Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here." Clark Griswold - Christmas Vacation.

Well, gang, this will be my last entry until 2011. I’ll be heading down to Gainesville, FL, later this week to spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family before flying to San Antonio, TX, for my cousin’s New Year’s Eve wedding. While I am sad that I won’t make it back to Chicago for the holidays this year, I will get to see my family at the wedding next week. All in all, good times!

So this is my official "Happy holidays!" post. For any of you planning or attending holiday parties and family dinners in the next few days, here are a few sucralose-sweetened recipes that will help provide at least one or two low-calorie options on the table.

Happy Holiday Pumpkin Pie

Holiday Spiced Tea

Gingerbread Cake

Elegant Eggnog

And just because I'm in the spirit, I thought I would include a bunch of clips from some of my favorite Christmas movies. Happy holidays y'all. Be safe and I'll see you back here in 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Have a Holly, Jolly Friday...it's the best day of the week!

Despite the massive amounts of work that I have to wade through today, I'm in good spirits. Why? Well, I only have a few more days of work before I'm on vacation until 2011. YAY! I heart December. From the holiday music and decorated houses to Christmas movies on the telly and gingerbread lattes at Starbucks, it all makes me happy! And if you're like me, you're also dealing with a full schedule of holiday parties. We have several more to attend tonight, which will include "white elephant" gifts, festive cocktails, rich snacks, sweet treats and more. So how does one avoid piling on the pounds when so much egg nog and fudge is around? Here are a few tips to surviving the holiday season with minimal weight gain.

* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before hitting the big holiday party food spread. A small salad, slice of cheese or cup of soup will help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later. Try choosing foods that are lower in calories or high in fiber – make sure to eat small portions of fruits and veggies throughout the day. That way, you won’t feel famished by the time you reach the party, but will still have some extra wiggle room (calorie wise) in order to opt for that special holiday treat.
* When fixing your plate, make sure the bulk of it is fruits and veggies. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some gingerbread. Just don't eat the entire loaf.
* If you're eating dinner at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* If you're handling the cooking, avoid adding lots of butter, salt and fatty dressings. Create healthier versions of favorite baked goods by using fat-free milk instead of whole milk and applesauce in place of oil. Sweeten your beverage, casserole or dessert with a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose. To thicken a liquid without adding fat, use one of the following: flour, cornstarch, potato flakes, yogurt or fat-free evaporated milk. And remember, many holiday favorites are packed with nutrients. Sweet potatoes supply potassium and fiber and are loaded with the antioxidant vitamin A, cranberries are high in vitamin C and dried fruit and turkey can also be nutritious options.
* Try not to get seconds until a few hours after you've eaten the first plate.
* Always eat dessert last.
* Drink lots of water. It will help fill you up. And remember that every fruit drink, soda, glass of wine, pint of beer and sweetened coffee comes bearing calories. This is not to say you have to give up all your favorite beverages to prevent packing on the pounds. All foods and beverages can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan. You can save calories, for example, by drinking sucralose-sweetened products such as light lemonade or diet soda.
* Take a walk after supper or get in a morning or afternoon workout before arriving to the party. By sneaking in extra physical activity every day, you are more likely to keep that waistline trim.

Remember, the holidays are a time for spending time with family and friends. You don’t have to deprive yourself to prevent weight gain. With a few simple steps you can maintain your weight while celebrating the season.

For more sensible holiday eating tips, visit the recipe section of www.caloriecontrol.org.

On a slightly different note, are there any Community fans in the house? I absolutely loved their stop-motion holiday-themed episode earlier this month. Here's a highlight:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's not so warm out there!

Ugh. I’m not feeling good. Instead of eating the healthy salad I brought for lunch today, I made the mistake of eating a piece of fried chicken, two brownies and some baked brie with crackers – all leftover food from a retirement party at work yesterday. Now my stomach hurts. I think it was just too much sweet and grease at once. I might have to take an extra fitness class tonight to make up for that. Speaking of fitness, I've been trying to run two or three mornings each week (in addition to my usual lineup of evening fitness classes) the past month to help counteract all of the holiday-related indulgence. Frankly, it's been a bit too cold this week to do it. I know, I know...I'm a Chicago girl living in the South - I should NOT be kvetching about brisk weather. Still, there is nothing fun about trudging out the door at 6 a.m., in jogging clothes in 20-degree temperatures. My bed is way too cozy for that kind of craziness. Anyway, for all of you outdoor athletes braving the chilly temperatures, here are a few of my favorite, low-calorie beverage recipes to help warm you up.

Spiced Hot Cranberry Cider

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Holiday Spiced Tea

Peppermint Mocha Delight

Friday, December 03, 2010

This Old Cub

I’m feeling pretty blue today. Even though it’s Friday – and I’ll get to enjoy a free steak dinner and a comedy show, courtesy of my boyfriend's company holiday party - I awoke to the news that Ron Santo, the legendary Cubs player and broadcaster, passed away. The 70-year-old North Side icon died of complications from bladder cancer. Trust me when I say that hearts all over the Chicago area are breaking today. As Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts explained, "Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans."

For those unfamiliar with his work, Santo was a star third baseman and part of the 1960s Cubs teams featuring Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. He earned National League Gold Glove awards five straight seasons and was a nine-time NL All-Star. He later became a passionate and heartfelt broadcaster who couldn't help cheering his team from the radio booth for two decades. Much like another beloved Cubbies icon, Harry Caray, Santo butchered names and sometimes lost track of what was going on in the game while serving as a color commentator. But he was beloved by the Cubs Nation because he epitomized the long-suffering fan: he made no apologies for his on-air cheerleading or his utter frustration over a bad play.

Unfortunately, Santo never witnessed his favorite team going to the World Series - or his longtime goal of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite career numbers that place him among baseball's all-time great third basemen. He was up for the Hall of Fame on 19 occasions, and first appeared on the Veterans Committee ballot in 2003, only to fall short each time. His number, which was retired by the Cubs several years ago, now flies on the foul pole at Wrigley Field.

Ron, you’ll always be a Hall of Famer in my book. RIP and hope you're kicking back right now, sharing a beer with Harry Caray.

Okay, I know this is primarily a food and health blog. So for anyone looking for some low-calorie dessert recipes - which is always a popular request this time of year - here are two sugar-free pie recipes...an ideal sweet treat since today is National Apple Pie Day.

Nostalgic Apple Pie

Cranberry Walnut Apple Pie