Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Road Food Rage


Who decided it would be a good idea to drive from Atlanta to Chicago and back for the holidays? Raises hand slowly. This girl! But the closer we get to the departure date, the more I'm questioning my own sanity. The thing is, we have a dog. And I don't want to torture her by sticking her on a plane - nor do we want to leave her behind in a kennel or with friends for a week while we gallivant around my hometown. So we're packing up the car and hitting the road, dog included. Here's hoping we don't need to put chains on the tires because of snowy, icy weather.

Anyway, seeing as how we'll be spending more than 30 hours in the car, I need to figure out some healthy eating snacks - rather than chowing down on the usual junk food (Combos, Cheetos, Doritos, etc.) So my plan is to bring some low-calorie granola bars, some fresh fruit, light string cheese and rice cakes.

And yes, I'll have my gym shoes readily available. I plan to take some long walks around gas stations or rest stops to stretch my legs and make sure the dog gets some exercise.

Anyone else have fun plans for the holidays? I'll touch base in a few days with more tips on how to handle all the dining and drinking that the season brings but until then, travel safely!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bleh

photo by Mark Arment

My head hurts, my throat tickles, my nose is runny and my body aches...clearly, I'm getting the bug that's been flying around. What a bummer. I was hoping to have a super productive week, catching up on work, getting some shopping done and hitting the gym each day. So the flu would definitely put a wrench in those plans. In an effort to avoid the ick, I started taking cold meds this morning and downed nearly a carton of OJ. Tomorrow, I think I'll have to buy a box of emergen-C and throat lozenges. Here's hoping I kick this thing before we head to Chicago for the holidays.

Until then, I'll be drinking many cups of hot tea to help soothe the throat. Here are a few of my favorite hot tea recipes for those stuffy days. Wish me luck!

Hot Spiced Tea
Hot Brown Sugar Tea
Russian Tea

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Time for Ugly Christmas Sweaters!

It's officially December - and so the winter holiday party season begins. We're actually attending a holiday party tonight. The theme: ugly Christmas sweaters. I've got quite the collection of ugly sweaters going now...too many years of attending these types of gatherings. Yet every year, I still have to go buy a new one. So I'll be hitting a few thrift stores this afternoon, between rounds of shopping for holiday lights and an artificial tree. Have you seen any truly awesomely ugly Christmas sweaters lately? This may be one of my new favorites...too bad it's $35. I refuse to spend more than $10 on an ugly sweater. 

Here are a few more awesome examples of fugly seasonal sweaters. 



There are just so many great options, ya know? 
Anyhoo, I also have to bring a side dish, so I'm thinking about a low-cal sweet potato casserole  and this amazing sucralose-sweetened Gingersnap Pumpkin Cheesecake. Have to provide a few healthy options to the masses, right? 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble Gobble

So, I don't know what you're currently doing, but I just spent the past hour running laundry, washing dishes, peeling and rinsing potatoes and chopping up spinach. Productive, ey? Guess I have to be. We're packing up the car and hitting the road bright and early tomorrow morning (we did NOT feel like fighting our way through traffic today) to spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's family in Florida. And since I know the kitchen will be packed with people tomorrow, I'm trying to tackle the cooking of my side dishes tonight.

Speaking of holiday meals, according to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat tomorrow. You heard that right - 4,500 freakin' calories! And sadly, those figures only include snacking and the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, not breakfast or late evening munching. But there are ways to cut down on some of the gastronomical excess. Reducing the amount of fat and calories through simple substitutions can help prevent the average weight a person will gain during the holiday season. Extra exercise can also ward off the pounds.

Here are some tips:
  • If cooking, provide low-fat foods, or ask if you can bring a low-fat dish. You can reduce the calories in a meal by using lower-calorie products. For example:
    * Use fat-free soup in your favorite casserole (fat free mushroom soup has 70 calories per 1/2 cup serving vs. 120 for the regular)
    * Use chicken bouillon to simmer the celery and onions for your turkey stuffing - instead of sautéing them in butter (one bouillon cube has 5 calories, a tablespoon of butter has 102 calories)
    * Fruit pie filling has 90 calories per 1/3 cup serving; the light version has 60 and the sugar-free version only has 35
    * Add sucralose instead of sugar when baking pies or casseroles 
  • After the meal, start a physical fitness-related tradition -- a holiday walk or friendly game of football, for instance. We'll be heading out on a six mile hike the Friday after Turkey Day. And I plan to bring my gym shoes so I can go for a run when we arrive tomorrow. 
  • Prepare for handling your worst temptations; if you want both pecan and pumpkin pie, take a tiny slice of each, instead of an average serving.
Are you cooking tomorrow? Any recipes worth sharing? 

P.S. For anyone deep frying a turkey, I'm jealous...that stuff is amazing. But be CAREFUL! Check out this hilarious (but educational) video about deep fryer safety courtesy of Captain James T. Kirk. Enjoy and be have a wonderful - and safe - Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

'Tis the season...to diet?


We have been attending way too many parties the past few weeks. Birthdays, housewarming gatherings, holiday shindigs, baby showers...you name it, we've been to it. And thanks to all these festivities, my pants are crazy tight right now. And unfortunately, the height of the holiday season has yet to begin. Needless to say, I'm a wee bit concerned about additional weight gain heading into the new year. So what's a social butterfly to do this hectic time of year? Sucralose.org has some great tips on how to manage the waistline during the holidays. Here are a few of the highlights.

Be Realistic: Consider shifting your goal from weight loss to weight maintenance. Dieting through the holidays doesn't have to leave you feeling deprived. With a little pre-planning, you can have a healthy and happy holiday dinner. Using low-fat ingredients, like reduced-fat mayonnaise or cream, and sugar substitutes in your dishes can cut hundreds of calories.

Manage Stress: Stress is one of the main reasons why people overeat during the holidays. There is stress related to interacting with family members, the financial stress of buying presents and the general stress of hosting holiday events. Take the stress out of hosting by planning the meal ahead of time, ordering takeaways or sharing the labour by asking others to bring food.

Get Active: Create a calorie deficit by exercising to burn off extra calories before you ever indulge in your favorite foods. Eat less and exercise more is the winning formula to prevent weight gain during the holidays. Staying active will keep you from veering off the weight loss track and it can be a great way to bond with your loved ones. Make fitness a family adventure. Take a walk early in the day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get physical exercise and enjoy the holiday together.

Make a Plan: Think about what you're going to eat before your next holiday event. If you can't resist a huge slice of pie, what will you cut back on to compensate for it? What will your plate look like? What will leave you feeling satisfied? If you're not preparing the meal yourself, ask your host if it would be all right to bring a dish that meets your dietary needs. Consider bringing a sugar-free or low-carbohydrate dessert or talk to a fellow dieter before the holidays. Plan to give each other moral support throughout the season.

These are tips I'll certainly be adopting the next few months. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Enjoy the exercise without the injury



Earlier this summer, I signed up for a half-marathon training program. My goal was to get back in fierce fighting form over the course of a few months. Sadly, I wound up instead with a wicked case of shin splints and plantar fasciitis. I'm still blue about that one, as I would have run my first half-marathon earlier this month had my body not broken down.
I guess I'm not too surprised, though. I did everything I shouldn't have done when attempting to avoid injury. I didn't always stretch before or after racing. I spent the first few runs in old, worn out shoes. I failed to listen to the aches and pains in my body. So for any other folks diving into a new workout regiment, here are some fantastic tips from www.theskinnyonlowcal.org to help you prevent injury. 

  • Suit up properly for your workout. Wear lightweight clothing that wicks moisture away from your skin when you sweat. Choose shoes that fit well, have firm ankle support and contain gel or pads in the sole to absorb shock. Refrain from wearing racing shoes during workouts. Their light construction may not support your feet well during prolonged and regular workouts. If you don’t know what type of shoes to get, go to your local sporting goods store where they can determine the right shoes for your feet based on the type of exercise you will be doing.
  • Warm up for 10 minutes or longer before exercising. Rather than stretch stiff muscles and tight joints, do light aerobic activity like walking or marching. You pump oxygen through your bloodstream which circulates to your muscles. As you feel warmer, do gentle joint rotations and stretches.
  • Opt for lower-impact exercises that effectively elevate your heart rate. Rather than running on a hard surface, speed-walk on grass or jog through water. Instead of aerobic dance, do belly dancing. Other cardiovascular workouts that reduce shock to your joints and muscles include swimming laps, aqua aerobics, using a stationary rower, climbing stairs, using an elliptical trainer, power yoga and sun salutations.
  • Complement your aerobic workouts with resistance training. Doing calisthenics and workouts such as pushups, pilates, yoga poses, pullups, squats, lunges, plyometrics, functional strength training and triceps dips targets your major muscle groups and builds bone and muscle density, protecting you from injury.
  • Give your body time to recover. When exercising, you strain your body and induce numerous small “damages” to your body. This is actually a good thing – when your body repairs and recovers, it rebuilds the damaged parts to be slightly stronger than before. That’s how your physical condition improves. But don’t overdo it! “No pain, no gain” is not the right mantra when you start exercising.

The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body. Exercising can be – and should be – a lot of fun. Don’t push yourself more than what your body can deliver. If you have aches other than ordinary muscle pain after exercise, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. If you try to “push through the pain” you’ll just damage yourself. Have fun and enjoy yourself!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Row, row, row your boat

Many many moons ago, I was a college rower. I joined on a lark my freshman year, after opting against the walk-on swim team route. After years of competitive sports, I was tired of grueling 6 am practices and figured crew would be a fun, easy way to stay in shape and make some friends. That year, my team won nationals. Needless to say, it wasn't the competitive cakewalk I thought it would be. Two-a-day practices on the water, combined with weight/circuit training and hill running, kept me in the best shape of my life. Seriously, I wish I still had that body. 
After two years, I quit the team - a ruptured back disc providing the incentive I needed to give up on competitive college sports. But I'll never forget how much those workouts kicked my butt. And now it seems the rest of the athletic world is starting to pick up on the benefits of crew-related exercise. I was thrilled to recently see an online discount for a fitness studio in Atlanta now offering aerobics-based rowing classes. Yes, I went and bought it so I'll let you know if it's worth trying. But I have high hopes! And once I get through that set of classes, I just might have to look into joining a coed crew team! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy National Coffee Day!

Do you know what today is? For starters, it's my dad's birthday - happy 62nd, Pops! But today is also National Coffee Day! Random, ey? Seeing as how I drink about a pot of coffee each day, this is an observation I can totally get behind. And seeing as how it's a beautiful crisp, fall morning, I'm craving a Starbucks 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. And since I'm headed to Key West in two weeks and need to avoid those types of high-calorie treats, I'll be adopting the Hungry Girl version: combine 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! A healthy liquid dessert is served!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gator chomps and Rocky Top

Any college football fans in the house? I'm headed to my second game/tailgate of the new season this weekend - we'll be in Knoxville for the Florida-Tennessee football game. Even though I have no dog in this particular fight, I'm still stoked. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE college football season. And we'll have a boisterous crew out there, with friends planning to set up tailgating space around 6:30 am. On the menu? Burgers, ribs, brats, kebabs, various sides, bloodies, beer, mimosas and more. On the downside, it's certainly hard to keep the waistline from expanding with all that tempting food around. Fortunately for you, I"m a professional tailgater. I graduated from a university in Wisconsin, a state that has essentially elevated tailgating to an art form. So trust me when I say I've been doing this for years.
Anyhoo, here are my tips for any other calorie counters spending their weekends in front of the grill and/or the TV.
  • 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. 
With a little extra effort and foresight, you can get through that next tailgate without immediately packing on the pounds. Now, what are the chances my beloved Badgers can figure out how to win a few games this season?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Swimsuits and Weight Loss


How is it September already? Seriously - where has this year gone? I feel like only yesterday, I was sitting there writing up my New Years resolutions and planning exotic vacations that I can't afford to take. Well, I suppose the latter part still holds true. Speaking of vacations, my Key West excursion is coming up in just over a month and I have yet to shed those pesky extra pounds that I gained earlier this summer. Ugh.

Fortunately, I still have time to slim down before the big trip - and no, it doesn't entail weight loss pills or the drastic elimination of certain foods and beverages. Between ramping up my exercise regiment - and embracing portion control, calorie reduction, sugar-free foods and beverages, I should be able to safely lose a few pounds in the next month. Check out these awesome tips from the sucralose.org website.
  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. Is it the size of your fist or your face?  In today’s era of super-sized meals, many people are completely oblivious to what a normal portion looks like. In fact, research shows many restaurants serve two to five times the typical serving. For a more accurate representation, use your hand to measure food. Three ounces of meat or cheese should fit in the palm, while a cup of vegetables or fruit should be the size of a fist. When eating out, try to take home leftovers or split an entrée with a friend. At home, use a measuring cup, tablespoons and teaspoons to sift out appropriate portion sizes. This helps reduce daily calorie intake.
  3. 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.
  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.
Excellent advice. I'll definitely be adopting these tips in my quest to slim down over the next few weeks. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sweet and Savory Sorbet

photo by  Angela Schmeidel Randall
It's been ridiculously humid lately. And when I start sweating, I'm all about icy sweet treats...as in, smoothies, ice cream, frozen yogurt and my latest crave - sorbet.  Indeed, there is a particular brand of "blood orange" sorbet that I've been hooked on the past few years. It's low in calories and hits the spot on a hot day. Only thing is, it has sugar. Fortunately, the wonderful world wide web is packed with options, so I've since discovered some super yummy sucralose-sweetened variations. If you've got a little time to kill during these dog days of summer, try out one of these delicious low-fat sweet treats. Trust me, you'll be grateful later. Enjoy!

Cantaloupe Banana Sorbet
Ingredients:
  • 1 small cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1/4 cup SPLENDA® Sugar Blend
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons creme de menthe liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions:
  1. In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients.
  2. Process until smooth, then scrape into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers directions. Or scrape into a shallow metal pan, cover, and freeze 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Break mixture into chunks and pulse 10 to 20 seconds in food processor or just until no longer chunky and somewhat creamy in texture. Freeze up to 1 month. Pulse briefly in food processor just before serving.

Icy Lemon Sorbet
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 12 packets SPLENDA® ESSENTIALS™ No Calorie Sweetener with Fiber
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 lemons (for optional decorative serving)
  • 8 sprigs fresh mint sprigs
Directions:
  1. Combine boiling water and SPLENDA® ESSENTIALS™ No Calorie Sweetener with Fiber in a large bowl, stirring until dissolves; cool slightly. Stir in lemon rind and juice. Pour mixture into a 9-inch square pan; cover and freeze.
  2. Cut tops from lemons; remove pulp. Set aside.
  3. Remove sorbet from freezer; let stand about 10 minutes. Scrape sorbet surface with a spoon; scoop or spoon sorbet into lemon shells or into small serving dishes. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Run, Audrey, Run!

photo by Mike Baird
I think I've gone crazy. Seriously. I let a friend talk me into joining a half-marathon training program, with the goal that I would somehow go from slacker to speed demon in less than three months. My third day with the group, they wanted us to run four miles. Whoa! Needless to say, I spent the latter part of the evening, lying on the sofa, watching the Olympics with ice bags on my sore shins.
Sadly, back in the day when I was young and fit, I could handle distance! I was on the cross country team and was always one of the first to cross the finish line in any gym class race. And then, thanks to family genes, I started to struggle with knee issues...and then back issues. And while I continued competing in other sports, I gave up running. In recent years, I could barely even run a few blocks without feeling stiff and wheezy. Hopefully that won't be the case much longer.
Oh well...no pain, no gain, right? And I already committed to do this dang program, so I'm not giving up now. Wish me luck, y'all. In exactly two months, I'll be running in my first half marathon - so I need all the positive juju I can get.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Life is a highway


It has been all sorts of cray-cray around here lately. Earlier this month, we were in Jersey visiting my boyfriend's family. I'd no sooner returned when my mom came to Atlanta to visit for a week. Now that she's gone, we're heading down to Destin, FL, tomorrow - a last hurrah before my boyfriend's brother heads off to Germany for a three-year military stint. And then as soon as we get back, my pops will be in town for a business conference. Yowza! All the traveling and entertaining means it's been a wee bit hard to maintain a healthy diet. There have definitely been some splurges the past few weeks (hello Morelli's salted caramel ice cream!) but all in all, I think I did okay. I recently started running again, loaded up on fresh fruits and veggies at the farmers market and grilled out a couple of the nights we had folks in town, making some fantastic but low-cal variations on all my favorite BBQ foods. out a couple of those nights, which means you can find healthy alternatives to  some of those  fatty (and dee-lish) BBQ foods. Case in point...see below. And thanks to Splenda.com for the following recipes.

Zesty Grilled Garlic-Herb Chicken

Cucumber and Onion Salad

Five Pepper Salsa

Watermelon Fruit Salad Bowl

Also, here are a few tips from Hungry Girl to help avoid BBQ-related belly bulge:

* If your host is offering hot dogs, burgers and chicken breast, go for the chicken (but remove the skin if it's still on there). The chicken is your safest bet for a low-cal, low-fat meat fix.

* Are turkey burgers, turkey franks or chicken sausage up for grabs? Be careful! Some are lean, but others have almost as much fat and calories as the beef versions.

* Is it a BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat) event? Show up with skinless boneless chicken breast, fat-free hot dogs (or ones with less than 5% fat) and Boca Meatless Burgers. They all grill up AMAZINGLY well on the BBQ, taste fantastic and will save you tons of fat and calories!

* If you're drinking beer, make it light. You'll save calories and carbs! Psssst... Beck's Premier Light has just 64 calories and 1 Point per 12 oz. bottle!

* When it comes to frozen treats, stick with non-creamy ones. Fruit bars and shaved ice are better choices than ice cream treats like cones, bars and sandwiches.

* BBQ some veggies! Corn on the cob, asparagus and onions are awesome when grilled, and they'll fill you up. But skip the butter.

That's all, folks. Happy Memorial Day and see you next week.

P.S. Keep your fingers crossed I don't break any limbs while hiking and paddling around waterfalls.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

That's just peachy!

photo by liz west
After getting up bright and early to do yoga and running - yes, I was super productive this morning! - I went to the Grant Park Farmers Market and waited in a long line. Why? Because it was the last weekend for Georgia peaches. And if you've never had them, OMG, they are scrumptious! We're talking melt in your mouth peachy goodness.
I got two bags of those bad boys, so the question is, what shall I make? Peach pie? Lots of smoothies? A custard?
Well, because I'm such a peach, I went and dug up a few sucralose-sweetened, low-calorie tasty treats to help honor Atlanta's favorite fruit. I plan to take the Allman Brothers Band's advice and "eat a peach" (or several) this week.


Peach Melba Sipper


"Splend"Id Peach Pie Recipe

Peach Raspberry Cobbler

Peach Flavored Green Tea Punch

Monday, July 09, 2012

New research backs sweeteners as diet aid


Well, well, well...not to say, "I told you so!" or anything, but yet more research has come out to support the role of non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose in maintaining or losing weight. Two major health organizations - the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association - have endorsed sugar substitutes as a dietary aid.

"There may be a benefit to people who use them smartly and who don't compensate later in the day and negate the benefit," said Christopher Gardner, lead author of the new scientific statement.

According to the research, which is being published in the journals Circulation and Diabetes Care, there is also some evidence that consuming products with low-calorie  sweeteners can help people with diabetes monitor their sugar intake, a key component of managing diabetes.
"Picking diet sodas over sodas or even picking foods with non-nutritive sweeteners can have a direct impact on sugar intake and [can be used] as a viable tool to get people to monitor their sugar intake," said Gardner.

Are sugar substitutes a magic bullet? No. A person who drinks 12 diet sodas a day or regularly consumes a gallon of sucralose-sweetened ice cream should not expect to lose weight. However, low-calorie sweeteners are another tool to incorporate into an overall healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a balanced diet. So my advice is, ditch the regular soda and grab a diet version. With that change alone, you will cut 150 calories a day from your diet, which could ultimately result in a 15-pound weight loss over the course of a year.

You can utilize calorie savings calculators like this one to help shrink the waistline, remembering that weight loss and physical fitness will not happen overnight and require a lifelong commitment.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Fourth!


Who else is thrown off by this weird holiday in the middle of a work week deal? Do not like. However, I never turn down a good party, so I will be celebrating America's independence today along with dozens of my closest friends today. We'll be tubing down the river for a few hours this afternoon - need to find something to do to stay cool on this steamy day! - and then hitting Turner Field to watch my Cubbies take on the Braves tonight. Should be a fun, action-packed Fourth!

I'm also designing my menu for the day, since the holiday tends to be a high-calorie extravaganza. That means I'm bringing along some low-cal beverage and snack options to counteract all the fatty, rich foods that will be around today. If you're also expecting to be surrounded by tempting foods this Fourth, here are some tips to help you survive the day with minimal weight gain.

* If you're heading to a BBQ at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before chowing down.
* Use a smaller plate. And when fixing it, make sure the bulk of the meal is fruits and veggies, such as salad, baked beans, corn, watermelon and grapes. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some potato salad and that scrumptious looking slice of cake. But don't pile a mountain of it on your plate or eat half a pie in one sitting.
* Avoid adding lots of butter, salt and fatty dressings. And skip the chips, crackers, breads and other high-calorie items.
* Try not to get seconds until a few hours after you've eaten the first plate.
* Always eat dessert last.
* It's all about water. Drink lots of it to help fill you up.
* Think before you drink. The rule of thumb is, the higher the proof, the higher the calories, and the creamier the cocktail, the more fattening it is. Some cocktails - take a Long Island Iced Tea, White Russian or Mai Tai - can pack 400 to 800 calories in a standard 12-ounce glass. In addition, juices, full-calorie sodas and tonic water add more calories to any drink. The best plan is to stick with wine, light beer, diet soda or cocktails containing sugar-free mixers. And remember to always pace yourself.

Speaking of light cocktail options, check out the fabulous recipe (courtesy of Hungry Girl) that I'm bringing out on the river today.

Sassy 'n Spiked Pink Lemonade Pitcher
Ingredients:
48 oz. (6 cups) club soda
16 oz. (2 cups) diet cranberry juice drink (like Diet Ocean Spray)
12 oz. (1 1/2 cups) vodka
Two 2-serving packets (about 2 tsp.) sugar-free pink lemonade powdered drink mix (like the kind by Crystal Light)
8 no-calorie sweetener packets (like Splenda or Truvia)
Juice of 3 lemons
Optional garnish: 8 slices lemon

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a pitcher and stir well. Serve over ice. Garnish with lemon slices, if you like, and enjoy!

Have a Happy Fourth of July, y'all! Remember to stay safe, avoid excessive heat and leave the fireworks shows to the pros!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pop Quiz: Low-calorie sweeteners cause sugar cravings?


Another day, another piece of misinformation about low-cal sweeteners. At dinner earlier tonight, a friend mentioned that she heard sugar substitutes generate a sweet tooth. And then another one piped in with accusations that they cause weight gain. Sigh.

Just to ease your mind, these are myths

Don't believe me? Here are the facts...A number of studies over the years have determined that low-calorie sweeteners do not increase appetite, food intake or weight gain. In fact, the vast majority of scientific literature confirms the safety and benefits of using low-calorie sweeteners and low-calorie products for weight control and weight loss. For example, a team of researchers from Harvard spent two years investigating how the addition of a low-calorie sweetener to a multidisciplinary weight control program would affect obese women. They found the low-calorie sweetener not only helped with weight loss, but also with long-term weight maintenance.

In another report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers reviewed 224 professional studies on the effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on appetite, food intake and weight. They concluded that low-calorie sweeteners “have the potential to aid in weight management.” And according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, consumption of sugar-free beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners increases dietary restraint, a key aspect of successful weight maintenance.

American Diabetes Association,  American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association all agree that reduced-calorie foods and beverages are a good option for those who want to control their weight and maintain a better lifestyle.

Now, all that being said, it’s important to remember that low-calorie sweeteners and the products that contain them are not “magic bullets” for weight loss. Instead, they are tools to be used as part of an overall weight control program, which includes a reduction in calories and an increase in activity.

By the way, if you are having trouble avoiding sugary treats, here are some old - but still fabulous - tips from a dietician to help control those sweet-tooth cravings.

1. Pay particular attention to how you start your day. A breakfast high in sugary carbs can trigger the cycle of sugar cravings for the rest of the day. Try to eat within two hours of waking, and throughout the day, try not to go longer than four hours without eating. Remember to incorporate appetite-squelching protein-rich, high-fiber foods that contain a little fat with every meal and snack. This will help prevent those mid-afternoon energy slumps that leave you craving sugar.

2. Scan labels and check the nutrition facts for grams of sugar. To put the numbers into perspective, a sugar packet contains 4 grams of sugar. So a large soft drink with 85 grams of sugar would be akin to downing more than 20 packets of sugar.

3. Cut back on the stuff that can really make an impact. There are the obvious cookies, cupcakes, pies and ice cream, but the bigger culprits may be sources of hidden sugars, such as yogurt, coffee drinks, smoothies, cereal, granola bars and "fiber" bars.

4. Find other sweet-tasting snacks such as a protein bar, sugar-free flavored iced coffee, peanut butter and low-sugar jelly sandwich, low-fat plain Greek yogurt with a no-calorie sweetener (like sucralose). Want something sweet after a meal? Try popping a piece of sugarless gum or sipping a cup of coffee, tea or sugar-free hot cocoa. Sugar-free Jello and pudding can also help take the edge off a sweet tooth with little or no calories.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time for Tea!

photo by Ginny

I tasted "sweet tea" for the first time shortly after I moved to Atlanta more than five years ago. And I absolutely hated it. Listen, I'm all for a little something sweet. But when it tastes like someone dumped an entire pound of sugar into a glass, I just...can't. So to this day, when I go into a restaurant in town and they ask if I want tea, I have to confirm it's not the sweet variety as that seems to be the overwhelming favorite.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of cool little tea shops in town, so I can get my chai or chamomile tea fix on. And, now that it's a bazillion degrees outside, I've been making a lot more iced tea at home, which is the perfect beverage for al fresco dining and porch sitting.
By the way, now that I've discovered June is National Iced Tea Month, that was all the incentive I needed to find some new tea recipes. Voila! If you like your tea sweet, but minus all the sugar, I've compiled a few sucralose-based recipes that won't rack up the calories.

Lemonade Tea
Pomegranate Iced Tea
Raspberry Tea Punch
Citrus-Mint Tea


Monday, June 11, 2012

Peanut Butter Pie!

I have something dangerous sitting in my fridge - a peanut butter cream pie from Yoder's Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida. About a week ago, we were watching a Man v. Food marathon and saw a segment that featured the popular joint. While everything looked delicious, I was most drawn to the mouth-watering peanut butter cream creation they featured. Hello, I could eat an entire jar of PB in one sitting! I have enough control not to do it, but peanut butter is definitely one of my weaknesses.
Anyway, it just so happened that my boyfriend was in Sarasota a few days later for a work trip and decided to stop by the Amish Village restaurant for some fried chicken and good old comfort food. Lo and behold, he came back from the trip with a surprise pie for me - and OMG, it is delicious!
The problem is, it's super rich and probably a gazillion calories. So I've been trying to shave off really tiny pieces so as not to fulfill my calorie quota for the day off one slice. Fortunately, for those of you who want to make a peanut butter pie at home, you can do it the low-cal way. Bless, the web. Here's one particularly yummy looking recipe that I discovered. While I'm sure it's not quite as good as the Yoder's version, chances are it's still pretty dang delicious!  

Almost Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cream Pie

And if you feel like drooling, here's the Man v. Food clip that first captured our attention.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

How sweet it is!

photo by Quinn Dombrowski

After feeling cranky and out-of-sorts all day, I just came across a tidbit that helped to turn my frown upside down. I found out that Southern Candymakers - a New Orleans-based business that serves up some of the best fudge and pralines to ever pass through these lips - also has an entire sugar-free sweet treat lineup. Shut the front door! Seriously, I'm so about to order a few boxes and have them shipped overnight to my front door - I'm that big of a fan. If you've never tried Southern Candymakers, trust me when I say you have missed out, my friends. I stop into the store every time I'm in NOLA, drawn by their a-mah-zing original creamy and rum pralines. And now that they have sugar-free turtles? It's.So. On.
Now, please excuse me while I go place my order. 


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Run for the roses

photo by Adrian Scottow

Back when I lived in Florida, I was friends with a couple from Louisville who threw the most awesome Kentucky Derby parties. Guests would show up in big hats, white gloves and seersucker and sip on Bourbon, while placing bets on the horses. Since then, I've added a trip to the Kentucky Derby to my bucket list...some day I will attend the actual event, oh yes! And with my new favorite horse - I'll have another! (best name ever, amirite?) - vying for the Triple Crown, my desire to attend a race is only multiplied.
Why am I babbling on about horse racing? Well, turns out today was National Mint Julep Day. While I'm not a regular imbiber of this particular cocktail, it does make for the perfect horse racing drink. Even better, I recently found a sugar-free version. Holla! You can thank me the next time you're in a Kentucky state of mind.

Low Carb Mint Julep
Ingredients:
10 large fresh mint leaves
1 sprig of mint for garnish
2 teaspoons granulated Splenda
Club soda or seltzer
Crushed ice
3 ounces Blanton’s Single Barrel, Wild Turkey, or good Kentucky sippin’ whiskey
Directions: 
1) Place the mint leaves into the bottom of the cup; add the Splenda and muddle the leaves until they start to break down.
2) Add a jigger of soda or seltzer and swirl; fill the glass with crushed ice.
3) Add the bourbon, top off with another splash of seltzer, the sprig of mint, and drink.
One or two of these and you’ll think you’re in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.

Safety and Benefits of Sucralose Confirmed by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Great news for sucralose lovers! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, recently reaffirmed the safety and benefits of low calorie sweeteners. As I've said a million times, low calorie sweeteners (especially sucralose), are great options when you want to lower your daily sugar intake -and they can be part of a healthy diet or weight maintenance plan.

Specifically on sucralose, AND concluded:

"Sucralose does not increase food intake. Modest energy savings can result if sucralose replaces sugar-sweetened products in a form that is also lower energy."

Also:

"Limited research in human beings, from peer reviewed journals, did not find an association between adverse effects and the intake of sucralose in the general population."

Monday, May 21, 2012

All about sucralose safety

A couple years ago, one of my then roommates told me she thought I was crazy for putting Splenda in my coffee every morning. Her reason? That it wasn't safe for consumption. Of course, she said this while smoking a cigarette, which I thought was only the slightest bit ironic.

More recently, a pregnant gal pal told me she was swearing off sucralose-sweetened products because she was worried about the impact on her future child. She also mentioned that she didn't plan to let her soon-to-be little one ingest anything containing sucralose, as the products are probably bad for children. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sweet news about chocolate

photo by John Loo
And today isn't even my birthday! According to an article on theskinnyonlowcal.org, new research reveals that people who eat chocolate several times a week are actually leaner than those who don't eat any. According to the study, chocolate may actually boost metabolism and inhibit fat absorption, resulting in a lower body mass index. As someone who definitely enjoys a little something sweet on a regular basis, this is music to my ears!

This is not the first study to highlight the benefits of chocolate. For years, scientists have claimed that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. In addition, dark chocolate has a number of antioxidants that help balance certain hormones in the body, reduce the formation of free radicals and lower cholesterol. On the other hand, eating large quantities of any energy-rich food such as chocolate increases the risk of obesity.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dog Days of Spring

I have a problem...I can't stop sneezing! Seriously, thanks to Atlanta's intense pollen season, I've been hacking and sniffling all weekend. Even the weekly allergy shots I get don't seem to be making an impact these days. Ugh.

Anyway, I've been trying to get rid of the sniffles and itchy eyes with packets of Emergen-C, Mucinex tablets and Claritin.This afternoon, I gargled saltwater and guzzled down a cup of tea spiced with honey, cayenne pepper and ginger when my throat started feeling uber-scratchy.
Anyone else dealing with hay fever misery? If so, here are some tips to alleviate the problem.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reveeeeenge!

It's been awhile since I was really hooked on a TV show. In fact, Lost was the last series that had me running home and reaching for the remote. And as someone who avoids most sudsy shows, I didn't initially have much interest in Revenge, ABC's new drama about a young woman trying to right the wrongs done to her family.  But then I watched a few episodes and...now I'm rushing back home to tune in.

It's almost a Law & Order type procedural, but one featuring extravagant parties, catfights, rich people behaving badly and insane plot twists. As for the fantastically icy and intense main character...to quote a Gawker article, "It's like she is the 99%'s avenging angel, doing us all a favor by going for the jugulars of so many slimy rich people."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Hump Day!

Is it just me or have the past few weeks moved painfully slow? I feel like I've done nothing but watch the clock the past few days, willing the hours to go by faster, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to make a dent in the massive pile of work on my plate. At least we're finally through Wednesday/Hump Day. Phew! Hope everyone was able to get their taxes finished and turned in to Uncle Sam on time.

Whenever I have a particularly arduous week, like this one, I figure I deserve some sort of tasty treat for my troubles. Sometimes that involves baked goods, other times a froofy cocktail or dessert drink. Tonight, I was jonesing for a milk shake - didn't care where it came from, just knew I wanted to indulge in a frozen beverage. But instead of hitting the closest fast food joint, I looked up recipes on the always-reliable Hungry Girl website to find a healthier, sugar-free alternative! Check out this cake-inspired recipe. LOVE!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Almost swimsuit season again...

photo by Helga Weber
Okay, how is it already April? I mean, Easter has past, spring break is over and summer is just around the corner. I'm not ready!! I've got weddings and vacations and swimsuit season to prepare for...gah!

As per usual, I went into a mini hibernation in recent months, felled by the flu, a heavy workload and various other excuses. And now I'm having to squeeze into my cute clothes again. Sigh.
On the plus side, if I start now - and adopt better portion control, calorie reduction, sugar-free foods and beverages and regular exercise - I could lose 10 or so pounds in the next two months. Here are some tips I found via sucralose.org.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Happy April First

According to a new study, eating several cupcakes and bags of chips each day helps to build stronger bones and keeps weight off. JUST KIDDING! Sorry, y'all, but since it is April Fool's Day and all, I thought it was only fitting.
Speaking of April Fool's, have you seen all the awesome pranks online today? PC Magazine ran an article with a list of some of the best gags, but here are a few of the highlights.
From Google Maps 8-bit transformation to the debut of Gmail Tap (Morse code for your email), Google NASCAR racing and the new Really Advanced Search feature, to Flickr's return to black and white, low-resolution roots and the new YouTube Collection, there were giggles galore to be found via the web today. Elsewhere, AdBlock announced that it was expanding its services to block cat pictures, while Sony debuted a quarter-sized "Ultrabook." Brilliant!  So here's my belated April Fool's Day prank to everyone...go home and eat all the cake and ice cream you can find! It won't have any impact on your waistline!! Shah right!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pass me a Red Bull

photo by Cristian Borquez
I'm not much of an energy drink fan. When I need a caffeine fix, I'm more likely to reach for a cup of joe, tea or diet soda. However, every once in a sleepy while, I crave some Red Bull. So I'm thrilled to hear that the brand will soon be unveiling a no-calorie version called Red Bull Total Zero. How is it different from Red Bull Sugar-Free? Well, according to the experts, it has a slight "twist" of citrus flavor and now includes sucralose, in addition to other low-calorie sweeteners. I don't care how subtle the difference, I'm all about variety - so I'm very happy to see Red Bull expand their low-cal options. You can bet the next time I need an afternoon wake up call I'll be looking for the Total Zero can.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish eyes were smiling

Hope you all had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day weekend! I know I did. We participated in what has become an Atlanta tradition - going to our friends' house for brunch and mimosas than wandering over to the parade downtown and finally finishing up the afternoon with drinks at a local Irish watering hole. Good times! Because we were so busy yesterday, I didn't get a chance to enjoy another annual tradition - making my own lower-calorie version of Mickey D's delicious Shamrock Shake and watching Darby O'Gill and the Little People. What? Don't judge me! I love the silly little Disney movie. After all, it does feature a very young - and verrrry handsome - Sean Connery.
Fortunately, I was able to find some time this afternoon to whip up the frosty treat. Why bother making my own, you might ask? Because the fast food version clocks anywhere from 420 to 1,110 calories and 10 to 26g fat, depending on the size. EEK! So a big thanks to Hungry Girl for this low-fat version.

HG's Shamrock n Roll Shake

And if you've never seen Darby O' Gill, here's a taste - enjoy this clip of the original James Bond singing. Be still my heart! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Zombie Snacks


I don't watch much television. We're just too busy to follow programs regularly and too cheap to invest in DVR or Tivo (yes, we're old school). So rather than get hung up on a show, I tend to ignore most of them. However, there are exceptions (RIP, Lost!)...Sons of Anarchy, Revenge and Community (when it's on) tend to be on my radar. And more recently, I've become a huge Walking Dead fan. Any other zombie fans in the house? If so, did you see last night's episode?! OMG!!! Talk about a shocker. Major character deaths AND a plotline revelation/game-changer. Can't wait to see next week's season finale, which the creator promises will be "complete and utter chaos." Woo hoo!
Along those lines, a friend has offered to host a season finale viewing party. Reminds me of the old days, when friends would gather every Sunday to watch The Sopranos, while drinking wine and chowing down on pasta. We've all been asked to bring some themed dishes to share, so I plan to whip up at least one or two of the awesome and creative apps mentioned on this blog. I will also be making these sugar-free red velvet "insanity" cupcakes courtesy of Hungry Girl. Should be a spooktacular time!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Happy Pound Cake Day!

photo by Kanko

In honor of Sunday Funday, we grabbed brunch earlier today with a few friends. In addition to the delicious bottomless mimosas, they had one of the best dessert menus I've seen in awhile. Carrot cake. Red velvet cake. Home made ding dongs? Helloooo! While I did sneak a bite of my friend's dessert, I stayed strong and stuck to my plate of scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes. However, I guess it wasn't too much of a sacrifice, particularly since I knew I'd be going home to a lovely pound cake. In case you didn't know, today is National Pound Cake Day. Pound cake is one of my favorite desserts, especially topped off with some fruit. And this lemon-flavored one is freakin' fabulous!

Here are a few other sucralose-sweetened, low-cal pound cake recipes that won't have you busting out the larger pants anytime soon. Enjoy!

Velvet Pound Cake

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day

Happy Hump Day! You know how we always grumble about all those tasks we could finish if only we had an extra day? Well, this week, your wish has been granted. Say hello to February 29. Because it's Leap Year, everyone gets an extra 24 hours that did not exist last year. So my recommendation is to take advantage of the additional time and give yourself a new achievable or measurable exercise and lifestyle goal to work toward.
For example, if you've slipped off track with those New Year's resolutions, Leap Day is a great day to recommit to living a healthier life. How can you do this? Here are a few ideas.
1) Carve out time for fitness. 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.
2) Start a food journal. Research shows that 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!
3) Find some healthy, delicious new recipes to incorporate into your diet. Been wanting to test out a curry dish or make some sucralose-sweetened chocolate cupcakes? Now's your chance.
4) Recharge your drive and reflect on where you are in your weight loss or management efforts. If your motivation is flagging, write down all the reasons you originally wanted, and still want, to lose weight or maintain a healthier lifestyle.  Look at the list every day. Also let friends and family know what you're up to, and ask for their support.
5) Make even the simplest of changes. Drink another glass of water, try out yoga or re-engage with your primary care physician to understand your health status.
Don’t waste your extra day this Leap Year. Your health isn't worth the procrastination.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Girl Scout cookie time!

photo by punctuated

'Tis the season...that time when America's favorite cookies arrive in the mail. We ordered six different boxes to help friends' kids, but now that they're here, staring me in the face, I'm regretting my decision just a bit. Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts got rid of the sugar-free cookies they used to carry. RIP, reduced fat Chocolate Chips and Daisy Go Rounds. So, how does one avoid this type of tasty temptation when trying to watch the waistline? I brought two of the boxes to a friend's house - including my favorite, Tagalongs, as I knew I'd eat the whole thing myself - stuck two in the freezer and brought a box of Samoas to work. Now there is just one, unfrozen box remaining...which is much more manageable. However, you better believe I enjoyed a bowl of sugar-free vanilla ice cream with some crumbled Trefoils last night. So flipping good!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I want some velvet for Valentines

photo by Jacinta Lodge

Happy almost Valentines Day, y'all. Yeah, yeah...it's a lame holiday and one that I hate celebrating regardless of my relationship status. But you know what does make me happy? Red freakin' velvet cake! Growing up, my southern mother used to make the delicious treat every year for Valentines Day - so it has now become tradition. Other people dig into a box of chocolates or "sweet tarts" candy...I simply must have at least one slice of red velvet cake every Feb. 14.

I still love the high-cal version, but I was thrilled to discover a sugar-free version a few years ago that was almost as delicious. And now it appears there are a few different low-cal recipes available, so I will definitely be whipping up my own batch of red velvet cake this week. A warning to anyone planning to make it for the fist time...prepare to spend some time in the kitchen. And only make it for people worthy of that time and attention.

Anyway, I've attached a few recipes below. Any recommendations on which I should make this year?

Sugar-free Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Score big with low-cal recipes tonight

photo by Triple Tri


What time is it? It's game time, baby! The annual holiday of sports is back - the most-watched sporting event in the U.S, when folks of all ages eat, drink and be merry, while rooting on their favorite team. I've got no dog in this fight, so I'll be cheering on my boyfriend's team, the New York Giants. 

It's already been an action-packed weekend, so eating another round of high-calorie foods and beverages is not ideal for my waistline. According to the Calorie Control Council, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks on the big game day.  That breaks down to 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 4.3 million pounds of pretzels, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.  The average armchair quarterback will consume 1200 calories and 50 grams of fat from snacking and that doesn’t even count any meals. Yowza!

So how does one avoid the battle of the bulge on such a debaucherous night? For starters, find some time to exercise before chowing down on all those high-fat snacks. In addition, the CCC recommends pre-planning your Super Bowl event and menu to include lower calorie appetizers and beverages. When it comes to recipes, it is possible to cut the calories without cutting the flavor. The traditional “pigs in a blanket” can be made-over with reduced fat hot dogs and reduced fat crescent rolls. For dips, choose salsa, which is fat-free, and make dips/sauces with reduced-fat sour cream and non-fat Greek yogurt.  Use more seasonings and spices such as garlic, cilantro, parsley and hot peppers to add great flavor, and go lighter on the salt (sodium).  Add fresh fruit and vegetables for dipping. Try substituting grilled chicken kabobs for fried chicken wings, and you’ve got a healthy meal in no time! Also, offer diet versions of beverages (e.g. sodas, beer) and have low-calorie sweeteners like sucralose on hand for guests to use in tea and coffee. And during halftime, try getting a little extra physical activity to burn off super bowl snacks by tossing the football or play some video games that involve dancing/physical movement for players.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tea time!

photo by naama

The weather has been all over the place lately. For real - it's like 30 degrees one day and almost 70 the next. And while I'm all for enjoying a warm afternoon in January (there's a reason I left the Midwest and headed down South), it has wreaked havoc on my sinuses. I've had some wicked allergies the past couple weeks, complete with scratchy throat, sniffles, itchy eyes and chapped lips. Joy! Anyhoo, I'm taking Zyrtec and have been guzzling Emergen-C and water, but sometimes there is nothing like a hot cup of tea to take the edge off a bad cold. And fortunately for me, January just happens to be National Hot Tea month. In keeping with the season, here are a few of my favorite sucralose-sweetened hot tea recipes.

Russian Tea
Hot Spiced Tea 
Caramel Hazelnut Black Tea
Hot Brown Sugar Tea

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Feeling Hungry? 5 Filling Fixes

photo by malias

I don't know about you, but this time of year is always a struggle for me when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It's something about the cooler weather and lack of impending vacation or holiday time that seems to generate more nagging hunger pangs and the tendency to want to snack more. So if you've also been reaching more for the cookie jar or chip bag, check out this fabulously informative article from sucralose.org. There are a lot of good tips in here to keep the hunger at bay.

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.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mexican restaurants and margaritas

So now that we're official residents and homeowners, we've begun visiting some of our local watering holes and restaurants. It turns out there are quite a few good Mexican restaurants within walking distance. YAY! We dined on queso and enchiladas and tacos last night, along with a pitcher of delicious margaritas. Not a bad way to spend a rainy, dreary Friday night! Margaritas, by the way, are always a special treat for me - it's not something I drink regularly, but on a hot night or at the right restaurant, I'm all over it! Hopefully one of these days, I'll actually find places that serve sugar-free variations (strictly on the rocks with salt...none of that frozen stuff!) of the savory beverage. Until then, I'll just have to make the low-cal version at home.
Any other margarita fans out there? This one is for you. Check out this link packed with numerous sugar-free margarita recipes, courtesy of Hungry Girl.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fitness Fads

photo by Jeff Pioquinto, SJ

So one of my resolutions was to work out six times a week. Yes, resolutions are kind of a joke, but one needs to make them to break them, right? Seriously, though, it's always good to start the year off on a healthy foot, so I had the best intentions to hit the gym regularly. But thanks to a recent move and a nasty case of the flu, I've been a bit of a slacker on the exercise front. However, this is a new week - and there's no time like the present to get back on track. So I've compiled a calendar with some of my favorite fitness classes, dates and times for the next few weeks. While I don't mind loading up the trusty iPod and going for a brisk run in the morning, I prefer group exercise classes - make it a little more interesting and motivates me to work harder so I don't look like the out-of-shape person in the class.

Speaking of fitness, there are some workout trends you might expect to see in 2012, as predicted by Woman'sDay.

* Dancing for Fitness. People love music and they love to dance. Not only is dancing fun (for most of us), but it's one of those enjoyable activities that doesn't feel like a "work" out—even though it can burn up to 700 calories an hour. Zumba classes are as popular as ever, but there are some new, hip kids in town: Batuka, Drums Alive and Bokwa classes are popping up in gyms across the country and quickly gaining legions of followers thanks to their addictive soundtracks and engaging choreography. There are also popular dancing-hybrid workouts including Turbo Kick and Turbo Fire.
* Home Workouts. A recent survey of SparkPeople.com members found that 68 percent of respondents plan to do more  home workouts than last year. Why? For starters, in a down economy people are cutting back on extra expenses like personal training sessions and pricey gym memberships. Second, people are busier and more stressed than ever, and it's far easier to squeeze in workouts at home. Finally, the variety of affordable and effective home workout options is better than it's ever been. People are realizing that they can get great results by investing just a little money in multitasking equipment or a few fun workout DVDs to keep things fresh. Expect even more variety, choices and price ranges in home workout gear next year. 
* Functional Fitness. Many of the most popular fitness programs of the past year involve multi-joint, full-body exercises that not only provide a better workout in less time, but also help build a strong, fit and capable body. Functional training will be even more important as people begin to look to fitness to prevent or help manage the back problems, mobility issues and injuries that are plaguing modern society. But they also appeal because they offer such great workouts. Expect to see more kettlebells, full-body exercises and multi-joint moves at gyms and on home fitness DVDs.
* Fit Technology. Americans are embracing technology as a way to get fit, keep their workouts fresh, track their progres, and get fitness ideas for little to no cost. You'll find no shortage of free and low-cost fitness apps for your Smartphone or iPad these days, and the web continues to be a source of reliable information, workout videos and demonstrations, tracking tools and more. If working out with your phone or computer isn't for you, other technological products like the Fitbit, Nike Plus, and Garmin Forerunner (among others) are also fun and inexpensive gadgets that let you track your workouts and measure your fitness.
* Short Workouts. Gone are the days that working out meant an all-or-nothing hour at a gym. People are learning that short workouts are just as beneficial, and are often easier to fit into their days. Five, 10 and 15-minute workouts will be increasingly popular in 2012. Exercise DVDs continue to include short routines that people can mix and match and follow based on how much time they have available.

Point is, there are countless ways to get the body moving in 2012 in fun and beneficial ways. So no matter what your fitness flavor is, try to find ways to mix it up and make it fun. That will help keep you from getting bored and bailing out. Now I'm going to practice what I preach and go hit a pilates class tomorrow. Wish me luck!