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

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 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