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.”


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 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.