Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here." Clark Griswold - Christmas Vacation. 

Well, we've been in Chicago for nearly 24 hours and I've already broken my healthy eating plan by indulging in one too many pieces of peanut butter fudge after eating some delicious (but rich!) Greek food for dinner. Yikes. I knew it would be difficult to stay on the straight and narrow with all the amazing food in this town, plus the general overindulgence of the holidays. Fortunately, I brought my running shoes and plan to go for a chilly jog tomorrow and a trip to the grocery store for some lighter-fare snacks. 

Here are a few more tips for anyone else trying to survive the season with minimal weight gain.

* Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before hitting the big holiday food spread. A small salad, slice of cheese or cup of soup will help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later. 
* When fixing your plate, make sure the bulk of it is fruits and veggies.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some gingerbread. Just don't eat the entire loaf. 
* If you're eating dinner at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus. 
* If you're handling the cooking, avoid adding lots of butter, salt and fatty dressings. Create healthier versions of favorite baked goods by using fat-free milk instead of whole milk and applesauce in place of oil. Sweeten your beverage, casserole or dessert with a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose. 
* Always eat dessert last.
* Drink lots of water to help fill you up. And remember that every fruit drink, soda, glass of wine, pint of beer and sweetened coffee comes bearing calories. You can save calories by drinking sucralose-sweetened products such as light lemonade or diet soda.
* Take a walk after supper or get in a morning or afternoon workout before arriving to the party. By sneaking in extra physical activity every day, you are more likely to keep that waistline trim. 

Remember, the holidays are a time for spending time with family and friends. You don’t have to deprive yourself to prevent weight gain. With a few simple steps you can maintain your weight while celebrating the season. Check out some of these healthy holiday recipes for food ideas. 

And just because I'm in the spirit, I thought I would include a bunch of clips from some of my favorite Christmas movies. Happy holidays y'all.









Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Raindrops on roses

Did any of you catch the live version of the Sound of Music last week? Thoughts? Fabulous or hot mess? My feelings on the production were...meh. As a huge fan of the original - and someone who actually took the  SOM tour while in Salzburg earlier this year (don't judge me!) - I knew there was no way they could recreate the magic of the movie. I mean, come on...Julie Andrews can NOT be topped. Carrie Underwoods was okay, but girl can't act. And Steve Moyer was decent, but he was no Christopher Plummer. The one thing last week's show did do was put me into more of the holiday spirit. For some reason, I always associate Sound of Music with the holidays. Since half-heartedly watching the show, we've put up our Christmas tree, went to see a choir sing holiday songs, watched "Santa Claus is Comin to Town" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and I made hot chocolate with marshmallows. 'Tis the season!
I know I shared a couple hot beverage recipes last month, but here's a fabulous new one from Splenda.com.

Winter White Hot Chocolate

And here's the incomparable Julie Andrews as Fraulein Maria. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mashed potatoes and turkey and stuffing...oh my!

Ah Thanksgiving. That time of year when Americans gather with loved ones, gorge themselves on a ridiculous amount of food and then veg out in front of the TV for the rest of the day. My fiance and I are currently packing up the car and preparing to hit the road - with our dog in tow - for the five hour drive down to his mom's house for the weekend. She is quite the cook and usually invites a house full of people, all armed with rich dishes to contribute to an overwhelming day-long meal. But it's clear we're not alone. 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. 

The average holiday dinner alone can carry a load of 3,000 calories. And most of us nibble our way through more than another 1,500 calories in dips, chips, appetizers and drinks both before and after the big meal. To put it into visual terms, the average person may consume enough fat at a holiday meal to equal three sticks of butter. UGH. 

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, which is why we usually go for a run in the morning or toss around a football later in the day to work off some of the glut. 

Here are some "low-fat holiday" tips from the American Heart Association:

* Eat lower-fat and reduced-calorie foods for days in advance of the holiday feast, and in the days after. 
* 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.
* If cooking, provide low-fat foods, or ask if you can bring a low-fat dish. After the meal, start a physical fitness-related tradition -- a holiday walk or friendly game of football, for instance. 

Other ideas? 
* You can also reduce the calories in a meal by using lower-calorie products. Try putting sucralose in your tea or coffee or use it in place of sugar in a sweet casserole. 
* 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)
* Try low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail (40 calories per 8 oz. serving) in place of the regular (140 calories).
* Light sour cream (35 calories per 2 tablespoon serving) has about half the calories of regular sour cream (60 calories per serving). Fat-free sour cream has 25 calories per serving.
* Fruit pie filling has 90 calories per 1/3 cup serving; the light version has 60 and the sugar-free version only has 35.

Here is a sample Turkey Day menu, featuring lower-calorie recipes courtesy of the Calorie Control Council. 

And because I love the Peanuts gang, here is a clip from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Enjoy and have a safe, wonderful holiday weekend! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like...winter


November in Atlanta is typically a lovely time of year. The trees change colors and begin to shed their leaves and the temperatures cool off - but the past few days (it's in the 30s right now - ugh!) have felt a lot more like fall in the Midwest. I actually had to put on a hat and mittens to walk my dog this morning.  
I know, I know...I'm a Chicago girl living in the South - I shouldn't be whining about brisk weather. Still, there is nothing fun about trudging out the door at 7 a.m. to a face full of cold air. Fortunately, I was able to warm up with a cup of joe, followed by a giant hot tea an hour later. True story - I once successfully made it through a Bears-Packers night game that went into double overtime in sub-zero temperatures thanks to a large hot cocoa mixed with Baileys. Did I mention that my beer froze in the cupholder that night? Brrrrr...brings back chilly memories.
Anyway, for anyone else looking for ways to warm up on a cold day, here are a few of my favorite sugar-free hot drinks. Enjoy! 


Spiced Hot Cranberry Cider

Mexican Hot Chocolate 

Holiday Spiced Tea 

Peppermint Mocha Delight

Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't believe everything the doctor tells you...

Just call me the mythbuster, since I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

In a recent segment of The Dr. Oz show, low-calorie sweeteners were linked to weight gain and the average consumer use of the products was completely exaggerated. Fortunately, several experts are already bashing the piece, saying it presents inaccurate claims while ignoring the vast body of scientific research that supports the use of sugar substitutes in weight loss and maintenance efforts.

According to a prepared statement from the Calorie Control Council, numerous studies reveal that the consumption of low-cal sweeteners does NOT lead to an increase in hunger or weight gain.

"What I have seen in my 35 years of clinical practice is that low-calorie sweeteners do help people control their weight when they are used along with a balanced diet and regular exercise," said Robyn Flipse, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert. "But low-calorie sweeteners are only one tool - and unfortunately, not all consumers of diet drinks and low-calorie sweeteners are living a healthy lifestyle."

In addition to linking low-cal products to weight gain, the segment also misrepresented the use of sugar substitutes.

"Intervention studies have been conducted over the past few decades, and uniformly show that when artificial sweeteners are introduced into the diet (usually in a "blinded" fashion, so the subjects don't know it), fewer sugars and calories are ingested and body fat content and body weight are reduced," said Dr. John Fernstrom, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. More from Dr. Fernstrom can be found here.

I'm really perplexed over all of the confusion over whether low-cal sweeteners are a friend or foe to folks trying to control calories. A 2012 study in the International Journal of Obesity concluded the consumption of low-cal beverages increases dietary restraint, a key aspect of successful weight maintenance. And this Pediatrics study revealed that overweight children could prevent further weight gain simply by walking another 2,000 steps a day and reducing their calorie intake by 100. This was done by replacing sugary beverages with those sweetened with sucralose. Click herehere and here for more research.

 A sugar-free diet can help shrink the waistline over time. According to this calorie savings calculator, switching from a regular 8-ounce cola to a sucralose-sweetened variation could save 100 calories each day - and result in a loss of up to 15 pounds throughout the year. And a blueberry muffin baked with sucralose can shave 80 calories from your daily intake. Not bad, ey? Either way, you will find that making small changes and turning to low-calorie foods and beverages sweetened with sucralose can have a huge impact on weight over the course of the year.

Look, the safety and benefits of low-cal sweeteners - and the products that contain them - have been reaffirmed time and again by the American Diabetes Association, the American Dietetic Association and others. So until research proves otherwise, I'm going to continue eating and drinking products sweetened with sugar substitutes. Take that, Dr. Oz!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

Don't be haters, but guess where I'm heading to on Saturday? Germany and Austria, baby! Yup, I'm finally returning to Europe after a more than decade absence. My fiance's brother lives in Stuttgart, so we're taking advantage of that opportunity and going out to visit. And it's by total happenstance that we're going smack dab in the middle of Oktoberfest (shah right!) Although we're still working out the itinerary, we plan to spend several days in Munich, before heading to Salzburg and Vienna, then closing out the two-week trip with stops throughout the Bavarian region of Germany. For those wondering, yes, I plan to drink plenty of beer and wine and eat lots of bratwurst, spatzle and wiener schnitzel. Although that means I'll most likely come back to the states lugging a few extra pound around my waistline, come on...it's Europe, people! On the flip side, we'll be doing a LOT of walking and hiking, so the damage might not be too bad. And I plan to eat all healthy foods and work out like a madwoman when I'm back in the ATL. 

Any of you been to Germany and/or Austria? If so, any recommendations on places we must visit or attractions we must see? Currently on my bucket list, but in no particular order: check out some castles, tour a concentration camp, watch the opera, visit the salt mines, drink at Oktoberfest, buy a dirndl and see some of the Sound of Music locations. I know, I know...I'm a cheesebum. But I love me some Sound of Music. 

Anyhoo, for all of you who sit by jealously as I enjoy my trip, here is a low-calorie variation of one of Austria's most famous menu items. 

Sacher Torte

And just because, here is one of my favorite scenes from Sound of Music. Enjoy! 



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Choco-holic? Why yes, I am...

We hosted dinner last night for several friends. It was pretty dang good, if I say so myself. I made a yummy asiago cheese dip served with bread and crackers, and put out hummus and brie for appetizers. Dinner included a hearty kale salad, fruit, grilled chicken and skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, corn on the cob and key lime pie and delicious s'mores brownies for dessert. While the brownies and asiago dip weren't particularly low in calories, the rest of the meal was pretty healthy - all things considered. Well, if you don't factor in all the beer and wine folks drank.

To make up for the big meal, we took the dog for a seven mile hike today. Felt good to sweat out all those calories. However, on the way home, we stopped and grabbed Gator-ade and Nesquick - Rob loves him some chocolate milk every once in awhile. Fortunately, Nesquick has a 100-calorie, sugar-free version so I could have a little chocolate myself without the guilt. It was a nice way to celebrate National Milk Chocolate Day today!

By the way, currently trying to come up with a low-cal version of that amazing s'mores brownie recipe. But until then, grab a box of reduced-fat graham crackers, sugar-free chocolate syrup and fat-free whipped cream - freeze for a few minutes and enjoy a delicious, light snack.


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Fireworks and Fun in the Sun


Anybody ready for a long holiday weekend? For those of you going back to work on Friday, I'm sorry...while you're hunched over your office keyboard, I'll be baking in the sun with my toes in the sand, preferably with a cold beverage in hand. Yes, we're taking some much-needed vacation time and spending four days in St. Augustine Beach. And boy, oh boy, am I stoked! 

We're packing up the dog and hitting the road bright and early to meet friends at a sweet rental house on the beach. Tonight? We hit the fireworks display. Tomorrow, nothing but beach and grill time. 

I'm also planning out my menu for the weekend. As many of you know, the Fourth of July is often a high-calorie extravaganza thanks to all those cook-outs and parties. Fortunately, there are ways to get through the holiday without major weight gain. For example, I'll be hitting the store on the way down to pick up some low-calorie snack options including fruit, raw veggies and hummus. I've also got a list of low-cal, sucralose-sweetened cocktail recipes that I plan to whip up. The drinks (see recipe below, for an example) will be the perfect treat on a humid day by the water. Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July weekend! 

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

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fire up the grill

photo by Celeste Lindell

We're going to have a full house of people and pets this week - and I'm kind of frantically trying to figure out how we're going to accommodate them all. See, a few weeks ago, I agreed to watch my friends' adorable puppy. Already a lot of work, but hey...no biggie. But then we invited our friends to come stay with us, armed with their baby and dog. And to top it off, my boyfriend's cousin just announced that she will be popping into town at the same time, staying in our house with her husband, two little kids and dog.
Holy moly! That makes four dogs (including ours), six adults and three kids, all residing under our roof this week. Do we even have enough towels to cover everyone?
Anyhoo, I'm trying to figure out a decent menu for Wednesday night when they all get to town. So far, I'm thinking a cookout is the way to go. We can toss a few burgers on the grill, make some mac and cheese, grilled corn...the usual. But since I'm trying to maintain my girlish figure, I plan to add some low-cal, sugar-free options to the lineup. Check out some of the yummy recipes below. I figure if I load up on the healthier fare, I won't be as tempted to indulge in the higher-fat offerings - and then I can avoid the BBQ-related battle of the belly bulge. Wish me luck!

Zesty Grilled Garlic-Herb Chicken
Cucumber and Onion Salad
Southwest Citrus Salad
Fruit Salad with Spiced Yogurt Sauce

Thursday, June 13, 2013

100 safety studies vs. 1 unpublished Italian study?

splenda How much is enough to prove to me the safety of sucralose (Splenda)? I’ll take 100 studies over a 20 year period.

However, yet here is another piece of misinformation, this time from The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Seems that CSPI downgraded its rating of sucralose, from “safe” to “caution”, over one study from an unnamed “independent” Italian group.  Yet, up until now, CSPI has been singing Splenda’s praises.

The independent Italian study, as we learned at the Calorie Control Council, is from the Ramazzini Institute, a group known more from its unorthodox methods and sensationalist approach.  If you haven’t heard about them, Ramazzini has been dissed by many regulatory bodies worldwide, as well as leading toxicology experts. The results of the study (which, by the way, has yet to be published in any venue) are at odds with everyone else’s views, including those of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others.

JunkScience.com probably put it best. Nuf said!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tea Time!

photo by Pen Waggener

As part of a new health kick, I'm trying to, well, kick my caffeine addiction. I've been a coffee guzzler ever since high school, when early morning swim practice had me regularly reaching for a giant cup of joe. In college, late nights spent studying (and partying, take your pick) resulted in many a pot of coffee. And when I worked as a reporter for daily newspapers, it wasn't uncommon to see the entire news team mainlining coffee at all hours of the day. 
Needless to say, I've spent many years clinging to a large to-go cup of coffee.
Do y'all know how hard it is to curb that type of a habit? It's like quitting smoking! Instead of coffee, I'm now trying to switch to tea - hot, cold, lukewarm...doesn't matter. My goal: to get down to one cup of coffee each day and substitute tea in the late afternoon when I start feeling fuzzy. 
Speaking of tea, did you know June is National Iced Tea Month? Well, you're welcome - now you do. In honor of this momentous occasion, I've dug up a few wonderful sucralose-sweetened iced tea recipes to get you through the month. Enjoy!

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



Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Let the good times roll!

photo by Janet Hudson

Happy May Day! I'm in a very jolly mood right about now. Don't hate but...guess where I'm headed bright and early tomorrow morning? New Orleans, baby! We're returning to the Big Easy - one of my fave cities in the whole world - for our annual Jazz Fest excursion. This makes our fourth consecutive trip to that event. On tap for this year: Fleetwood Mac, Black Keys, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Cliff, Los Lobos, Hall & Oates, Taj Mahal and more.
And then there's the food. Forget about dieting. I'm fully prepared to come back lugging a few extra pounds around my waistline because there's no way I'm giving up the opportunity to chow down on cochon de lait po-boys, muffulettas, beignets, jambalaya and fried boudin balls. I will be bringing some workout gear so I can jog off some of the calories in the morning, but otherwise, I plan to indulge on vacation then return to healthy eating and increased exercise next week when I'm back in the ATL.
Anyhoo, for all you who don't want to sit by jealously as I enjoy my trip to the Crescent City, here are a few low-calorie variations of some of their most famous menu items.

Chicken Jambalaya
Beignets
Turkey Muffuletta Pita

Also, if you're planning to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, check out the Calorie Control Council's suggestions for a low-cal fiesta.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring into shape

photo by Phil Roeder
The sun is shining and the weather is warming up. You know what that means? Summer swimsuit season is just around the corner. 
To prepare for the return to a slimmer wardrobe, I've upped my game, working out more and eating healthier. That includes portion control, calorie reduction and incorporating sugar-free foods and beverages into my dietary mix. 
According to Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, consumers can "slim down without sacrificing their favorite foods and beverages. Low-calorie sweeteners and light products can aid in weight loss efforts. Of course, portion control and regular exercise are also crucial to a healthy lifestyle." For example, reduced-calorie yogurt eliminates about 110 calories per serving. And by switching from regular to diet soda, I save 150 calories. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss.
In addition to the food changes, I've been working out a heck of a lot more in recent weeks - alternating between circuit training, step, spin, running, zumba and hiking on the weekends. I'm hoping that by constantly switching up the type of exercise, I'm less likely to get bored and lazy. Either way, I'm well on my way to hitting my target weight in time for those hot summer days. 
Wish me luck!
 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Bright and sunshiny day...

After weeks of unseasonably cool, rainy weather, it looks like we're finally getting headed into the warmer months. To celebrate the beautiful weather, we spent all weekend outside, hiking, attending barbecues, baseball games and more. It was fantastic - other than all the nasty pollen - and I have a wee bit of sunburn to prove it. Of course, all those outdoor gatherings tended to be a bit, well, high-calorie. From burgers and beer to cocktails, brats and chips, there was a ton of tempting, non-diet-friendly meals and drinks on display. It's hard to say "NO!" when faced with all that deliciousness at a backyard barbecue. But if you're trying to lose weight so you can fit into your skimpy shorts and tank tops by summer, check out these healthy grilling tips from sucralose.org

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Would you like some pi with that?


Guess what today is? It's not just Thursday, my friends. It's Pi Day. For those who (like me) are completely unfamiliar with this holiday, it was born more than 20 years ago at San Francisco's Exploratorium and celebrates the mathematical constant known as pi. Today, you see, is March 14 - or 3/14. And pi roughly equals 3.14...ad infinitum. Get it? Anyhoo, today also happens to be math genius Albert Einstein's birthday, so I guess it was meant to be.

What I find most entertaining is all the pi-related rituals that appear to accompany this holiday. Participants sing Pi Day songs, bead a "pi string" and circumnaviate a pi shrine? Even better, though, it appears they eat pie...And that's certainly something I can appreciate. So in honor of pi - and Albert Einstein - I indulged in some delicious sugar-free chocolate cream pie tonight, thanks to this fab recipe from www.Splenda.com!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

You say chocoholic like it's a bad thing!


Can you believe it's almost March? This year is flying by ridiculously fast, don't ya think? Before we know it, spring will be here. Speaking of spring, I pre-ordered tickets yesterday for the Braves-Cubs series at Turner Field in April (sorry, Atlanta...but I have to root for my Cubbies in this round) so I'm really starting to gear up for baseball and warm weather.
Anyhoo, if you feel like celebrating the end of February - which is one of my least favorite months - consider indulging in a little something sweet. After all, February is the "Celebration of Chocolate" month. And if you prefer to put on your chef hat, here are some delicious, sucralose-sweetened chocolate recipes from splenda.com and Hungry Girl to check out. Enjoy!

Chocolate Velvet Mousse
HG's Fudgy Frosted Walnut Brownies
Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes
HG's Triple-Chocolate Softies
Chocolate Toffee Bars


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Bowl? More like super lame


Unless you've been living under a rock, you know what's coming up on Sunday. It's the national holiday of sports - Super Bowl Sunday. As a major football fanatic, I'm typically glued to the tube every weekend heading into February. And the Big Game is no exception...except for maybe this year. I'm feeling a whole lot of "meh" about Sunday's showdown. I guess I'll half-heartedly route for San Fran, since Jimbo used to play for my beloved Bears and the 49ers are the NFC reps. Otherwise, color me bored.  Plus, I'm not overly excited about the half-time routine and the Super Bowl ads in recent years have been snoozers.
All that being said, I will still join friends (at least for the first half) in watching the game. It's the patriotic thing to do, right? But like the rest of the US nation, I'll be tempted by platters of buffalo wings, chips and dip, burgers, pizza and all sorts of other high-cal food options that seem to accompany Game Day. According to research by the Calorie Control Council (CCC) and Snack Food Association, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks on Sunday. 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, which DOESN'T EVEN INCLUDE THE MEALS! Holy drawstring pants, Batman! This game is clearly tough on calorie counters. Fortunately, there are a few tricks to 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.

As for me, I'm just excited about the Puppy Bowl. How freakin' cute are those peanuts?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Put that in your pie and eat it...

I have a confession to make...I splurged a little today.
Look, I've been healthy all week - and exercising regularly - but I just had to have a little dessert tonight. It was practically mandatory. For Pete's sake, today was National Pie Day! Who can say no to that? Especially when a chocolate cream pie is at stake.
In my defense, it was only a little sliver of a piece. And it was a low-cal, sugar-free recipe. So no judging, please. I'll tack on an extra 10 minutes of exercise tomorrow to make up for it.



Thursday, January 10, 2013

January Blues



January is back...the worst month of the year. Am I right? The weather is usually crappy, the workload is difficult and there's no vacation in sight. And to top it off, many folks are typically struggling to squeeze into their favorite pants - courtesy of all the holiday-related indulging. Yup, I've spent the past week hopping back on the healthy bandwagon...regular trips to the gym, calorie counting and all that jazz.

And for anyone else in the same boat, the Calorie Control Council recently shared some healthy tips for the New Year. I will definitely be embracing this advice as I get back into the swing of things.
  • Leftovers need to go. Any holiday leftovers that can't be converted into low-calorie meals need to be tossed out, ASAP. Sweets need to be rationed to one treat per day or tossed out with the other leftovers. Start cruising low-calorie recipe blogs for meal ideas immediately and read up on portion sizes.
  • Enjoy the Great Outdoors. While it might feel cold outside, January and February can still have good days for an outdoor activity – consider going out walking or jogging in the afternoon, when the temperature peaks. Get outside and take advantage of the brisker temperatures by bicycling, hiking, jogging and playing golf or tennis. Discover park trails or take a walk by the lake. In places where snow falls, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Or, if you live near the water, try kayaking or get out and play a vigorous game of fetch with your dog. Remember, exercise comes in different forms. Cleaning out junk from storage rooms, home improvement projects, and even doing yard work can also help get the heart pumping.
  • Go to class. Have you always wanted to try tai chi or yoga? How about a trapeze class or boxing? Many gyms, private fitness clubs and park districts start up a new round of classes in January, so scan the schedules to see if something catches your interest. After all, a well-rounded fitness regimen is important.
  • Cut back on the sweets. To help maintain a healthier shape, consider the calorie savings provided by low-calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages. Products sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners allow consumers to enjoy their favorite meals without the extra 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.
  • Lighten up on drinks. After the midnight toasts from New Year's are over, it's a good time to consider cutting back on the number of alcoholic beverages you consume and even the type of drinks you still endulge in. Alcohol can rack up a lot of empty calories, especially regular beer and mixed drinks that are high in sugar. Consider some lighter ingredients for the mixed drinks, stick to one glass of wine, and opt for a light beer when possible. The calorie savings will be worth it.