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?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pass me a peppermint patty!

Do you know what tomorrow is? It's National Peppermint Pattie Day, huzzah! I LOVE peppermint and chocolate, so this news makes me very happy. Especially now that so many peppermint pattie brands come in sugar-free versions, like York and Russell Stover. And if you're feeling super ambitious, you can whip up some of these sucralose-sweetened Peppermint Pattie-based recipes, courtesy of Hershey's.

Peppermint Pattie Cheesecake Bites

Peppermint Pie

Since we're on the subject of peppermint, do I have any Peanuts fans in the house? Patricia "Peppermint Patty" Reichardt was always one of my favorite characters from the Charles M. Schulz's comic strip. A freckle-faced tomboy with a strong personality, she always wore shorts and sandals instead of dresses. And she was a star baseball player. For those reasons - and many more - I thought she was covered in awesome sauce.

So let's raise a sugar-free Peppermint Pattie to Chuck's (aka Charlie Brown) buddy on National Peppermint Patty Day!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Super Tips for Game Day

Typically, I adore Super Bowl Sunday. I grew up in a family of football fanatics, so I’m usually glued to the tube each Sunday (and Saturday, during college football season) through February. This weekend, though? Meh. I mean, yes, I will definitely wind up going to a party...but for the first time in a long time, I have absolutely no investment in the outcome. I’m tired of the Steelers. And as a Chicago Bears fan, I’m not thrilled to see the Pack in the Big Game. Had my beloved Bears been in it, I would definitely be singing a different tune. But since they’re not, I’m having a tough time drumming up any interest. Oh well. Is the world's smallest violin playing in my direction yet? Yeah, yeah...I’ll live – and will likely still gather with friends to drink beer and eat high-calorie foods and snacks while watching the big event. Moving on...
Did you know that Americans will eat 30 Million pounds of snacks and enough fat to equal the weight of 13,000 NFL offensive linemen on Sunday? That little tidbit comes from the Calorie Control Council and Snack Food Association, who determined that the average armchair quarterback will consume 1200 calories and 50 grams of fat from snacking, EXCLUDING THE MEALS! Yowza, that’s a lot of buffalo wings, chips and salsa, burgers and pizza. Obviously, this game is tough on calorie counters. However, there are a few ways you can cut down on the fat while rooting for your favorite team.

* Fat-free is good. Choosing fat-free potato chips for the big game could save up to 300 calories per person. When it comes to dips, try salsa or substitute reduced-fat sour cream and non-fat yogurt. Use fresh herbs and spices such as cilantro, parsley and hot peppers to add great flavor. Add fresh vegetables and low-fat dips to your party tray and you’ve got a healthy appetizer in no time.
* Exercise. Try hitting the gym before going to the big party. If that's not feasible, help burn off Super Bowl snacks by tossing the football with friends at halftime or walking to a neighbors house to get a play by play.
* 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.

And check out the Calorie Control Council's appetizer recipe section to find a list of healthy spreads and dips perfect for the Super Bowl party.

By the way, for those looking for something different come Game Day, the annual Animal Planet Puppy Bowl will be airing...and if you've never watched any of it before, please check it out. It's covered in awesome sauce.