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