Friday, February 26, 2010

Time for a Tea Party!

Saweeet! I just found out that Sweet Leaf Tea - a tasty beverage found in various grocery stores and specialty stores - has unveiled a few new flavors including Diet Citrus Green Tea. I have high hopes for this product. I've long been a fan of Sweet Tea Leaf's sucralose-sweetened diet line, particularly the Diet Peach Iced Tea. It's healthy and tastes oh so good! In addition to the new diet drink, Sweet Leaf Tea has also released Lemon and Citrus Green flavors. According to the descriptions, the new Lemon Iced Tea mixes premium black tea with the taste of a fresh-squeezed lemon, while Citrus Green Tea offers a blend of green tea and the citrus flavors of orange, lemon, and lime. The diet version, of course, offers the same taste without the calories. The three new flavors are available at participating retailers such as Whole Foods, Publix, Jewel Osco, Kroger, and Safeway, to name a few. In addition to the appealing taste and natural ingredients, all Sweet Leaf Tea drinks contain 70-90 calories at most, with diet drinks having as little as zero calories. Huzzah!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Got the fever...

My apologies for not posting last week. I've actually been sidelined by the flu the past few days and am just now getting back on my feet again. It started Wednesday with a throat tickle that developed, over the course of the afternoon, into a sore throat. By Thursday, I was sniffling and hacking up my lungs and by Friday, I was rocking a 102-degree temperature, along with aches and chills. Needless to say, I had a lousy weekend...particularly when it turned out to be the first beautiful weekend of the year, with blue skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. Pity party for one? Your table is ready!
Anyway, to get over this nasty little bug, I've been downing quarts of OJ and bowls of chicken or veggie soup the past five days, along with a ridiculous amount of tea, water, vitamins, cold meds and emergen-C. Good times. Tonight, when I get home, I'm whipping up another cup of hot tea with cayenne pepper, honey, lemon juice, garlic and ginger. Sounds horrendous - but it's actually an effective remedy. Scout's honor!
So should any of you get waylaid by sickness in the coming weeks, here are some tips to aid in the recovery.

* Sleep is good. Get plenty of rest, especially while you have a fever. Rest helps your body fight infection.
* Hydration is key. To help loosen mucus and prevent dehydration, drink lots of fluids such as water, herbal tea, juice and Gatorade. And hopefully this will come as a surprise to no one but...avoid alcohol while you're sick, umkay?
* Clean yourself up. A fever and cold is no excuse to wear the same pair of sweatpants for three days. In addition to rinsing some of the germs off, a clean bath or shower and change of clothes can help ease body aches and congestion.
* Avoid dairy. In some people, dairy products increase mucus production. Dairy products may also make nausea and vomiting worse.
* Think orange. Orange juice, especially with the pulp, is packed with vitamin C and folic acid, which help to boost immunity and speed recovery from illness. Some researchers suggest that vitamin C may even decrease the time you are sick with colds and flu.
* The chicken noodle cure. Chicken soup is a must with cold-like symptoms. In fact, in a study published in the journal Chest, researchers confirmed that chicken soup had a mild anti-inflammatory effect that reduced symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
* Eat light and go BRAT. In the early stages of a stomach bug, soup, ginger ale and saltines are the way to go. Once your stomach feels better, try the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) and slowly reintroduce whole foods back into your system. These items are easily digested and unlikely to irritate your gastrointestinal system. Hold off on spicy foods until your health has improved.

Remember, a well-nourished immune system is better able to fight off infections. Once you recover from flu, make sure your diet is filled with a variety of food, colorful fruits and vegetables, and legumes that are high in phytochemicals, which are natural food components that have health-boosting properties. In addition, get in bed early and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep to get your body back on the road to wellness.

Before I sign off, here are a few meals designed to ease a sore, tickling throat or stuffy head.

Orange Smoothie

Two-Berry Citrus Smoothie

Carrot, Tomato and Zucchini Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Heartfelt Holiday

Happy almost Valentine's Day! I know, I's a pretty stupid holiday and one that I hate celebrating regardless of my relationship status. But there are a few things about it that put a giant smile on my face...mainly red velvet cake! Growing up, my southern mother used to make the delicious treat every Valentine's Day. In a long list of worthy contenders, red velvet is quite possibly my favorite cake and one that I typically only eat each Feb. 14. Anyway, I'm not sure that I'll have the time or energy to whip up my own version this year, but if I do, I'll be trying one of these two lower-fat, sucralose-sweetened versions.

Sugar-Free Red Velvet Cake

HG's Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes

By the way, here are a few highlights from an informative Calorie Control Council article featuring tips on how to get through the big night without adding inches to your waistline.

Meal modifications are key. Feel free to make special requests. Ask the waiter if they can put the sauce on the side - or to substitute veggies for the french fries. Find out if your meal can be made without butter, oil or salt...anything that could help cut down on calories. And remember: in terms of calories, grilled is usually better than fried and baked is better than braised.
Practice portion control. Remember that restaurant sizes are often larger than normal. Consider eating half of your meal and putting the rest in a doggie bag.
Think red. Red bell peppers, radicchio, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes, for example, are all packed with vitamins, cancer-fighting antioxidants or cholesterol-busting fiber and protein. In addition, a daily glass of red wine is believed to help reduce the risk of blood clots and keep the cardiovascular system in shape. So forgo that cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, and have a glass of red wine instead (and ask if they serve a light version).
Don't always give the gift of chocolate. If you and your significant other are trying to lose or maintain weight, consider purchasing a fruit basket instead of a box of chocolate, or baking a low-calorie dessert. It's also important to remember that a number of sugar-free candies and chocolate brands are available and can be found at your local grocery store or the candy section of an area pharmacy. A bouquet of flowers, healthy cookbook, personal training sessions or a day spa gift certificate could also prove worthy gift substitutes.

And finally, since that cheese-tastic-looking film "Valentines Day" is hitting theaters tomorrow - I thought I would share some clips, in no particular order, from some of my favorite romantic movies.

1. Say Anything

2. Roman Holiday

3. An Affair to Remember

4. The Princess Bride

5. Pride & Prejudice

6. When Harry Met Sally

7. Casablanca

8. Lady and the Tramp

Of course, there are so many others worth mentioning: Moonstruck, The Shop Around the Corner, Rebecca, Somewhere in Time, Doctor Zhivago, Love Story, Beauty and the Beast...what else did I miss? Anyhow, I hope you all have a wonderful V-Day and I'll be back next week!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

It's Game Time!

The Super Bowl is just around the corner...and if you're a huge football fan like me, this is one of the best nights of the year! Even though my beloved Bears are on the sidelines yet again, I'll joyfully be cheering on my second favorite team, the Saints. Who dat?! But regardless of whether you dig football, many view the big game as the perfect excuse to gather with friends, drink beer and eat lots of high-calorie foods and snacks. Research by the Calorie Control Council and Snack Food Association finds that Americans will 30 million pounds of snacks during the Super Bowl. That breaks down to 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 4.3 million pounds of pretzels, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn and 2.5 million pounds of nuts. The average armchair quarterback will consume 1200 calories and 50 grams of fat from snacking and that doesn’t even count any meals! Obviously, this game is tough on calorie counters. However, there are a few ways you can cut down on the fat while rooting for your favorite team.

* Fat-free is good. Choosing fat-free potato chips for the big game could save up to 300 calories per person. When it comes to dips, try salsa 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 a healthy appetizer in no time.
* Exercise. Try hitting the gym before going to the big party. If that's not feasible, help burn off Super Bowl snacks by tossing the football with friends at halftime or walking to a neighbors house to get a play by play.
* Don't show up hungry. Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced meal - or even a light snack - before chowing down on higher-fat foods to help curb the appetite.
* Drink in moderation. For every beer you have, drink a glass of water since alcohol tends to dehydrate you. Also, if you're truly worried about the carbs or calories in your cocktail, drink light beer or vodka with diet soda. On average, you'll save about 35 calories per beer bottle switching to the lighter version.

To help you prepare for the game, here are two low-fat recipes courtesy of Hungry Girl.

Exploding Chicken Taquitos

Sweet Caramelized Onion Dip

And check out the Calorie Control Council's appetizer recipe section to find a list of healthy spreads and dips perfect for the Super Bowl party.

Finally, to help get you all pumped up for the big game, here are some clips from a few of my favorite football movies. Be safe and enjoy the Super Bowl!

"Look at that. He held onto the ball. Well, let's wake him up and get him some pads." Coach Gennero - Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness from Hog Database on Vimeo.

"I don't know, it's the battle, the going to war with the other guys, hanging together, having our own dorm, staying in hotels the night before the games, setting ourselves apart, being different than everybody else, having a chance to be somebody, to do something that people look up to you for, your strength, your courage, not everybody can play football... we're the lucky ones." Steve Lattimer - The Program

"I love Brian Piccolo...and tonight, I want you to love him too."
Gale Sayers - Brian's Song

"Let me tell you something: you don't let anyone come between us. Nothing tears us apart. In Greek mythology, the Titans were greater even than the gods. They ruled their universe with absolute power. Well that football field out there, that's our universe. Let's rule it like titans." Coach Herman Boone - Remember the Titans

"You're 5 foot nothin', 100 and nothin' and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football team in the land for two years. And you're gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody but yourself." Fortune - Rudy