Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feeling a little big for my britches...

Sausage balls. Chocolate pecan pie. Cajun turducken with pork sausage stuffing. Fudge. Wine, beer, bloodies and mimosas. Those are just a few of the items I've enjoyed over the past week. Needless to say, my pants are a wee bit tighter than before I headed to Chicago for my holiday break. And seeing as how I'm here for another three days - and there is deep dish pizza, Greek food, Indian cuisine and other goodies still on tap - I might have to be rolled onto the plane Violet Beauregarde style.
Anyhoo, I've been trying to keep it on the healthy side, really! I've been exercising in the mornings, eating healthy breakfasts, not noshing on high-cal snacks throughout the day - but there is just so much temptation. I think I'll likely have to chalk this trip up to a loss and start over again when I get back to Atlanta.
By the way, there is one particular holiday treat that I have not enjoyed yet. December is almost over and I haven't had a single glass of eggnog! Don't worry. I'll be indulging in the delicious beverage soon enough. It truly is one of my favorite tasty treats during the holidays. Top it off with a little rum and some vanilla ice cream and it's heaven in a glass!
To keep things light, I'll be whipping up this sucralose-sweetened eggnog recipe tonight. Check it out.

Elegant Eggnog

1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 egg yolks
4 cups 2% milk
2 cups fat-free half and half
2 tablespoons vanilla extract*
1. Mix together first 3 ingredients in a large heavy
saucepan. Set aside.
2. Whisk egg yolks. Add to SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener mixture whisking until blended. Gradually whisk in milk.
3. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until the temperature reaches 175 degrees approximately (5 to 8 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in half and half; cool.
4. Cover and chill 3 hours or up to 3 days. Stir in vanilla extract just before serving.

* If desired, 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract can be replaced with 1 cup dark rum.

And for all you Griswold family fans, here is a clip from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Surviving the Holidays

This week is going to be ridiculously busy. First, we're in the middle of moving into a new home. At the same time, I've yet to finish my gift shopping for the holidays. I also need to start packing for my trip back home to Chicago. We'll be spending an entire week there, so I'll likely need a lot of bulky sweaters and pea coats to deal with those frosty temperatures. And finally, work has been cuh-razy lately!! As in, working from about 8 am to 8 pm. How does one find the time to squeeze it all in? Yet, despite the massive amounts of work that I have to wade through over the next few days, I'm in good spirits. Only a few more days of work before I'm on vacation until 2012. 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've also been dealing with a full schedule of holiday parties. We had several last week and a few more coming up, 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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Celebrating the Season with Sangria and Tapas

I had a lovely dinner tonight. A gal pal wanted to organize a holiday get-together, so she scheduled a gathering at a local tapas restaurant for about two dozen people. From empanadas to croquettes and fried potatoes to paella, it was a wonderful feast with a fun group of friends. And of course, there were plenty of pitchers of sangria flowing. I love some Spanish wine and finger food, so it was the perfect meal. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly a low-calorie menu...but every now and then, you need to take one for the team. But for any others hankering for a glass of sangria - minus the calories - here are a few sugar-free Sangria recipes that have scored high grades at some of my parties in the past.

HG’s Sangria-Seltzer Twist
Hit up the bar for slices of orange, lemon, and lime. Give your favorite fruit wedges a little squeeze before dropping them into your glass. Add 1 oz. of liquor (rum or vodka is yummy) and top with calorie-free seltzer. If your party-throwers are winos, top your glass with a splash of red or blush wine. Now you’ve got a fancy, signature drink that only contains around 100 calories!

George Stella's Sangria
2 cups Burgundy wine
2 cups club soda or seltzer water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)
1 lemon, sliced into circles
1 lime, sliced into circles
1/4 cup diet Tang or any Crystal light fruit drink, optional
Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, pour into glasses over ice.

And my own little Red Sangria concoction which includes:
1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, etc.)
1 sliced orange
1 sliced apple
1 sliced lime
½ cup brandy
½ cup triple sec
2 cups diet ginger ale
Six packets of low-calorie sweetener

For white sangria, use the same ingredients but replace the red wine with a white such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc. Also consider adding peach, mango or kiwi to sweeten the recipe even further.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Crazy about ginger

I've discussed my love of ginger-flavored products in past blog posts, waxing poetic about ginger snap cookies and ginger spice lattes from Starbucks. Well, 'tis the season! Gingerbread is definitely one of my favorite sweet treats -- and, fortunately for me, it goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season. I've started to see some pretty fabulous-looking gingerbread houses decorating various store windows in recent weeks. And now I'm determined to whip up a batch of gingerbread or ginger cookies for the eight million holiday parties coming up. And yes, they will be sugar-free! Thank goodness for low-cal options. Check it out.

Ginger Snaps
Merry Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cake

For any of you worried about adding gingerbread to the list of other holiday treats, you can take comfort in the fact that ginger provides a number of health benefits. For one, it has a long tradition of effectively alleviating symptoms of "gastrointestinal distress" - i.e., it's a nice cure for that belly-ache. Modern scientific research has also revealed it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects...all good news!
Another fun fact. According to the Guiness Book of Records, the world’s largest gingerbread man  was made by the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce in Texas at their annual Festival of Lights celebration in December 2006. The gingerbread man weighed in at 1,308 lbs, 8 oz, and stood at over 20 feet.  Now, in honor of this being Sunday Funday, here are some fun clips featuring Gingy from the Shrek movies.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Game Day!

I love Thanksgiving weekend. It's all about food and family - and for several folks, myself included, it's also about football! Not only did we watch hours of football on the tube throughout the weekend, I also got to experience college game day on Saturday - a gridiron match-up under the lights featuring Florida versus Florida State at the Swamp...not bad, ey?  Unfortunately for my boyfriend, a diehard Gators fan, his team was not victorious by night's end. But it was still a great day, especially for tailgating. Several friends spent hours smoking up ribs, sausage and pulled pork the night before in an effort to provide a tailgate feast on Saturday. People also brought fudge, cake, chips and other goodies to nosh on. So good, but so bad for that girlish figure! So how does one balance the socializing with weight control? Here are a few tips before you hit the next tailgate.
* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before hitting the spread.
* When fixing your plate, try to add plenty of 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 baked beans or potato salad. But don't pile a mountain of it on your plate.
* Bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* Avoid adding lots of butter, salt, condiments and fatty dressings.
* Drink lots of water. It will help fill you up.
* Drink alcohol in moderation.
* Drink diet soda instead of the regular version to save calories.
* Rather than sitting around and snacking, play a game instead. It’s difficult to overeat if you're throwing around the football or playing corn hole.

See? With a little extra effort and foresight, you can get through that next game day extravaganza without immediately packing on the pounds. By the way, check out these low-cal, sucralose-sweetened dessert recipes. I just might have to bring them to a tailgate in the future. Yum!

Lemon Raspberry Bars
Yellow Cupcakes 
Triple Threat Cookie Bar 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Staying on track during the holidays

It was pretty warm today - about 70 to be exact. Yet, for some reason, I've been a late-sleeping, blanket hogging, couch potato for the past few days. What gives? I don't know if it's the short, dark days that are stirring my hibernation inclination, but it's getting more difficult to motivate myself into working out and eating healthy...which is awful timing seeing as how this is the season of holiday parties, food feasts and weight gain. The good news, according to researchers, is most people only gain one or two pounds during the holidays – an improvement over the five to ten pound weight gain statistic frequently cited. The bad news, though, is that the extra weight rarely comes off.
But while the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years is filled with high-fat and calorie laden food and beverages, you don't necessarily have to nix the festivities or push aside that slice of pumpkin pie. Here are a few tips to help stay trim during the hectic holiday months ahead.

Stay active. A lack of exercise is one of the primary causes of weight gain during the holidays. Find time between social gatherings, errands and shopping for physical fitness – even if it just involves taking extra laps around the mall or walking up the stairs at work. A 30-minute workout every day will work wonders when it comes to weight maintenance.
Cook healthy. Make simple healthy recipe substitutions when baking to lower the calories. Choose fruit and veggies instead of high-fat appetizers or desserts and consider foods or beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes - such as sucralose - to enjoy your favorite meals without the additional calories. For example, drinking a diet soda can save 150 calories a day. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss. Choosing sugar-free chocolate will save you 50 calories a day, or five pounds, by year’s end.
Portion control is key. Eat regularly throughout the day but practice moderation. Keep serving sizes on the smaller side and you can enjoy your favorite holiday treats without having to bust out the elastic waistband pants.
Limit the celebration. Eat a few sweet treats when you are at a special event. Try to avoid the cake and cookies, though, when you're hanging out at home. In fact, in the days or hours leading up to a big soiree, consider eating lighter than usual to help compensate for the added calories later.
Don’t show up hungry. Before heading to a party or holiday dinner, take the time to eat a healthy snack. A small salad or cup of soup with help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later.
Don’t diet during the holidays. Avoid starting a fad diet in an effort to lose ten pounds before that big holiday party. Stay healthy, but don’t be too restrictive. The focus should be on maintenance during the holidays rather than weight loss.
Pre-make healthy meals for those hectic shopping days. Stock up on frozen dinners or make large batches of salads, pasta and other healthy, low-calorie meals so that leftovers can be easily and quickly reheated. This will help prevent any last-minute takeout orders or snacking on fattening foods.
I'll be back later this week with some Thanksgiving-specific, low-cal recipes. But until then, here are  two sucralose-sweetened recipes to get you started. Enjoy!
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes 
Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte? Yes please...

Okay, seeing as how I'm a woman on a budget, I'm definitely not one of those folks who swings by the local Starbucks every morning to plunk down nearly $5 on a non-fat, soy-milk, no-foam double-shot latte. And on the few occasions I do spend money on coffee (rather than making my own), you're more likely to find me visiting the local mom-and-pop style, independent neighborhood cafe. However, I finally caved and made my way over to Starbucks this afternoon for a quick fix: what can I say, I love that seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte! Just like their Gingerbread latte in December - and the McDonald's Shamrock Shake around St. Patrick's Day - I have to order at least one pumpkin spice coffee each year. Unfortunately, this java is not good on the waistline, packing 380-calories and  51g-carbs. You can trim the fat by ordering a tall, nonfat version with whipped cream. Or you can go the Hungry Girl route, and create your own version with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, 1 Splenda packet, 1 teaspoon of  Jenny's Country Kitchen Pumpkin Pie dessert creamer and 6 oz. of hot water.  Stir. Add 1 oz. light vanilla soy milk and top with a squirt of Fat Free Reddi-Wip. Voila! Liquid dessert is served!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Putting the fun into exercise

I've been trying to up my exercise regiment the past couple weeks, to help balance all of the holiday parties and weddings of late. But it's not easy. The last thing I feel like doing is getting up in the dark of night to go jogging before work. Or hitting the gym for an evening class at 7 pm, when I'd rather be home, sitting on the sofa. Let's be honest - for most of us, exercise is far from fun. However, I've found there are some ways to make exercise a little more, well, entertaining! For starters, I try to mix it up - take a hot yoga class one night, zumba the next and sprinkle in step aerobics, spin, sculpting and pilates the rest of the week. Also, it's good to have friends around to help motivate. Here are a few good tips to help ensure exercise is more fun and less of a chore.
  • Exercise with a friend. Find some extra motivation by working out with a friend. A lot of dieters have found success after adopting an “exercise buddy.” When working out alone, it can be easy to take a few days off every once in a while. When you work out with a partner, you’re more likely to stick to your workout schedule. Exercise buddies help keep each other motivated.
  • Join a fitness club or class.  By joining a fitness club, you can access a plethora of fitness classes ranging from yoga and hip-hop dancing to kickboxing.  You can also work with a professional trainer. This will help you learn more about proper exercise techniques, letting you make the most of your workout time.
  • Try something new. You don’t have to stick to running or lifting weights. There are a variety of exciting and innovative ways to exercise. Whether you take a class or just put on your favorite CD and dance around your house, you can burn a lot of calories and tone your muscles. If you’re a couple looking to lose weight together, ballroom dancing is a great option to consider. You can also incorporate your children into your workout routine—games like tag and tug-of-war can be great forms of exercise for the whole family.
For more suggestions on how to make exercise fun, you can get some great resources by visiting Calories Count or The Calorie Control Council, (such as, a calorie calculator or a BMI calculator) to help you find the tools you need to succeed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Peter Gibbons: So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.
Office Space
Didn't have too much time to plan a Halloween costume, between all the traveling of late. So instead, we fell back on one of our favorite movies for inspiration - the forever hilarious Office Space. My boyfriend donned a white collared dress shirt, suspenders, glasses, mug and folder of TPS reports to become "Bill Lumbergh," the sleazy boss, while I created a green and white striped polo shirt (green fabric paint is cheap!), found a waitress apron, suspenders and 15 pieces of flair to represent the role of Joanna, the Chotchkie's waitress/love interest. Don't want to spend much on a costume? Office Space is a great, crowd pleasing option. We wore them last night to some parties and will likely dust them off and wear them again tomorrow night.

Speaking of Halloween, if you're anything like me, you've been fighting the temptation of all those cheap bags of candy at the grocery store the past few weeks. Between the parties and baskets filled with high-calorie treats, this spooky holiday is less than kind to the waistline. So how do you prevent packing on the pounds while still participating in all the 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.

And here is some Halloween trivia for all you ghosts and ghouls out there. Have a fabulous one!
  • Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death. 
  • Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
  • Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
  • The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
  • Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.
  • Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.
  • Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
  • Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wedding Daze

Last weekend, we flew to St. Louis for my boyfriend's cousin's wedding. Tomorrow, we're driving down to Florida for, get this, two weddings in one weekend! That's right, folks. Although we've averaged about six to eight weddings annually for the past few years, this will be a first: I've never experienced back-to-back weddings in one weekend. And while I'm excited to celebrate the nuptials of so many close friends, I'm not gonna's hard to fit into that little black dress when you're always on the road, attending weddings with high-calorie fare. Fortunately, I've learned that it is possible to  travel without derailing a healthy fitness regiment.
On the road or headed to a wedding soon? Here are a few of my tips to help you avoid coming home with unwanted extra baggage. 
  • Plan ahead. Before leaving town, find out what type of workout facilities your accommodations will have or if there is a nearby park of jogging track. Bring workout clothes to help ensure you'll get off the couch. If there's no workout facility in sight, bring an exercise DVD to play or do 20 minutes of yoga, abs or weights from the comfort of your hotel room.
  • Don't deprive yourself. You can enjoy some higher-calorie fare or wedding cake without going overboard. Ask the restaurants to prepare your favorite dishes with a few lower fat ingredients.
  • Prepare snacks. If your journey includes a lot of time in the car, be sure to pack some healthy snacks so you aren't forced to eat at all the fast food and convenience shops along the way. For example, I'm bringing sucralose-sweetened yogurt, diet soda, celery, carrots, hummus, grapes and apples to snack on during the trip.
  • 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. 
  •  If the wedding reception features a buffet, try to put only two to three items on the plate at a time, rather than piling it on. Also, avoid the trimmings such as gravy, whipped cream, nuts, butter and cheese. Tasty as it is, it's high in calories. 
So wish me luck! Hopefully I can dance all the calories off. On a more entertaining note, here are few clips of some of my favorite wedding scenes from movies. Enjoy!

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Food for Thought

    Like trends and statistics? Well, here's a few to chew on.
    • Americans are skipping fewer meals than ever before.
    • Sodium may be declining as a health concern, as the percentage of Americans consuming a "low or reduced-salt or sodium" product held steady for the fourth consecutive year at 34 percent. 
    • More U.S. consumers (approximately 54 percent) are taking vitamins, mineral supplements or dietary aids on a daily basis than ever before.
    • Pizza, breakfast sandwiches, salty snacks, ice tea and burritos topped the list of items people ate more of last year than ever before.
    • On the flip side, Americans also ate more fruit, hot cereal and yogurt than in previous years.

    These fun facts all come courtesy of the NPD Group's soon-to-be released 26th Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America. There's a lot of, pardon the pun, food for thought packed into that report, so I'm looking forward to reading the full version. Obviously, the current leaked stats appear to be a mixed bag, with Americans favoring high-fat fare, while also reaching for more fruit and yogurt. Just remember, there are light versions of all your full-calorie favorites. Next time you want a slice of pie, try one of Hungry Girl's recipe variations. Instead of sweet tea, which is hugely popular down in these parts, try this sucralose-sweetened Pomegranate Iced Tea courtesy of With a few simple substitutions, you can enjoy all your favorite dishes without the calorie-related guilt. I'll be writing more about the report when it's released. Until then, enjoy a few more low-cal recipes.

    Greek Yogurt Cereal Parfait 
    Spiced Pear Oatmeal
    BLT B-fast Burrito

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Who needs birthday cake when pancakes are around?

    So I'll let you in on a little secret. It was my birthday on Saturday. Yup, I'm now another year older, just not sure if I'm any wiser. And because my friends are awesome, there was a lot of drinking and celebrating going on all weekend. Let's put it this way - we wound up going to a greasy spoon diner at 3 a.m. for breakfast. It was THAT kind of night. My breakfast of choice is typically an omelette and bacon, but I just had to indulge in a short stack of pancakes and turkey sausage the other day. It hit the spot! Sure, I had to do some extra exercise on Sunday to combat the grease, but it was a lovely treat at the time. Fortunately, I found these sucralose-sweetened pancake recipes on so I can get my pancake fix again without the calorie-related guilt. Happy birthday to me!

    Oat Bran Pancakes
    Banana Walnut Pancakes
    German Apple Pancakes

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Bust out the gym shoes...

    Yeah, yeah. I know how easy it is to make excuses when it comes to exercise. You're too tired, there's too much traffic, the gym is too crowded, you're feeling peckish after a long day at work. Believe me, I've used them all myself. But yet another study has come out touting the benefits of exercise.
    A new study conducted by Harvard researchers showed that as little as 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week can dramatically cut heart disease risk. For those who did more, about 300 minutes a week (five hours), their reduced risk of heart disease, including heart attacks, angina and bypass surgeries, increased to 20 percent compared to people who did no exercise, the study found. Researchers also noticed a significant gender difference in results - which showed while exercise resulted in a 22 percent reduction in heart disease risk among men, it increased to a 33 percent reduction among women.
    "The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines - even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better," Dr. Jacob Sattelmair, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a written statement.
    So take a quick walk. Do some gardening. Play a game of tennis or go dancing. If you have the time and energy, tie up those gym shoes and go jog, swim laps, hike or take a fitness class. It helps the heart!

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    My milkshake is better than yours

    I went to Flip Burger Boutique this past weekend. For all you foodies, Flip is owned by Richard Blais of Top Chef fame. The burgers and solids are solid but allow me to wax poetic for a minute about the lineup of liquid nitrogen milkshakes - those beverages are the bomb diggity! The Krispy Kreme one is just way too sweet for me, but I HEART the nutella and burnt marshmallow milkshake, which is uber-chocolaty with a delicious layer of graham cracker crumbles at the bottom of the glass. I'm also a sucker for the peaches and cream shake. There's nothing better on a hot day than a nice, frosty beverage, amirite?
    Still, if you're counting calories like I am, you can't afford to indulge in those Flip-style shakes on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are some light recipe variations to help alleviate that guilt. And, since today just happens to be National Chocolate Milkshake Day, I figured it was the ideal time to share this 200-calorie, sucralose-sweetened milkshake recipe courtesy of Hungry Girl. Enjoy!

    HG's Ginormous Chocolate Ice Cream Shake
    3/4 cup Breyers Double Churn Free ice cream, French Chocolate
    1 25-calorie packet diet hot cocoa mix
    1 1/2 tbsp. Hershey’s Syrup Lite chocolate syrup
    2 Splenda packets
    2 cups crushed iced (about 10 - 14 ice cubes' worth)
    Optional: Fat Free Reddi-wip and a maraschino cherry

    Dissolve cocoa mix and sweetener into 2 oz. of hot water. Mix well. Add syrup and 6 oz. of cold water and stir. Place crushed ice and ice cream in a blender. Top with liquid mixture. At low to medium speed, blend until shake is thoroughly mixed (but not liquified). Pour into a very tall glass and, if desired, top with a generous squirt of Fat Free Reddi-wip and a cherry. Enjoy!

    Thursday, September 01, 2011

    Fighting Bad Habits on Holiday Weekends

    Only one more day until the long holiday weekend. YAHOO!!! Yes, clearly I'm stoked and in serious need of a mental break from work. Plus, I'm headed off to Norfolk, VA, to spend the weekend with my family. See, my little bro is getting back from a Navy deployment tomorrow, so we're all flying out to meet him. Should be a blast.

    The one downfall of any vacation - other than the financial expense, of course - is the weight gain that often accompanies it. I definitely expect a lot of rich foods and liquor to be consumed throughout the course of those three days, so I've created a little list of health-related goals for myself. From 30 minutes to an hour of exercise each morning, to loading up on veggies and fruits between meals and only drinking light beer, wine or alcoholic beverages mixed with diet soda or low-calorie juices, I'm definitely determined to avoid excess pounds.

    By the way, here are a few "filling" tips I found on that will help keep hunger at bay. I will definitely be utilizing some of these this weekend. Have a fabulous Labor Day!

    Fill up on fiber.
    Foods that contain fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grain pastas and cereals, help keep you feeling fuller, longer.

    Drink, drink, drink...the water.
    Water helps you to feel full as well, which means you’ll be less likely to feel hungry. So, before you reach for that cookie, try a glass of water. You may find that you were really thirsty rather than hungry. Remember, there are a variety of no-calorie flavored waters (sweetened with sucralose) available if you want to switch up your routine.

    Snack away.

    Use snacks to your advantage. If you’re feeling hungry, grab a light, low-calorie snack. Don’t wait to eat until your ravenous – you’ll end up eating everything in sight. Try to eat smaller “meals” throughout the day. Some people find that eating six small meals works better than eating three large meals. Try to incorporate your favorite light products (sweetened with sucralose) into the diet as a way to enjoy sweet treats without the added calories...or guilt!

    Eat protein and fat.

    This isn’t a license to eat two chicken breasts at one sitting or your favorite pint of full-fat ice cream. But, if you find that you’re hungry soon after you eat, you may want to consider making some changes to your meals. For example, if you eat a plain bagel each morning, why not consider eating just half the bagel with one to two tablespoons of reduced-fat margarine, cream cheese or peanut butter? Or, if your lunchtime salad consists mainly of lettuce, tomatoes and some cucumber, why not also top it with lean chicken or tuna, kidney beans, chickpeas or even some chopped egg? When it’s snack time, go for apple slices with small amounts of reduced-fat cheese. Adding small amounts of fat and protein can help you feel satisfied longer. This is because fat and protein are digested less quickly than carbohydrates, which means you won’t feel as hungry as quickly. Remember, it’s still important to balance and count your calories. If you add something to your daily intake, be sure to account for it and balance your diet by eating less of something else.

    Finally, if all else fails, increase your calorie content. Increasing your diet by 100 to 200 calories will not sabotage your weight loss efforts. If you increase your calories a bit, you will still lose weight, it will just be at a slower rate – more like half a pound a week. And, as we all know, it’s not about how fast you lose the weight, what’s important is that you find ways to stick to your weight loss plan.

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Feelin' good!

    Hello Friday! There's no better feeling than when you look up at the clock and realize that you are officially done working for the week - unless it's the last day before a vacation. But I'm feeling particularly energetic and proud of myself today, because I managed to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning this week to exercise. From 30-minute jogs to one-hour sculpting and step classes, I'm back in the workout game. I've been really good about it for the past month, but it feels like my body is finally adjusting to those early morning workouts and my energy level is increasing. Plus, I've been following a really healthy meal plan packed with veggies, fruits, lean meats and whole-wheat grains. Last night, I had brown rice with beef, basil and steamed vegetables. This morning, I had a fruit smoothie sweetened with sucralose and brought along some healthy snacks to keep my metabolism boosted throughout the day. That includes celery, fat-free cheese, a green apple, low-cal yogurt with Splenda, a big, colorful salad and a diet soda. Now that is what I mean by a low-cal lifestyle. Care of mind, body, and spirit with strength building exercises, nutrient-packed food, and a positive mindset to take on the world. Bring on the weekend!

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Swapper's Delight

    I'm weak, y'all. I had been so good since Monday, but with a pile of work on my desk and a case of the yawns making it difficult to get through said pile, I made the mistake of running to Starbucks this afternoon for a simple coffee. But I was hungry and hot and stressed out know where I'm going with this, right? So much for my small cup of black coffee. I left the store with a grande Mocha Coconut Frappuccino Blended Beverage in my sticky little hands. (Hangs head) I know, I know. That frosty concoction packs a whopping 400 calories, 14g fat and 66 carbs. Thank goodness for Hungry Girl. That gal has always got my back! Turns out she's already discovered a low-calorie variation of the mocha coconut drink. Oh yeah, you know I'll be trying it out very soon!

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Viva la Food Truck Revolucion!

    Thank goodness for the street food movement! With a heavy workload consuming almost every waking minute this week, I ran out of time to hit the grocery store - leaving us with bare pantries several days in a row. Fortunately, I live in the midst of the neighborhood food truck park revolution, so we found ample opportunity to wander over for a quick nosh that was not hard on the wallet. Look, I'm not talking about a dude handing out store-bought hot dogs on buns. I'm referring to local chefs whipping up Korean tacos, sliders, pulled pork sandwiches, Belgian-style fries, burritos, arepas, cupcakes and all-natural popsicles. Don't worry - I didn't totally splurge on the calories while getting my food truck fix. I stuck to the lighter fare, such as a veggie wrap and gazpacho. But I did have to sneak a small cup of gelato. So much yum!

    Anyway, once I hit the store to load up on supplies, I plan to make some of those items myself, using sucralose and other light ingredients to trim the calories. Check it out!

    Berry Gelato
    Lemon Cupcakes
    Watermelon Raspberry Popsicles

    Saturday, August 06, 2011

    To the market we go...

    When I lived in Madison, WI, a trip to the farmers market was a weekly ritual during the warmer months. Every Saturday morning, regardless of how late we partied the night before, we'd crawl out of bed and walk over to the market to load up on fruits and veggies, cheese, coffee, jams and fresh flowers. If you've never been to the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, trust me when I say it's a sight to behold. Vendor stands (approximately 300 of them) encircle the Capitol Building downtown, peddling everything from cheese curds and scones to homemade honey and grass-fed beef. I seriously miss Mad-town this time of year!
    Anyway, while I have yet to find a farmers market that equals Dane County, I'm happy to report I found a solid neighborhood farmers market in Atlanta today. I picked up some delicious salsa, hummus and a jalapeno-basil-walnut pesto that will definitely be incorporated into several pasta dishes in the near future. I actually took a little of the hummus and pesto, added some tomato, red onion and avocado, and smeared it all on a piece of rosemary bread when I got home. It was FABULOUS! There was also a delicious-looking apple cobbler that I wanted to purchase. Fortunately for my waistline, I decided to be a be a good girl and make a sugar-free version when I got home. So I grabbed a batch of apples at the market, swung by the store to pick up a few more ingredients and will be trying out this Splenda-sweetened apple cobbler recipe that I found online. I'll let you know how it turns out, but I figured it would be the perfect dessert to bring to the BBQ we're attending tonight. I love a productive Saturday!

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Pass me a slice of cheesecake!

    Happy Friday!! It's amazing how much one's mood improves at 4:45 p.m. on a Friday. I assume I'm not alone in that sentiment?! Anyway, I have a few reasons to celebrate this weekend. First, my parents are flying in for a quick visit, which is always fun. Second, we're all driving to see a relative's band play at a charity event tomorrow, which should be a rocking good time. Third, tomorrow is National Cheesecake Day, which just happens to be one of my favorite desserts. Oh yeah, much like the Golden Girls, I love me a slice of cheesecake.

    If you're looking to celebrate the food holiday tomorrow, here are three low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened dessert recipes. Now you can eat your cheesecake with less calorie-related guilt!

    Marvelous Mocha Cheesecake

    Mango Cheesecake

    New York Style Cheesecake

    And since it's Friday, and I'm in a damn good mood, here are some adorable animal videos to put a proper smile on your face. Enjoy the weekend!

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Summer colds are far from fun

    I was supposed to be putting on a swimsuit this afternoon and going on a friend's boat for an afternoon of sun, swimming and cold drinks. Instead, I'm sitting in bed with a mound of Kleenex next to me, watching a bad TV movie and battling a wicked cold and cough. That's right, folks. I have a summer cold. It started on Monday with a throat tickle that developed, over the course of the afternoon, into a sore throat. By Tuesday, I was sniffling and hacking up my lungs and by Wednesday, I had severe congestion, aches and chills. Needless to say, it's been a lousy week.

    Anyway, to get over this nasty little bug, I've been downing quarts of OJ and bowls of chicken pho and vegetable soup the past five days, along with a ridiculous amount of tea, water, vitamins, cold meds and emergen-C. Good times. And yes, I've invested in a neti pot. 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 really try to avoid alcohol while you're sick.
    * 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.
    * 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.
    * 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.

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

    Cool Mint and Orange Tea

    Fuzzy Orange Smoothie

    Pho Ga

    Garden Vegetable Soup

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Pass me that pancake, please!

    I had the best intentions this morning. Really, I did! We woke up bright and early for a volunteer project that involved making repairs to houses in a low-income community. Even the gloomy skies didn't deter us. However, when we were five minutes away from our destination, we found out the project had been canceled due to the inclement weather. Sigh. No brownie points for me today! So instead of spending the morning armed with hammers, wrenches and nails, my volunteer crew headed to a local diner for some breakfast goodies. I typically stick with eggs and bacon, but today, I caved and ordered a short stack of pancakes with caramelized bananas and toasted pecans. How friggin' yummy does that sound??! It was delicious and, I'm sure, pretty high in fat and calories. Sigh. I'll have to do an extra zumba class later to work off the meal. Fortunately for all of my loyal followers, I just discovered a low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened recipe variation on Enjoy and have a wonderful, hopefully rain-free weekend!

    Banana Walnut Pancakes

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    A taste of France

    I just had brunch at an adorable French restaurant. I love finding new favorite eateries - and this one will easily join my list of top breakfast spots in Atlanta. From the adorable outdoor patio and tasty mimosas to the basket of blueberry scones and muffins that literally melted in the mouth, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. And had there not been a crowd around us, I probably would have licked the plate clean that my spinach crepes sat on. Delicious!! Anyway, for all of you other French food fans, I found a few low-calorie recipe versions perfect for the next time you feel like whipping up a French-influenced meal at home. I particularly can't wait to make that sucralose-sweetened French toast. C'est magnifique!

    Lemon Crepes

    French Toast Strata

    Caramelized Pear on Warm Brie

    Low-carb Quiche Lorraine

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Come sail away

    I'm so stoked! It's almost the weekend and I'll be spending back-to-back days on the water. I'm going tubing on the river on Saturday and will be spending most of Sunday on a boat. Wooooot! Hoping Mother Nature is good to me this weekend. I think I deserve it, especially since she caused me to spend nearly 10 hours in an airport last weekend.

    Anyhoo, another fun aspect to tubing and boating (in addition to the sun and relaxation part) is you can bring your own cooler while enjoying that leisurely float downstream. As in years past, I plan to whip up a batch of "flirtinis," a mixture of vodka, grapefruit juice and champagne, as well as the low-cal, sucralose-sweetened mojito recipe listed below. The cocktails will be the perfect treat on a humid day on the water. Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

    Black Cherry Mamba Mojito
    3/4 cup diet lemon-lime soda
    1 shot (1 1/2 oz.) light rum
    1/8 tsp. Kool-Aid Black Cherry Unsweetened Soft Drink Mix
    12 mint leaves
    4 dark sweet cherries (fresh and pitted or thawed from frozen)
    1/4 lime, cut into slices
    1 no-calorie sweetener packet (we like Splenda!)
    5 - 8 ice cubes
    * Ditch the rum and add water instead. Your alcohol-free fruity mojito will have 25 calories, 0g fat, 6g carbs and 0.5g fiber.

    Remove seeds from lime slices. Then muddle the mint, lime and cherries in a glass. Add the soda, rum, Kool-Aid, and sweetener. Stir well. Add ice and enjoy!

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Stressed out?

    Between an insanely busy work schedule and an equally busy personal life of late, I really feel like I haven't had time to breathe. Seriously, I've been out of town every other weekend and even when we do stay local, there's very little down time. And during the week, I find I rarely make it home before 8 or 9 pm, thanks to late nights at the office and trips to the gym. The problem is, when I get busy and stressed out, I tend to NOT make the wisest diet choices. I don't reach for celery sticks or carrots in times of duress. I reach for chocolate or a bag of salty chips.

    Apparently, I'm not alone. Studies show people crave rich, high-calorie foods when stress is unrelenting, hence the term “comfort food.” But emotional eating can generate additional anxiety, not to mention it sabotages any ongoing weight loss efforts. Fortunately, there are a number of healthy food alternatives that are chock-full of stress-relieving vitamins.

    This article sheds some light on which soothing foods to add into the diet. Check it out...

    Go nuts with almonds - A good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and E, almonds also contain magnesium and zinc. The B vitamins and magnesium are involved in the production of serotonin, which helps regulate mood and relieve stress, while vitamin E is an antioxidant that bolsters the immune system.

    Grab a green, leafy veggie
    – Broccoli, kale and other dark green vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins that help replenish our bodies in times of stress. Many vegetables also contain potassium, which can be calming on the nerves.

    Opt for whole grains
    - Whole grains including bulgur wheat, quinoa, wheat pasta, oats and brown rice, contain plenty of B vitamins and healthy fiber. They also supply complex carbohydrates that do not spike blood sugar levels in the same way that simple carbohydrates can.

    Milk does a body good
    – Low-fat or skim milk is very high in calcium and B vitamins, which help to build bones and protect nerve health. In addition, milk contains protein, which stabilizes blood sugar.

    Check out some cottage cheese and fruit
    – Cottage cheese also contains protein and calcium. Try mixing it with a fruit rich in vitamin C like cantaloupe or oranges.

    Beef up on the lean meat - Beef contains zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Be sure to select lean cuts of beef such as top sirloin, top round and tenderloin.

    Beat the blues with berries
    – Blueberries are jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which are potent stress busters. As an added bonus, they're high in fiber and low in calories.

    Your diet plays a crucial role in your overall well-being. In addition to incorporating these stress-fighting foods into your diet, sugar-free products sweetened with sucralose allow consumers to enjoy their favorite desserts and meals without worrying about the additional calories. For example, choosing sugar-free chocolate will save you 50 calories a day – or five pounds – by year’s end.

    So the next time you crave sweets due to stress, avoid the full calorie fare and try reaching for a handful of blueberries or almonds. By eating wholesome foods on a regular basis, eventually your stress level will decrease and leave you less susceptible to food cravings.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Lazy days of baseball

    It's been an interesting sports weekend in our household. See, I'm a huge Cubs fan. Sad and depressing, but true. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is an obnoxious Yankees fan. And our teams have been playing each other all weekend - in Chicago! - which is a very rare occurrence. We actually looked into flying there for the weekend to catch one of the games, but we couldn't make it work financially.

    Anyway, the smack-talking has reached epic proportions today, especially since the series is currently tied with each team taking home a victory. Guess we'll see what shakes down tonight, while we watch the ball game from the friendly confines of our apartment.

    In an effort to slightly recreate the feel of attending a game, I've put together a ballpark-style menu for dinner tonight. But instead of chowing down on a fully loaded hot dog, breaded chicken tenders, nachos, salty peanuts and ice cream, I'll be trying to stick to a healthier menu.

    Here are some of the dishes that will be served tonight:

    Southwest Citrus Salsa
    Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix
    Barbecued Chicken

    These sucralose-sweetened meals are delicious AND low-calorie. So root on my Cubbies, y'all! And Happy Father's Day!

    Sunday, June 05, 2011

    Hot days, cool treats...

    Okay, it's CRAZY hot outside. I think it was 98 degrees today in the shade. Seriously, y'all, summer has started out with a bang. I spent the day hanging out at a friend's pool. While we chose to stay submerged in the water most of the time (way too hot to suntan on the deck), I came armed with wonderful, sugar-free frozen treats to help everyone cool off. Check it out!

    Watermelon Raspberry Popsicles

    Refreshing Summer Slushie

    Top off those icy desserts with a pitcher of margaritas (I heart my friends!) and it was a fabulous Sunday Funday! Life is good.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Holiday Weekend Grub

    Happy almost Memorial Day! I'm about to hit the road with a group of friends and head up to a cabin in North Georgia. Boating, barbecue and beer, oh my! That's pretty much what my weekend will consist of, along with some hiking...if the weather holds up.
    Anyhoo, not sure what the rest of y'all are up to this weekend, but there has been lots of chatter on the news lately about the escalating gas prices and how that's hindering many a person's plans to hit the road this Memorial Day. So for all of you staying put, I'd imagine there will be a number of house parties or pool bashes taking place this weekend. Trying to figure out how to keep that sugar-free diet with so many fatty foods around? Well no need to fret. There are some sugar-free recipes you can enjoy. Check it out.

    Scallion and Habanero Marinated Pork Loin

    Cucumber and Onion Salad

    Bean Trio with Citrus Cumin Dressing

    Yellow Cupcakes

    By the way, I was sorry to hear the news that Jeff Conaway died today. For all you Grease fans, here's a clip of the recently departed actor. R.I.P, Kenickie. Hope you're headed to that malt shop in the sky.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    And so it begins...

    The weather is heating up, baseball season is in full swing and barbecues and pool parties are starting to clutter the calendar again. Summer is back, baby! Of course, if you're trying to shed pounds, you might not be rejoicing in the return of skimpy shorts and tank tops. Or the temptation of so many unwanted fat and calories from the food and booze served at those festive gatherings. However, there are ways to avoid gaining weight while still enjoying a quality summer party. Check out these tips from

    Choose your marinades wisely. Using sauces such as Worcestershire, Chile, Soy, or light Italian dressing in place of salt or heavy sauces will add a lot of flavor with a few calories. If you are looking to flavor with spices, try garlic, onion powder, or chili powder. If sweet taste is what you are going for add a little fruit juice to the marinade. This will add a sweet taste while also tenderizing the meat. Also, a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose can help sweeten a marinade without the added calories.
    Think beyond just meat. Barbecues don’t have to be a meat lover’s paradise. Try one of the sauces/seasonings listed above on steak or chicken skewers. In between each piece of meat add pineapple, mushrooms, peppers, or any other fruit or vegetable you and your family or friends enjoy. Cut the veggies into sizes that will cook well on the grill and then grill them for about 8 – 10 minutes. If you like seafood, shrimp or fish could be a great option for grilling whole or making into skewers.
    When grilling chicken, make sure you remove all the skin. The skin of the chicken is where most of the saturated fat is found so removing the skin will remove this unwanted fat as well. If you are a chicken skin lover consider this: 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast with skin contains 8.8 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of saturated fat 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast without skin contains 4 grams of fat and 1.2 grams of saturated fat. Be sure to take the skin off before adding the marinade so you don’t lose the flavor along with the skin. When cooking other types of meat be sure to choose the leanest cuts possible and trim additional fat before cooking.
    Portion distortion is still a problem on the grill. If you are making skewers, cut the meat in small pieces with loads of vegetables in between. If you are making burgers or steak, think “tapas” and cut them into smaller appetizer portions before cooking. For every piece of meat you have, try to have an equal amount of vegetable.
    Traditional barbecues are centered on grilling meat, but don’t forget about the sides. Complement your meat with a healthful pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta and light Italian dressing. Or, going along with the tapas theme, make some mini appetizers such as bruschetta, hummus with olive oil and whole wheat pita, low fat artichoke dip, or a veggie tray. Take advantage of the delicious fruits in season and provide a fruit tray and a yogurt dipping sauce sweetened with sucralose for a low-calorie dessert that is sure to satisfy all your guests!

    Sunday, May 15, 2011


    I'm beat. Know what I did yesterday? I spent the entire day working the food line at a local Greek festival. Ever spent eight hours fixing up trays of hot food on a humid day? Not fun. Plus, as much as I heart Greek food, after about three hours of serving it, the meals no longer smell or look so good. Anyway, it was a long, sweaty Saturday but I did it all for the good of the local Greek community. So it was worth it. Plus, I did get to nosh on some mighty tasty snacks...a little spanakopita, some keftedes, souvlaki, dolmades, pastitsio...I certainly picked at a few items before I got sick of looking at them. Heh.
    For all of you other Greek food fans out there, I found some wonderful low-cal recipes, including a sucralose-sweetened baklava recipe. Enjoy!



    Vegetarian Pastitsio

    Sunday, May 01, 2011

    How to lose 10 pounds in two months

    I was chatting with gal pals the other day about how quickly the year has flown by. I mean, it's already May, which means the skimpy outfits of summer are just around the corner. How did that happen?! Anyway, for all of you who (like me) are unprepared for swimsuit season, here are a few tips I found to help lose weight before summer really kicks in.

    1. Dear diary… Keep a food journal. Often, we eat more than we realize. And when it comes to weight, every calorie counts. 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! These types of journals can help uncover hidden calories, specify eating patterns, highlight problem areas and, essentially, increase the chances of weight loss success down the road.
    2. Feeling frustrated? Hit the gym. Regular exercise can produce overall health benefits. And it doesn’t have to involve hour-long training sessions at an expensive fitness center. Go for a quick jog in the morning before you get ready for work. Instead of driving to the office, walk or bicycle. Bypass the elevator for the stairs and go for a brisk stroll around your building after lunch. Remember, muscle burns more calories than fat, so a regular mixture of cardio, flexibility and toning exercise is the best way to increase metabolism.
    3. Watch what you drink. When it comes to diets, many people focus on the food without accounting for beverages. Every fruit juice, soda and sweetened coffee comes bearing calories – with some containing as many as a meal. This is not to say you have to give up all your favorite beverages to lose weight. All foods and beverages can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan. However, you can save calories, for example, by drinking sucralose-sweetened products such as light lemonade and light cranberry juice or diet soda. Drinking a diet soda in place of a full-calorie soda can save 150 calories alone. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water and consider switching from whole to nonfat or low-fat milk.
    4. Eat less, more often. Many experts say eating small snacks throughout the day will lead to healthier choices when it comes to the three main meals. Bring healthy snacks to work to curb your appetite, such as carrot sticks, pretzels, string cheese, low-fat energy bars or fruit. This way, you’re less likely to go home and eat a box of crackers with cheese before dinner. Also, frequently consuming snacks can help keep your blood sugar level steady and your energy up.
    5. Sugar-free does a diet good. Sure, too much ice cream is not necessarily a good thing. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to deprive yourself of the frozen treat. Instead, try the low-calorie, sugar-free version. Have five pieces of sucralose-sweetened chocolate instead of regular chocolate and save 50 calories. And sugar-free yogurt eliminates about 110 calories per serving. If you start incorporating sucralose into your favorite recipes now, you could easily be flaunting a healthier weight in a few short months.
    Make a healthier lifestyle your new priority and find ways to stay inspired. Remember, a weight loss of half a pound to one and a half pounds a week is sensible.

    Friday, April 22, 2011


    Okay, my willpower is just about shot. I can't seem to go to a grocery store or convenience store these days without a basket of Cadbury Creme eggs (my kryptonite!) staring at me in the checkout line. I'm trying to hold off until Sunday, but retailers are making it super difficult by constantly shoving the chocolate sweet treat (one egg is nearly 172 calories, boo!) in my face! Oh, and I also love those Reese's egg-shaped chocolate peanut butter cups that seem to be everywhere this time of year, but that's neither here nor there.

    Anyway, Sunday is almost here, so I will try to stay strong until then. And I'm debating what to make for an Easter meal - perhaps ham, a green salad, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs and mimosas. Does that sound good? As for dessert, I'm thinking about making these low-cal, Splenda-sweetened Lemon Raspberry Bars. Or perhaps I'll try this Double-Layer Carrot Cake. Sounds delicious, amirite?

    Anyway, I hope y'all have a fabulous weekend. Here's a little Easter happy, courtesy of everyone's favorite beagle.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Fat Fighting Foods

    I attended a wedding in Destin this past weekend. It was a beautiful beachside ceremony, joining two wonderful people together. So I couldn’t be happier for my newlywed friends. However, I ate and drank a wee bit too much over the course of the mini-vacation and am now feeling a bit, well, fluffy. Fortunately, Monday is a new day and I’m back on the workout train, eating healthy meals once again. Yay.

    Anyway, I saw this article about some of the best fat-fighting foods and thought you all might enjoy it. I know I'll be loading up on these items for the next few weeks.

    Berries: You probably know that fiber is the magic bullet of weight loss. It keeps you satisfied throughout the day — and away from the fridge. But you may not know that berries are an excellent roughage source. Raspberries are the fiber queens with 8 grams per cup. Blackberries come in a close second with 7.4 grams and blueberries have 3.5 grams

    Turkey: This clucker has the fewest calories per ounce of any animal protein. Like dairy, it contains the amino acid leucine, which may play a role in preserving muscle mass during weight loss, keeping metabolism running at full speed. Protein is also more satiating than fat or carbs — so you're less likely to overeat.

    Enova Oil: Enova — made from soy and canola oils — is made of diglycerides, a type of fat that's metabolized differently from triglycerides (found in other oils — even olive) and so not stored as fat as easily. In a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dieters who used Enova lost more weight than those who used other oils.

    Peanuts: Ironically, this elephant favorite fights weight gain, slows rises in blood sugar and curbs hunger. One study from Purdue University found that individuals who added 500 calories of peanuts to their diets for 3 weeks experienced almost no change in body weight and a 24 percent drop in triglycerides --blood fats associated with heart disease.

    Low-Fat Yogurt: Plain, low-fat yogurt is one of the best sources of calcium -- a mineral that may fight fat. According to Michael B. Zemel, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the of Tennessee, not getting enough calcium triggers the release of calcitriol, a hormone that causes us to store fat, whereas meeting our daily calcium needs helps us burn fat more efficiently. Like turkey, yogurt and other dairy foods are leading sources of leucine, which also helps fight fat.

    Breakfast Cereal: By boosting fiber and providing fewer calories from fat than other popular breakfasts, ready-to-eat cereal can help you fill up -- and slim down. Study from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that women who ate cereal were 30 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate other breakfast foods. To get the most bang for your breakfast buck, choose fiber-rich (aim for 5 grams per serving), low-fat cereals.

    Statistics show that about 68 percent of the U.S. population is now obese or overweight. By regularly enjoying some of these foods (in the appropriate portions), as well as products sweetened with sucralose, you can lose or maintain weight in a healthy manner. For example, switching from a regular can of soda (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 if the calorie savings are maintained. And a blueberry muffin baked with sucralose can shave off 80 calories compared to the traditional version.

    For more sucralose-sweetened tips or recipes, visit the recipe section of

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Mad for a sugar-free margarita...

    We went to dinner at one of my fave restaurants in the Atlanta vicinity tonight. It's this wonderful Oaxacan taqueria outside of the city - it's about as authentic a Mexican restaurant as you'll find in these parts. The food is dee-lish and there is a killer salsa bar with numerous types of salsa to enjoy. The one downside is, it's a liquor-free establishment. Now, at the end of the day, that's not too big of a problem - and certainly not enough to prevent us from going. But after hours upon hours of running errands on a humid afternoon, sometimes a margarita just goes so well with that taco, ya know?! Anyway, after stuffing ourselves on sopes and tlayuda, we went home and whipped up a sugar-free batch of margaritas...oh so good on a hot night!

    Any other low-cal margarita fans out there? This one is for you. Check out this link packed with numerous sugar-free margarita recipes, courtesy of Hungry Girl.

    Monday, April 04, 2011

    Counting Calories

    This time next year, you might see calorie information displayed next to food products sold in chain restaurants, convenience stores, concession stands and vending machines across the nation. Essentially serving as the nation's first federal menu-labeling law, the rules were proposed last week by the Food and Drug Administration and are subject to a public comment period before they are finalized and implemented in 2012.

    Under the regulations, any restaurant with 20 or more locations - which includes table-service establishments, fast-food outlets, bakeries and coffee shops - would have to prominently disclose calories on menus or drive-through boards. Other nutritional information, such as sodium and fat content, would be available upon request.

    Vending machines would also have to clearly display the calorie counts for each item. However, movie theaters, bowling alleys, airplanes and other places where less than half the floor space is devoted to food sales would be exempt from the rules. FYI, a medium tub of unbuttered popcorn at Regal Theaters can contain 1,200 calories, according to a 2009 laboratory analysis ordered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    Menu labeling laws have already been passed in 18 states and cities, including California and New York City, and some restaurant chains already voluntarily provide the information. While most have applauded these efforts, some experts are skeptical the calorie information will cause people to make different choices.

    What do you think? Will these mandatory menu labeling efforts have a positive effect on consumer eating habits? I want to hear from you on this topic!

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Nutty about Friday

    So I’m a wee bit bummed today...scratch that, make it really bummed. I stayed up late last night, watching college basketball, hoping that my team – the University of Wisconsin - would make it into the Elite Eight. Alas, it was not meant to be - my boys were foiled again, this time courtesy of a little team called Butler. No more Big Dance for the beloved Badgers. Sigh. Sad face.

    Anyway, I drowned my sorrows, so to speak, with a low-calorie waffle topped with pecans this morning. Why? Because it’s International Waffle Day, as well as National Pecan Day. Woo hoo! Nothing like combining two of my favorite things.

    By the way, for those of you who feel nuts are too fatty, research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans may decrease the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In other findings, a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that nuts like pecans may aid in weight loss and maintenance.

    And here are some fun facts for you, courtesy of the National Pecan Shellers Association:
    * There are over 1,000 varieties of pecans. Many are named for Native American Indian tribes, including Cheyenne, Mohawk, Sioux, Choctaw and Shawnee.
    * Some of the larger pecan shellers process 150,000 pounds of pecans each day. That’s enough to make 300,000 pecan pies!
    * The U.S. produces about 80 percent of the world’s pecan crop.
    * Pecans could improve your love life? If the body does not get enough zinc, it may have difficulty producing testosterone – a key hormone in initiating sexual desire in both men and women. Pecans provide nearly 10 percent of the recommended daily value for zinc. So, pass on the oysters and reach for a handful of pecans!

    And, of course, I'm including a few sugar-free recipes, courtesy of

    Pumpkin Waffles
    Banana Pecan Waffles with Rum Raisin Syrup
    Cinnamon-Pecan Monkey Bread
    Sweet Potato Bisque with Apple-Bacon Chutney and Spicy Texas Pecans

    Finally, since today is Friday and I'm feeling a bit wicked, here is the new song - titled "Friday" - that everyone is buzzing about. Thank you Rebecca Black, buwahaha!

    Ack. Now here is a REAL song to help rinse that terrible song out of your eardrums.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Oatmeal and Guinness? Yes please...

    Y’all, I had the best mini-dessert last night. Seriously. We were sitting in the neighborhood Irish pub, enjoying a pint of beer and watching college basketball (U-rah-rah, Wisconsin!!), when a friend of a friend stopped by with a plate of oatmeal butterscotch cookies. But these weren’t just your typical oatmeal cookies. They were whoopie pies with a creamy sweet filling apparently made with vanilla and Guinness, among other ingredients. Crikeys, they were delicious! Imagine the old-school Little Debbie oatmeal sandwich cookie, but ten times better.

    Anyway, I’m hoping to get the recipe (so I can share it with everyone), but until then, enjoy National Oatmeal Cookie Day today with these wonderful sucralose-sweetened recipes.

    P.S. Hope you all had a wonderful – and safe – St. Patrick’s Day!

    Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
    Crispy Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
    Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    In Google We Trust

    It was bound to happen eventually, seeing as how recipes are a popular search on Google. Now, the search engine giant is attempting to make it easier to find recipes via the 'net while racking up the ad dollars. Say hello to a new Google Recipe Search. Looking for specific recipes or a great app to provide at your next party? Go to the section, type in your search term and Google will list recipes for you to peruse. A menu on the left side of the screen lets users filter recipes by ingredient, cooking time and calories.

    On the downside, recipes are sorted by popularity, not quality - which means you might have to dig around for awhile to find a really good one. But I like what I'm seeing so far. For example, put "sucralose" into the search bar and you'll find results ranging from a sweet pickle relish and custard to raspberry parfait, chocolate chip cookies and a low-carb banana loaf. So if you're a frequent visitor to this blog and the recipe section, consider checking out Google Recipe Search for some additional sugar-free recipe options. Hooray!

    P.S. This is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week, so here are some delicious, sucralose-sweetened recipes to appease your sweet tooth without the guilt.

    Chocolate Chip Cookie

    So-Good Chocolate Chip Softies

    Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Friday, March 04, 2011

    Laissez les bon temps rouler!

    Are any of you headed to New Orleans this weekend for Mardi Gras-related mayhem? If so, I’m jealous! Although I’ll be there in two months for Jazz Fest, I didn’t have the finances or vacation time to make it to the Big Easy for the Carnival celebrations this year. And with the bulk of my extended family hailing from Louisiana - New Orleans and Lake Charles to be precise - I've always been a sucker for a good Mardi Gras party. Still, I plan to celebrate in style by treating a few friends this weekend to a "King Cake" and some seasonal cocktails. Hand grenade anyone?

    Yup, I have sugar-free recipes for a few Carnival-related treats including King Cake," a braided coffee cake decorated in purple, green and gold sugar. Each one contains a hidden plastic baby - with custom dictating that whoever finds the toy must buy the next cake or throw the next party. Hundreds upon hundreds of "King Cake" parties are thrown every year.

    So for any of you hosting Fat Tuesday parties and the like in upcoming days, these recipes are for you. You can thank me later!

    Cake Ingredients:
    2 (8 oz.) pkg. Fat Free Cream Cheese
    2/3 cup granular Splenda
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 egg yolk
    1 cup no sugar added apple pie filling
    2 pkg. Crescent Rolls
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Combine cream cheese, 2/3 cup Splenda, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
    3. Unroll crescent rolls and place on cookie sheet with points towards the center, overlapping as needed. Try to make a circle.
    4. Spread cream cheese mixture over the dough leaving 1/2-inch from edges.
    5. Mix the apple filling with 1 tsp. of Splenda and mash until slightly lumpy. Spread the filling on top of the cream cheese and then fold the outside edges over the filling to prevent leaking.
    6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool and glaze.
    Glaze Ingredients:
    1 cup granular Splenda
    1 to 2 tsp. fat-free milk
    Food coloring
    1. Mix Splenda with milk.
    2. When desired thickness, add food coloring to create three different toppings.
    3. Spread with ease and let sit for a few minutes.

    2 oz light rum
    2 oz dark rum
    * 2 oz passion fruit juice
    1 oz orange juice
    1/2 oz fresh lime juice
    * 1 tbsp simple syrup
    1 tbsp grenadine
    * For a healthier recipe, use some V8 Splash Guava Passion and make sugar-free simple syrup combining 1 cup of sucralose with 1 cup of boiling water. Once it has cooled, strain the sucralose and water through a coffee filter.
    Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, pour into a hurricane glass and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

    2 tablespoons granulated Splenda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup butter
    1 cup water
    1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Vegetable oil for frying
    Powdered sugar
    1. In a saucepan, combine Splenda, salt, butter, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.
    2. Add flour and cook over medium heat, beating with spoon until dough forms a ball and leaves side of pan. Remove from heat.
    3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with electric mixer at medium speed after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth.
    4. Mix in vanilla.
    5. Roll dough on a floured surface and cut into 2-inch squares.
    6. In skillet, heat 1 to 2-inches of oil. Then fry dough (three or four pieces at a time) until puffy and golden brown on both sides.
    8. Remove beignets and drain on paper towels. While hot, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

    Finally, here is some great NOLA music bound to put a smile on your face. Enjoy! Or should I say - let the good times roll, chere!

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Some startling statistics...

    Wow. I just saw some staggering statistics in this press release. According to the World Health Organization, more people in the world now die from being overweight and obese than being underweight. Statistics show there are about 1.6 billion overweight or obese people in the world and at least 2.5 million deaths are associated with these conditions annually. Obesity also accounts for two to seven percent of total health care costs in several countries. Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, obesity is now taking a toll on populations across the globe, including those in developing nations.

    Crazy, huh? I tend to think of obesity as more of an American problem, but with an estimated one-third of European children and adolescents now overweight as well, it truly has become an international issue.

    If you're one of the many people struggling with weight, remember that it's best achieved by reducing caloric intake and portion sizes, lowering energy density of the diet and increasing physical activity. In addition, low-calorie sweeteners in beverages and foods can also help. It's true! A 2007 study published in Pediatrics found that eliminating 100 calories a day from the diet through the use of sucralose (Splenda® brand) as well as adding 2,000 steps of physical activity daily, helped maintain and lower body mass index for children participating in the “Families on the Move” program. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Food Science found that people who use reduced-calorie products not only had a better quality diet but also were more likely to consume fewer calories.

    Speaking from personal experience, low-calorie products have definitely helped with my weight loss efforts. When it comes to food and drinks, I almost always try to find a lighter version...they taste just as good and leave you feeling much less guilty in the morning.

    Planning a dinner this weekend? Here are a few sucralose-sweetened options to help trim the calories.

    Santa Fe Veggie Chili
    Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Chicken Cacciatore over Pasta

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Stick a cork in it!

    Today is National Drink Wine Day? Well, don’t mind if I do!
    Back in my college years and even into my early 20s, I knew nothing about wine. If we felt like being classy, we would serve up those cheap boxes of Franzia at parties or order the occasional glass of White Zinfandel at the bar. Yeah, I know...sad. Fortunately, I eventually grew older and wiser when it came to all things wine-related. While I’m still predominantly a beer girl, I love going home and curling up with a glass of Malbec or Cabernet after a really stressful day. Or cooking a nice dinner for friends and pairing it with the perfect wine. So you can bet I’ll be raising a glass of vino tonight in honor of the big day. For those who are still learning the basics of wine, here’s a little cheat sheet for you.

    Chardonnay - The lemony and unoaked styles are great with fish and chicken dishes.
    Sauvignon blanc - Its distinctive aroma and flavor with various hints of gooseberries and grapefruits make good partners to goat cheese salads or grilled fish.
    Pinot blanc - This is one to drink with shrimp cocktails or ceviche.
    Pinot grigio - Pair a light and crisp, peach variety with vegetable pastas and fish lasagna.
    Riesling - The versions with an exotic fruit flavor are great with spicy fish dishes and curries.

    Cabernet sauvignon - Rich, complex with ripe fruity flavors make this magic with red meats.
    Merlot - Another wine packed with fruity berries, this tastes great with meaty pastas and casseroles.
    Shiraz/syrah - This peppery, heady dark fruit wine is perfect with steaks and grilled meats.
    Pinot noir - Good with tomato-based pastas, chopped liver and duck.
    Zinfandel - Packed with fruits, spice and pepper, this is the wine to serve with cheese.
    Rosé - Light versions are good with paella and seafood.

    If you want more of a twist, here are a few low-calorie, Sangria recipes that have scored high grades at some of my parties in the past.

    HG’s Sangria-Seltzer Twist
    Hit up the bar for slices of orange, lemon, and lime. Give your favorite fruit wedges a little squeeze before dropping them into your glass. Add 1 oz. of liquor (rum or vodka is yummy) and top with calorie-free seltzer. If your party-throwers are winos, top your glass with a splash of red or blush wine. Now you’ve got a fancy, signature drink that only contains around 100 calories!

    George Stella's Sangria
    2 cups Burgundy wine
    2 cups club soda or seltzer water
    1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    1/2 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)
    1 lemon, sliced into circles
    1 lime, sliced into circles
    1/4 cup diet Tang or any Crystal light fruit drink, optional
    Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, pour into glasses over ice.

    And my own little Red Sangria concoction which includes:
    1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, etc.)
    1 sliced orange
    1 sliced apple
    1 sliced lime
    ½ cup brandy
    ½ cup triple sec
    2 cups diet ginger ale
    Six packets of low-calorie sweetener

    For white sangria, use the same ingredients but replace the red wine with a white such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc. Also consider adding peach, mango or kiwi to sweeten the recipe even further.


    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    A social way to lose weight?

    Don’t get me wrong...I’m not one of those people that walks around all the time, smart phone permanently attached to hand, head down and texting. But I have found that my iPhone is pretty dang handy when it comes to things like tracking calories, finding low-fat and nutritious meal recipes and monitoring my exercise regime. In addition to my ongoing use of the Calorie Control Council's handy Healthy Weight Tool Kit, I've recently discovered free phone applications like MyFitnessPal, StepTrakLite and SparkPeople. And believe me, some of these tools are downright motivational. For example, you can connect with other friends via MyFitnessPal to share food and exercise diaries. I don’t know about you, but I tend to think twice about scarfing down a few pieces of pizza and a slice of cake when I know that several of my friends and acquaintances might see it. And on the flip side, if I notice that one of my besties is regularly eating a large healthy, colorful salad and hitting the local gym for an hour of exercise every day, I might be more encouraged to do the same. So for all of you technology lovers, check out a few of these handy health-related applications, courtesy of the New York Times.

    MYFITNESSPAL - Free; Web, iPhone, Android, Tracks food and exercise calories. Shares food and exercise diaries with other users and friends on Facebook and Twitter.

    DAILYBURN - Free (pro membership $9.99 a month); Web, iPhone, Tracks food and exercise calories. IPhone app scans product bar codes to automatically enter calories. Lets you sign up friends as motivators or engage in challenges.

    GAIN FITNESS - Free; Designs randomized gym or home workouts based on time, experience level and available equipment.

    LOSEIT - Free; Web, iPhone, Tracks food and exercise calories. Broadcasts activity reports to Twitter and Facebook.

    SOCIALWORKOUT - Free; Web, Lets users sign up for challenges and report their progress on Facebook. Activities range from standard food and nutrition goals to more esoteric ones like avoiding plastic-bag use or taking a break in the middle of a workday.

    How about you, dear readers? Any awesome nutrition phone applications or websites that must be checked out?