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.