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.