Friday, January 29, 2010

Mouth is on Fire!

It's been a "hot" week for me, so to speak. On Wednesday night, I went out for Indian food with a friend who insisted we order our meals extra spicy (as in, a five on a one-to-five spice scale). And on Thursday, my office held the annual chili cook-off - and there were some particularly piquant varieties on the menu. Now don't get me wrong. I heart me some spicy the extent that I actually keep a bottle of hot sauce on my desk which I liberally pour on every meal. But even I get a little misty-eyed and go scampering for a glass of milk when a dish is insanely hot. So for anyone who has ever wondered how to cool off the mouth after a spicy meal, here are a few tips courtesy of ehow:

1) Drink milk by the glass. Set yourself up with a big glass if you're planning to eat a heaping basket of buffalo wings or other spicy food.
2) Serve up a big bowl of cold ice cream for dessert after you eat spicy Indian food.
3) Cut a lime, lemon or any fruit when you're eating Cajun shrimp or any other spicy seafood. Eating some fruit should cool your tongue down.
4) Butter up some toast or bread before digging into grandma's spicy tamales. Peanut butter also works well because the higher fat content provides relief.
5) Tip back a pale ale or glass of wine. The alcohol content helps neutralize the capsaicin molecules that come from spicy peppers.
6) Grab some yogurt from the fridge. Select cottage cheese, sour cream or whipping cream because dairy products do work to soothe the mouth.
7) Eat rice with your General Tso's Chicken or chimichanga meal to balance the spice and cool your tongue.

Speaking of spicy foods, if you're looking for a low-cal chili recipe, I found this one on

I also discovered this list of healthy Indian food recipes. Needless to say, I can't wait to go home and try some of these out, particularly the sucralose-sweetened Mango Lassi and Chana Masala. Yum!

Finally, to finish off this Friday post, here are two clips featuring man (or puppet) versus pepper. Any bets on the winner? Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's always five o'clock somewhere...

If there is one question I get more from readers than any other, it involves maintaining an active social life without gaining weight. Seeing as how this is Friday, and several people are now leaving work and heading to the local pub to meet friends, what better time to respond to that query?
My answer is: yes, you can have your alcohol and drink it too. You just need to be smart about your choices.
According to statistics, Americans drink about 20 percent of their total calories on average. For those unaware, hard liquor and mixed drinks pack more calories depending on the quality of the liquor and the ingredients in the cocktail mix. 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.

So here is the boozy breakdown...Most glasses of wine contain 125-150 calories, but that can double depending on the size of the glass and how full it is. Beer can range from 64 to 198 calories per 12 ounces. Most hard alcohol (rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, etc.) runs about 100 calories per shot. Super-caloric cocktails and super-sized drinks are major diet destroyers. Some chain restaurants, for example, serve margaritas with double shots and extra mixers that could add up to 1,000 calories or more in one mug.

Now, now, don't fret. If you're thinking you can never have a decent drink again, you're wrong. Although I'm definitely more of a beer and wine kinda gal, I certainly enjoy a light cocktail on occasion. For example, there are 103 calories in a glass combined with 1 oz. gin and 3 oz. tonic. I also like vodka mixed with Sprit Zero or Sierra Mist. It's under 100 calories, booyah!

So here are a few tips to drinking in style, provided by various experts.

* If you're a beer lover, stick to the light stuff. It has about 100 calories per 12 ounces as opposed to the 150 to 200 in regular beer. Another tip: Order bottled beer to keep portions in control. Not a fan of light beer? Grab a Guinness, which is only 125 calories a bottle.
* When drinking wine, keep in mind that most glasses contain way more than a 100-calorie, 5-oz. serving.
* Unless you don't mind drinking your dinner, stay clear of frozen or blended drinks. Pina coladas, daiquiris, and frozen margaritas are insanely high in sugar, with some clocking in at over 1,000 calories.
* Copious drinking often leads to bad, greasy bar food choices. Either have a healthy, protein-packed meal/snack beforehand at home, or try to find low-calorie menu items to supplement the drinks.
* Sip a glass of water between cocktails to pace yourself. Not only will this keep you hydrated, but it will also help keep you feeling full to avoid ordering extra drinks.
* Curb some of those calories with sugar-free mixers. You can save 100 calories if you combine the liquor with diet soda versus the regular version. Or substitute water, club soda, light juices, low-calorie sweeteners or sugar-free syrups for easy calorie savings.
* Finally, be smart and do NOT drive under the influence. And always keep your eyes on your drink, especially if you're at a bar surrounded by strangers.

And because I love you all so much, here are some low-calorie cocktail recipes, courtesy of Hungry Girl.

Just remember, balance and moderation are key to being able to socialize sensibly and stick to your healthy lifestyle. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weight Loss Tips for 2010

A group of Australian dietitians have come up with a list of 10 steps they say will help people lose weight in 2010. I don't know about you, but I'm all ears!
Their primary advice? Ditch the fad diets and quick-fix weight loss programs and make a number of small, permanent changes that help keep the pounds off over time.

Here are ten tips from the Dietitian's Association of Australia.

1. Eat breakfast
2. Include vegetables or salad with lunch and dinner
3. Choose fruit as a snack
4. Replace full-fat food and drinks with reduced-fat alternatives
5. Choose wholegrain foods instead of more refined foods
6. Eat smaller serving sizes by using smaller plates and cups
7. Eat slowly and stop when you are satisfied, not stuffed full
8. Eat when you genuinely feel hungry, rather than for emotional or other reasons
9. Swap sweetened drinks such as soft drink and juice with water
10. Eat your evening meals at a dinner table with the TV turned off

I agree with pretty much of all of those, but would like to add my own two-cents. Frequent exercise and adopting a low-calorie diet plan will also help shave off weight. Believe me, I speak from experience. By incorporating physical fitness and low-calorie foods such as diet sodas, light juices, and light yogurts, consumers can control calories while still enjoying their favorite foods. Even the experts agree!
For example, a study published recently in the International Journal of Obesity reports that consumption of sugar-free beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners increases dietary restraint, a key aspect of successful weight maintenance. Researchers analyzed calorie, protein, carbohydrate, fat and beverage intake, as well as the dietary restraint of over 300 individuals. The researchers concluded, "Our findings…suggest that the use of artificially sweetened beverages may be an important weight control strategy among WLM [weight loss maintainers]."
According to this calorie savings calculator, switching from a regular can of soda (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 while keeping the great taste.
By making these simple substitutions, you can slim down without sacrificing your favorite foods and beverages. So here's to a healthy weight loss in 2010!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Work it Out!

Confession: I kind of blew off exercise for a couple weeks around the holidays. I just got so busy between work and gift shopping and holiday parties and excuses, excuses, blah blah blah...I know, I know. I did what I warned others NOT to do and I neglected my physical fitness. Anyway, I'm paying for it now. Determined to shave off that five extra pounds gained over Christmas, I went back to the gym this week...and, well, I've been hobbling around the past two days, thanks to my sore, aching muscles.
Speaking of fitness, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently announced the top fitness trends for 2010 based on a survey of personal trainers, group fitness experts, advanced health and fitness specialists and lifestyle and weight management consultants. These findings conclude that consumers will be looking to arrange their fitness regimens with time and money in mind this year. Tighter budgets and hectic schedules will also bring unique and efficient workouts to the forefront of the fitness world.
Here are some of the highlights of the full list:

* Cost-Conscious Workouts. The impact of the economy continues to affect the choices of fitness enthusiasts and health clubs alike. Gyms will alter programming and training to better serve the needs of the cost-conscious member, while in-home workouts utilizing small, portable fitness equipment will be popular among individuals watching their budgets.
* Group Training. Individuals will scale back on personal training sessions to take advantage of small-group training and group class participation as another way to save on expenses. Health clubs may alter some programs to better suit the needs of larger groups. Likewise, individuals may find that the group setting offers additional motivation and support of their fitness efforts.
* Time-Efficient Workouts. Shorter yet higher-intensity workouts will be more appealing to those with busy schedules because they can reap significant fitness rewards with relatively minimal time investment. Boot-camp style workouts will continue to be one of the most popular of these trends in 2010, offering the ability to burn a sufficiently large number of calories while simultaneously improving muscular fitness. Circuit training will also be a time-efficient workout of choice due to its combined strength and endurance activities.
* Exergaming. Exergames will continue to climb in popularity and be taken to the next level: fitness clubs. By integrating fitness-based video games into their programming, clubs will offer unique exercise sessions for game-lovers and those looking for variety within their workouts. Studies conducted by ACE on exergaming-type systems, including Nintendo's Wii Sports and Wii Fit and the PC-based Dancetown, offer insight into the benefits associated with these alternative fitness options.
* Specialty Exercise Classes. Specialty classes such as ethnic dance, hooping, pole dancing and Zumba will remain popular. Fusion-type classes will be popular among fitness enthusiasts that want to switch up their typical workout programs. Additionally, more gyms will offer unique group exercise programs and mind-body activities.
* Fitness Training Tools. Technology is continuing to infiltrate the fitness world. The use of tracking and online training and scheduling tools will increase in the coming year with more people looking to better gauge their progress by accessing and monitoring details of their fitness programs. Some popular examples of tracking gadgets include GoWear fit and Fitbit, while online tools such as TrainingPeaks software offer fitness programs and meal plans that people can access 24-7. Mobile applications are even bringing fitness on-the-go through iPhone applications and other downloadable programming.

Interesting, huh? Especially the part about how technology is impacting the exercise world.

On a different note, here is a clip of the dearly departed, forever awesome Teddy Pendergrass. RIP.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gum is good!

I admit it...I'm a gum-smacker. And yes, I'm very aware that the noise can be irritating to others. But as a former smoker, it's a habit that I've happily adopted because I know it won't take a toll on my health down the road. If anything, chomping on sugar-free gum helps shave a few calories from the diet.
According to the Calorie Control Council, sugar-free gum is a great alternative to a higher-calorie snack or dessert. Chewing gum also has additional benefits: Research from the University of Liverpool indicates that chewing gum not only helps suppress the appetite but may also help cut cravings for sweets. A recent Washington Post article examined scientific evidence involving chewing gum's ability to fight fat. The article notes that a handful of gum studies suggest that chewing gum may help reduce cravings, particularly for sweet snacks, and spur people to cut their daily intake by about 50 calories. The latest study, presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Obesity Society in late October, showed that gum-chewing people consumed 67 fewer calories at lunch and didn't compensate by eating more later in the day.
While chewing gum certainly won't result in the dramatic loss of many pounds, it could be adopted as one small change in an overall weight loss or management effort. Regardless of how much gum will actually help to burn or reduce calories, sugar-free varieties only have about five calories per stick. So if you adopt gum as your sweet treat, you're making some pretty good choices.
Anyway, I would just like to say this to all of my old elementary and middle-school teachers who told me to quit chewing gum: Neener neener neener! See? Gum is good!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Tea Time

Hello, my favorite readers, I'm back! I spent a lovely week in Chicago catching up with family and friends and then had a few days of R&R here in Atlanta before returning to work. It was a wonderful and much-needed break.
Speaking of, it's snowing here in the ATL today. Not much, mind you, but just enough of a sprinkling to send everyone scurrying home early. I'm hoping that means my commute tonight won't be as ugly as usual. Anyway, the chilly weather has definitely contributed to my tea addiction the past few days. For some reason, Chai has been my go-to beverage all week. Needless to say, perhaps, I've included a few sucralose-sweetened variations of the drink.

Homemade Chai
Mulled Cranberry Cider
Vanilla Chai Latte

Anyhow, if the cold weather is making you blue, check out this "cute overload" video featuring bunnies, puppies, kittens and more. It thawed even this cold heart of mine. Enjoy!