoy the classic cookie.

What's that you say? It's the wrong season to whip up a batch of sugar cookies? Nonsense. Today is National Sugar Cookie Day! So here are a few sucralose-sweetened, low-cal recipes to enjoy. Happy Friday!

Chocolate and Vanilla Sugar Cookies

No-Sugar Sugar Cookies

Sweet as Sugar Cookies

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Fourth!

Anybody ready the long holiday weekend? While I'm normally hitting the road right about now for a mini-vacation, I'll be spending the next couple days moving into a new place. Yes, I'm one lucky lady, ey? Still, I plan to have a little fun in honor of our nation's independence.

I'm also planning out my menu for the weekend. As many of you know, the Fourth of July is often a high-calorie extravaganza thanks to all those cook-outs and parties. Fortunately, there are ways to get through the holiday without major weight gain.

* If you're heading to a BBQ at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before chowing down.
* Use a smaller plate. And when fixing it, make sure the bulk of the meal is fruits and veggies, such as salad, baked beans, corn, watermelon and grapes. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some potato salad and that scrumptious looking slice of cake. But don't pile a mountain of it on your plate or eat half a pie in one sitting.
* Avoid adding lots of butter, salt and fatty dressings. And skip the chips, crackers, breads and other high-calorie items.
* Try not to get seconds until a few hours after you've eaten the first plate.
* Always eat dessert last.
* It's all about water. Drink lots of it to help fill you up.
* Think before you drink. The rule of thumb is, the higher the proof, the higher the calories, and the creamier the cocktail, the more fattening it is. Some cocktails - take a Long Island Iced Tea, White Russian or Mai Tai - can pack 400 to 800 calories in a standard 12-ounce glass. In addition, juices, full-calorie sodas and tonic water add more calories to any drink. The best plan is to stick with wine, light beer or cocktails containing sugar-free mixers. And remember to always pace yourself.

These types of tricks can save you hundreds of wasted calories without sacrificing the good times. And if you plan to serve as a chef this weekend, here are a few low-cal recipes ideal for the hungry masses:

Cucumber and Onion Salad

Sweet Sesame Chicken

Fresh Strawberry Pie

For more options, check out these tasty food and cocktail recipes courtesy of Hungry Girl.

Either way, have a happy and healthy holiday. And to really get you into the spirit of things, here is the festive Fourth-related finale from The Music Man. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Need some cookies, STAT!

I try not to be an emotional eater. But who are we kidding? It happens on occasion. And let me tell you...I am one stressed puppy this week. I'm in the middle of moving into a new house, my car keeps breaking down, my bills are insanely high this month and I've got work-related projects coming out of my ears. So you know what I'm going to do tonight? I'm going to bake some cookies at my friend's house, since I'm currently between places. This sugar-free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe just looks too good to pass up. Plus, I promise to share. And did I mention that it's made with sucralose so there is less concern about calories?
Anyway, some of the ingredients are good for you...like peanut butter. It's an excellent source of protein, vitamins B3 and E, niacin, folate and manganese. In addition, peanuts are rich in antioxidants - all benefits to reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and boosting heart health. Need more swaying? Oats help lower bad cholesterol, provide protein and cancer-fighting properties and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Yeah, yeah...don't judge me. I'll eat like three and bring the rest to work tomorrow. That way, everyone wins! Anyway, I'll be back in the morning with some tips for surviving the Fourth of July weekend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dear Food Diary...



I just read an interesting column in the Washington Post about SparkPeople's ability to motivate dieters. For those unfamiliar with the web-based program, SparkPeople offers nutrition and fitness information, tools for tracking calories and physical activity and healthful recipes, as well as support for people trying to lose weight. I have actually visited the site and found it to be a useful resource, especially in terms of tracking daily calories. I also use CaloriesCount.com, which promotes a food diary, weekly weigh-in and a strong online support group via message boards.
So here's the deal...it doesn't matter if you keep a handwritten food diary or regularly visit a weight loss website like Calories Count, Weight Watchers or SparkPeople. The important thing is to maintain some sort of food journal because we often eat more than we realize. And when it comes to weight, every calorie counts. Research shows that it helps to write down all food and beverages consumed throughout the day to get an accurate picture of the number of calories you are consuming. From the bagel and banana at breakfast, to the salad dressing and roll with lunch and handful of mixed nuts before dinner, write down everything you consume. You may find that the calories really add up! A food journal can help uncover hidden calories, specify eating patterns, highlight problem areas and, essentially, increase the chances of weight loss success down the road. Since joining CaloriesCount, for example, I have lowered my cholesterol and found ways to better manage portion control. I have also found some great recipes that reduce calories. And because I follow a sugar-free diet, I also utilize calorie savings calculators like this one to help shrink the waistline. For example, did you know that switching from a regular 8-ounce cola to a sucralose-sweetened variation could save 100 calories each day - and result in a loss of up to 15 pounds throughout the year? And a blueberry muffin baked with sucralose can shave 80 calories from your daily intake. Not bad, ey? So use the online tools that you find, remembering that weight loss and physical fitness will not happen overnight and require a lifelong commitment.

More recipes with a sugar substitute.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let them eat cake!

My Dad is one of those types of people who finds his favorite meals and never strays. For example, he eats Grape Nuts with yogurt every morning...and every time his birthday rolls around, he asks for German chocolate cake. Fortunately, the rest of us were all big fans of that cake as well, so there were never any hard feelings when it came to the request.
For those who've never had the sweet treat, it's a layered chocolate cake filled and topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. Occasionally, a chocolate frosting is spread on the sides of the cake and piped around the circumference of the layers to hold in the filling.
According to some quick research (aka Wikipedia), the cake did NOT originate in Germany. Instead, the name derives from a type of chocolate that was created in 1852 by an Englishman named Samuel German for the Baker's Chocolate brand. The original recipe for "German's Chocolate Cake" was sent by a Dallas-based homemaker to a local newspaper in 1957. The cake became quite popular and General Foods — which owned the brand at the time — distributed the recipe to other newspapers in the country.
I mention all of this because today is National German Chocolate Cake Day! That's right. It's an excuse to either go buy a slice from the store or bake a low-calorie version, like this delicious sugar-free German Chocolate Cake recipe.
So now you can have your cake and eat it too, only without the calories. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Futbol!

Any World Cup fans out there? While most of my friends don't follow soccer the way they do American football or baseball, there are a few excitedly gearing up for the start of the World Cup later this week. And according to some researchers, those soccer-loving friends might be a few pounds heavier by the competition's end.

Research conducted by Men's Health magazine found that during each game, a man will drink four cans of beer, eat three slices of pizza, half a bag of chips and half a tub of dip, which is the equivalent of 1,913 calories. This is an average of almost five pounds during the four weeks of the tournament. Another study predicts that fans will spend approximately 38 hours tuned into the event, consuming an average of 20,180 calories - or the equivalent of 72 Mars bars, 37 Big Macs or nearly 14 pounds of cheddar cheese. Woof-dee.

So here are a few tips - many of which have been used to promote health during the Super Bowl - for any couch potato glued to World Cup coverage. Perhaps consider pre-planning your game-time menu to include no-fat and low-fat chips and dips. For instance, choosing fat-free potato chips could save up to 300 calories per person. When it comes to dips, it is possible to cut the fat without cutting the flavor. Try salsa, which is fat-free, or substitute reduced-fat sour cream and non-fat yogurt. Use fresh herbs and spices such as cilantro, parsley and hot peppers to add great flavor. Add fresh vegetables and low-fat dips to your party tray and you’ve got yourself a healthy appetizer! Need a few sweets? Try some sucralose-sweetened brownies and peanut butter cookies to prevent major weight gain. Also, try getting in extra physical activity to burn off the snacks, such as kicking a soccer ball between matches or walking to a neighbors house for a play-by-play. 

Check out the Calorie Control Council's appetizer recipe section to find a list of healthy spreads and dips perfect for the next World Cup party.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Pool-time Blues


Any of you stressed out about swimsuit season and the return to a skimpier wardrobe? Such fears are common this time of year, when some folks turn to weight loss pills and the drastic elimination of certain foods and beverages to quickly cure weight woes. Instead of eyeing the latest fad diet, try a more sensible approach by utilizing sugar-free foods and beverages.
Products sweetened with sucralose allow consumers to enjoy their favorite meals without worrying about the additional calories. For example, drinking a diet soda can save 150 calories. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss.
Here are a few more diet-related tips courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

* When it comes to salads, avoid piling on cheese, fried chicken, croutons, bacon bits and salad dressing. Remember that the principal ingredients in a salad are supposed to be fresh, raw vegetables, which are low in calories and a good source of fiber to keep you feeling full. Pick veggies in lots of different colors to contribute a wide variety of nutrients to your diet. Add a total of 3 to 4 ounces of lean proteins such as boiled egg, grilled chicken or steak, steamed shrimp, seared tuna or deli-sliced roast beef, turkey or ham. Accessorize with a few nuts or a small amount of grated Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.

* Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low-calorie, nutrient-rich produce including tomatoes, cucumbers, field peas, peaches, basil and all kinds of berries. Did you know that the vitamin C in produce is essential for building collagen for healthy skin?

* Grilled meats and fish are often slathered with butter or oil, so request that your order be brushed lightly with oil.

* Avoid cream-based cold soups, and go for choices chock-full of vegetables such as gazpacho. Fruit soups, from melon to strawberry, are delicious and nutritious summer menu additions, too.

* Instead of ice cream or gelato, you’ll save hundreds of calories per serving by choosing fresh fruit sorbets or frozen desserts made with low-fat or fat-free milk. Many of those trendy frozen yogurt outlets make versions with fat-free milk, but watch the toppings. Choose fresh fruit when possible, and skip the crushed candies. (Sidenote: A study in the June issue of Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise reports that women who drank two glasses of fat-free milk a day after their workouts improved muscle tone and lost more fat.)

* Think about your drink. Pina coladas may be popular poolside cocktails, but the high calorie content really doesn’t pair well with a bikini. Count 400 calories per 8 ounces of a pina colada, margarita or fruit daiquiri. Look for the new "skinny" mixers made with no-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose. Or for less than 100 calories per 8 ounces, choose a light beer, vodka and soda with a spritz of fruit juice, or a rum and diet cola.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thank you for being a friend

Former Golden Girl Rue McClanahan died this morning of a massive stroke, breaking the hearts of fans worldwide. After all, who didn't love the sassy, man-hungry Miss Blanche Devereaux? Although the 76-year-old veteran television actress appeared in many projects and shows, she is best known for her role as the bawdy retiree on the popular 80s sitcom.
I can't help but feel a little bit like I lost a friend or family member. Like The Cosby Show and Family Ties, I watched The Golden Girls faithfully. There was just something so endearing about watching such a close-knit group of women live, love, cry and laugh together while sharing a house in Miami. Also, despite the fact that The Golden Girls was a comedy, I think the show sensitively tackled controversial topics - including homosexuality, interracial marriage, menopause, suicide and HIV - that really weren't discussed much in that era. Perhaps that's why it continues to have such a devoted fan base.
Anyhow, I wanted to dedicate some sweet recipes to my favorite golden girls. For those that forgot, each episode typically featured a scene where the gals gathered in the kitchen to discuss a particular issue, often over a plate of cheesecake. So here are three low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened dessert recipes.

Marvelous Mocha Cheesecake

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

New York Style Cheesecake

Rest in peace, Rue. I know you're waltzing off to the giant lanai in the sky - and leading a conga line at the Rusty Anchor - to meet up with Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty. Just leave Betty White with us, okay? Because we don't want to lose the last one standing.

Here are a few of my favorite Blanche scenes.






Friday, May 28, 2010

Worst meals and drinks in America

Seeing as how it's Memorial Day weekend - and swimsuit season is rapidly approaching (or in some cases, already here!) - you might want to avoid these foods and beverages.
Men's Health recently came out with a list of the "20 worst drinks" in America. At the same time, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has given out its "Xtreme Eating Awards" for 2010, choosing the nine most fatty and high-calorie meals from chain restaurants. In the words of Joey Lawrence...woah!
Here are a few of the highlights from the two lists:
* The Cheesecake Factory's Pasta Carbonara with Chicken (2,500 calories, 85g saturated fat)

* P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo (1,820 calories, 7,690mg sodium)

* California Pizza Kitchen Tostada Pizza with Grilled Steak (1,680 calories, 32g saturated fat)

* Chevys' Crab and Shrimp Quesadilla (1,790 calories, 63g saturated fat)

* Outback Steakhouse New Zealand Rack of Lamb with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables (1,820 calories 80g saturated fat)

* Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream - 20 fl oz (660 calories, 15g saturated fat)

* Dairy Queen Caramel MooLatte - 24 fl oz (870 calories, 19g saturated fat)

* Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Soda - 28.6 fl oz (960 calories, 25g saturated fat)

* Cold Stone PB&C - 24 fl oz (2,010 calories, 68g saturated fat)

Can you believe that? To put just one of the meals/beverages into perspective, the Cold Stone PB&C has the sugar equivalent of 30 Chewy Chips Ahoy Cookies. And in terms of saturated fat, it equals about 68 strips of bacon. And we wonder why there's an obesity epidemic in this country!

So pretty please, folks, use some common sense when eating and drinking, especially if you're trying to lose or maintain weight. After all, to exceed all of your calories for the day in a single sitting is pretty ridiculous. On a different note, have a wonderful - and safe - holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

That makes me salty!

Seeing as how I had a big glass of V8 Spicy Hot Vegetable juice only a few hours ago, this news is pretty disheartening. Health.com has posted a fascinating article on the 25 Surprisingly Salty Processed Foods. What's the surprise, you say? Well, it's that so many of them are supposed to be healthy options, such as a Lean Cuisine frozen entree, light salad dressing, a meatless black bean burger and low-fat cottage cheese.
The average person in the U.S. consumes 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day. That’s equivalent to almost 9 grams of salt, or nearly 2 teaspoonfuls, which is way more than the 2,300 milligrams per day suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
But the majority of excess salt, or 77 percent, isn’t spooned into food...it comes from processed foods. The FDA recently announced a plan to gradually scale back on salt in processed foods, which may be the end of the line for super salty products.
Until then, I guess I won't be digging into a bowl of Raisin Bran anytime soon!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Craving some sweets

For the past four days, I've dutifully hit the gym and chowed down on only healthy foods. But it's not like I had a choice. After a decadent, long weekend at a friend's out-of-town wedding, it was suddenly tough zipping up my pants Monday morning. Yup, we ate and drank like rock stars and my waistline suffered because of it...hence the good girl behavior this week. And I will totally continue to keep up my healthy ways for the near future! But you know what I'm really, really craving right now? A sucralose-sweetened Breyers Carb Smart Almond Ice Cream Bar! Along those lines, I thought I should mention a few of my other favorite, low-calorie desserts. After all, it's a question I am asked on a regular basis. So the next time you come down with a wicked case of the sweet tooth, try one of these options before hitting your local ice cream shop or bakery.

Weight Watchers Ice Cream Bars

Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches

Smart Ones Sundaes

Betty Crocker Warm Delights

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Berry, berry good...


There are very few fruits that I don't like. Each one of my brown bag lunches is typically accompanied by a rotation of oranges, bananas, grapes, berries and peaches, depending on the day of the week. But if there was one fruit that I could take every day - one that I'd never get sick of - I'd say it's strawberries. J'adore strawberries! Whether it's on top of a mixed green salad or dipped into yogurt, strawberries always taste so dang good. Plus, think about all the health benefits!
Strawberries serve as potent antioxidants. Their unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one. For example, in one study, strawberries topped a list of eight foods most linked to lower rates of cancer deaths among a group of over 1,000 elderly people. Those eating the most strawberries were three times less likely to develop cancer. Also, remember how your mom told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child? Well, it appears fruit is better for the sight in adulthood. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating three or more servings of fruit per day may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Still not sold? How about this: the vitamin C-rich fruit also helps protect against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis.
And finally, when it comes to nutrients, strawberries are a good source of manganese, potassium, folate, riboflavin, vitamin B5, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin K, magnesium, and copper.

So here are a few quick strawberry-related serving ideas, courtesy of the George Mateljan Foundation for The World's Healthiest Foods.

* Dress up any green salad with sliced strawberries, slivered almonds and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
* Top your morning cereal, lunch time yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh strawberries.
* Layer sliced strawberries, whole blueberries and plain yogurt in a wine glass to make a parfait dessert.
* Mix chopped strawberries with cinnamon, lemon juice and maple syrup and serve as a topping for waffles and pancakes.
* Blend strawberries with a little bit of orange juice and use as a refreshing coulis sauce that goes well with poached pears.
* Add strawberries to breakfast shakes to give them a more vibrant taste and texture.
* For an easy, elegant dessert, blend fresh or frozen strawberries with a spoonful of honey and some soy or cow's milk or yogurt. Freeze for 20 minutes, then spoon into serving cups and decorate with a sprig of mint.

Along those lines, here are three sucralose-sweetened recipes featuring the splendid strawberry.

Banana Strawberry Shake
Fresh Strawberry Pie
Very Strawberry Shortcake

On a goofier note, long-time readers might remember my love for the old Strawberry Shortcake line of dolls. I dicussed it at length in this 2008 post. And now that I've gone and mentioned Strawberry Shortcake again, I think it's time for a special song. Take it away, boys!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Mommy Dearest

Please be nice to your mama this weekend. In case you forgot - and I really hope you didn't - Sunday is Mother's Day. If you're struggling to find a gift for Mom this weekend, there are always the usual suspects: a mani/pedi/spa package, flowers, jewelry, food or a gift card to her favorite store. And, of course, you might really make Mom happy by letting her put her feet up for a change. Clean the house for her so she can watch a movie, take a bubble bath or delve into a new book. Then make her a nice meal. If you go the food route, here are a couple low-cal recipes sure to put a smile on your mother's face.

Shrimp and Corn Salad with Basil
Scallion and Habanero Marinated Pork Loin
Lofty Lemon Meringue Pie

And the piece de resistance, sugar-free mojitos!

Ingredients:
2 ounces Light Rum
1 ounce Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Splenda
2 sprigs Mint leaves
4 ounces Soda Water
Directions:
Place Splenda and a large pinch of mint in a pint glass. Use a muddler to lightly press mint and dissolve Splenda. Add a splash of soda water. Squeeze the lime into the glass and add rum. Stir and fill with ice. Top with soda water and garnish with mint sprig.