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 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 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!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Samosas and raita and naan, oh my!

photo by Andrew Currie
When some people need comfort food, they reach for a bowl of chicken noodle soup or a plate of mac & cheese. While I certainly enjoy those meals, some of my favorite hearty food is a little more, well, exotic. I heart me some Indian cuisine on a stressful day! Earlier this week, I joined a gal pal for dinner at an Indian restaurant and was thrilled to discover they had a delicious (and cheap!) vegetable thali platter. That means I stuffed my face with samosa, palak paneer, vegetable korma, chana masala, basmati rice, raita, naan bread and mango yogurt. Deelish! Yeah, yeah...I'm sure it wasn't the lowest-calorie meal out there, but I wasn't trying to trim the fat that night. However, when it comes to making Indian food at home, there are a number of ways you can slim down the calories, such as reducing the amount of oil or modifying the way you prepare it. Thanks to the power of Google, I've found an array of low-cal, sugar-free Indian dish recipes in recent years and have enjoyed making them from the comfort of my own kitchen. For example, this Splenda-sweetened Mango Lassi has become one of my favorite go-to recipes when I'm craving a little something sweet. And this low-cal Meatless Kheema Muttar proved a big hit at my friend's potluck dinner party. By the way, popular India spices like turmeric, ginger, cardamom and green chillies have various health benefits and medicinal qualities. And for those who don't like meat, there are also a number of vegetarian-friendly meals to choose from. Comfort food, indeed!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lifestyle Changes in 2012

Well, hello again! If you’re like me, you might be starting 2012 a few pounds heavier. I did my best to keep hitting the gym and limit my portion sizes, but when your family keeps pushing holiday food on you, it's hard to keep saying no. I can say that I've found motivation to hit the gym the past two weeks, but it's frustrating because my local gym is currently packed with all those New Year’s resolution folks, who are making it very hard to get into a fitness class or to even find an unused elliptical machine. After all, this is the time of year when many people gear up to lose weight -- typically only to quit by the time February rolls around. This year, think of your resolutions as "lifestyle changes". Don't think of them as things to "add into" your life -pretend your work and social schedule revolve around them instead. USA Today has a great article about Jennifer Hudson's inspiring weight-loss success and advice on how we all can commit to our fitness goals.

And the Calorie Control Council has some predictions on dieting and healthy eating in 2012:

1. More focus on farm to table: Trying to buy local products and cook seasonally.

2. Branching out and trying more international types of foods: food choices will be influenced more often by other countries and ethnic cuisines.

3. Trendy exercises: In terms of exercise, the “barre” exercises will become more popular – with an emphasis on strengthening and lengthening muscles, taking a cue from ballet and dancer type exercises.

4. Calories count: According to the CCC, eighty-two percent of American adults consume low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages, to reduce calories and cut back on added sugars in their diets. That number will increase as more low-calorie products and recipes are introduced to the public.

5. Family meals more in vogue: Due to the economy people are eating out less and there will be more of a focus on nutritious, easy recipes that can get to the table quickly, but still bring the family together on a budget.

And just in case, here's some helpful tools to keep you on track with your "lifestyle changes" this year: