Thinner on Monday: Keep Off Weekend Weight

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You’re only human if, halfway through a workweek, you’ve already  begun a countdown to the weekend. What’s not to love? There’s extra time  to spend with the kids, dining out with friends, and sleeping in. But  if you’re not careful with your choices, the weekend can really wreak  havoc on a waistline. Between Friday happy hours and Sunday brunches,  the weekend is jam-packed with opportunities to eat tempting food. Some  people use it as the perfect excuse to let their diet slip away. You’ve  worked hard all week to keep your weight in check. From Friday night to Monday morning, keep these 10 tips in mind so you don’t end up with more weight than when you started!

1. Don’t be a weekend warrior. Putting pressure on yourself to lose weight while trying to enjoy your downtime can potentially stress you out and lead to emotional eating.  Take a more realistic approach, and aim to maintain your weight instead  of losing it. If you wake up on Monday at the same weight you were when  you left the office on Friday, consider yourself a success!

2. Start strong. The first few hours of your weekend  can set the tone for its entire duration. For instance, if you start  off your Friday night with happy hour and a couple slices of pizza for  dinner, you’ll probably continue this behavior all the way to Monday  morning. It ruins the effort you put in all week, and makes you less  likely to reset your good habits when the workweek begins. Kick off your  weekend the right way with a flavorful yet reasonable dinner option.  Try a lean cut of red meat, such as filet mignon, to ensure satisfaction  without tons of calories. Or if you’re craving Chinese food, allow  yourself to enjoy some Moo Shu chicken; just skip the pancakes and opt  for lettuce wraps instead. It’s perfectly fine to rewardyourself after a  week well done, so long as you choose something that will keep you on  the right track!

3. Get in some “you” time.  Lazy weekends are great every once in a while, but allot some time into  your morning to work up a sweat. Putting it off until later in the day  gives you the chance to get too busy and just not go. Simply get up a  half-hour earlier, and hit the gym. Even twenty minutes will help!

4. Take advantage of breakfast.  It really can be the most important meal of the day. I recommend  clients take a few moments of their downtime to enjoy some morning fare.  There are so many healthy, smart options readily available. Nix the  pancakes and calorie-laden waffles, and order an omelette instead. An  egg-white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and peppers only has about  250 calories, but tons of satiating protein. Switch it up and choose hot  sauce over ketchup since it contains less sugar. Avoid starting your  morning with any type of simple carb such as bagels, Danishes or  muffins. These types of foods will only lead to additional carbohydrate  cravings throughout the day.

5. You snooze, you lose. If  you do decide to sleep in, don’t feel as though you have to make up for  the meal you may have missed. Move on to whatever meal is next, and go  from there. You may need to add a second snack later in the afternoon,  but it’s much more ideal than doubling up your meals.

6. Think ahead, and be prepared.  Planning meals ahead of time and packing a few healthy food items can  be your best defense against fast food and mindless weekend snacking.  Why waste the calories on the drive-thru when you can enjoy something  scrumptious at dinner with friends instead? Save your indulgence for a  time that is really worth it. Keep a fiber bar and a piece of fruit with  you at all times. You’d be surprised how this pairing can fill you up  and ward off future cravings.

7. Embrace finite foods.  Extra free time can mean extra pantry time. There’s less structure on  the weekend, which increases your chance of going on a random pretzel  binge. Keep finite foods on hand, so you know exactly where your snack  begins and ends. Stick to items like a Greek yogurt with a pack of  almonds or a high-fiber nutrition bar. Avoid snacks that aren’t  pre-portioned or, next thing you know, you’ll have seven servings of  trail mix under your belt!

8. Enjoy one extravagance.  Dining out is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax after a hard  week. It can seem virtually impossible to stick to a boring grilled  protein and a side of steamed vegetables when everyone around you is  partaking in a decadent meal. Whether it’s a second cocktail, a shared  dessert, or a reasonable portion of starch, allow yourself to enjoy one  extravagance. Be sure to plan it at a time when you’re around loved  ones. It automatically makes the treat that much more enjoyable.

9. Stay hydrated.  Daily hydration routines usually fall by the wayside on the weekend.  People tend to weigh heavier on Monday because they’ve dined out for the  past few days and consumed considerably less water. Aim for at least a  liter by lunch to ensure proper hydration.

10. Recover on Sunday.  Unwind after a busy weekend, and opt for a low-calorie frozen entrée  for dinner. Choose one that’s under 300 calories and has at least 3 to 4  grams of fiber. It’s a controlled, finite meal that will give you a  head start on your week. Or, partake in a “veggie night” dinner to  recover from a particularly rough weekend. Choose 2 cups of your  favorite non-starchy vegetable, and pair with one baked white or sweet  potato. Simple yet slimming!

The Anatomy of a Healthy Salad

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How many times have you been in a restaurant with a friend and heard her  say, “Oh, I’ll just have a salad,” with a satisfied look on her face?  When looking for a healthy option,  it’s not uncommon for people to immediately rely on salad as their  go-to meal. Often associated with being low in calories and high in  nutrients, salads seem to make sense. The truth is, sometimes opting for  a salad can be one of your worst dieting downfalls. On the other hand,  salads don’t have to equate to a wider waistline. Research shows people  who eat salads are more likely to have higher levels of key nutrients  that prevent cancer and heart disease, and may consume 12 percent less  calories throughout the meal. It’s all about preparing them correctly  and knowing what to add in and what to take out. Below are my five top  tips on how to slim down your salad, without sacrificing flavor or  nutrition.

Throw Some Fat Into the Mix

Salads can fall on complete opposite ends of the spectrum if you’re not careful. Eating a bowl full of green leaves  and raw veggies with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar is one of the  biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. Sure, it’s low  in calories, but in order for your body to effectively use the abundant  nutrients in the vegetables, some type of fat needs to be added. Choose  an unsaturated one, and remember, a little goes a long way. Your body  only requires a small amount of fat in a meal to absorb the nutrients.  Consider using two to three thin slices of avocado to not only add in  heart-healthy fats, but also potassium, fiber, and vitamin E. At 50  calories, you can’t go wrong!

Remember, It’s a Salad, Not a Sandwich

Often,  devoted salad eaters choose to add in items like bacon, chicken, or  steak to make their salads more fulfilling. While it may do just that,  it can potentially add too many calories. If you must, pick one meat or  poultry option, but make sure to skip the cheese to avoid calorie  overload. Another idea is to garnish your greens with two egg whites  instead. This adds approximately 8 grams of protein for less than 50  calories. Or choose a legume, such as navy or kidney beans, to pack in  protein as well as fiber. An optimal serving for navy beans is ¼ cup,  which contains about 4 grams of both protein and fiber for 65 calories.  Just because your sandwich comes with bread doesn’t mean your salad has  to. Skip the breadsticks or pita typically offered on the side. They only add empty calories.

Swap Croutons for Crunchy Snack Mix

Ever  notice that most croutons don’t even crunch when you bite into them?  That’s because they’re drenched in either oil or butter to make up for  their lack of flavor and freshness. Regardless, a small serving of  croutons can contain anywhere from 50 to 90 calories without adding much  satisfaction. Instead, sprinkle your salad with Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix.  Made with ground chickpeas, the noodles are a great source of vegetable  protein that fall low on the glycemic index, which allows for a slower  release of sugar in the bloodstream, stabilizing appetite. One serving  will give your salad added crunch, taste, fiber, and protein to keep you  satiated for a longer period of time. Or crumble a high-fiber cracker  like GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbreads on top for some crunchy flavor.

The Darker the Better

When  it comes to being savvy about your salad, use your eyes! Swap pale  greens such as iceberg lettuce for leaves like kale, arugula, and  romaine lettuce. Dark green leafy vegetables rank high on the  nutritional scale, and are packed with fiber, phytochemicals,  antioxidants, and vitamins. Most people think of dairy foods as the  ultimate way to ensure enough calcium in their diet.  But leafy veggies such as mustard greens, kale, and bok choy all  contain considerable amounts of this bone-building nutrient for fewer  calories than dairy products. For example, adding 1 cup of kale to your  mix can amp up your salad by providing well over 100 percent of your  daily value for nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K.

Opt for Homemade Dressings

Have  you ever looked at how many ingredients are in most store-bought salad  dressings? And can you even pronounce half of them? Homemade salad  dressings are pretty simple. Start with an oil base (I prefer olive  oil), which acts as the emulsifier. Then, add in your favorite type of  vinegar. Although balsamic is popular, it’s fun to play around with  other flavors such as pear, raspberry, or even pomegranate! Next, chop  up some fresh herbs, which add flavor but not sodium.  The best varieties for salad include basil, thyme, marjoram, and  chives. Fresh is always best, but dried herbs can suffice in a pinch.  Ground pepper is also a must. Lastly, add in a pinch of sea salt to  taste. You can also experiment by adding different types of mustard to  provide another depth of flavor. Varieties like Dijon, whole-grain, or  sweet mustards all pack in flavor without tons of calories.

Fight the BBQ Bulge: Your Guide to Summer Sauces

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Schools are out, beaches are open, and the sun is blazing! With all  this summery goodness comes one of my favorite events: Outdoor  barbecues! It just wouldn’t be summer without an outdoor gathering of  your closest friends and family.Ribs, steaks, and chicken kebabs … what  do all of these things have in common? Sauce! It’s usually slathered on  thick or used as a marinade before cooking protein or veggies. But  certain ones can wreak havoc on your carefully chiseled summer  waistline. Below is a guide to sauces that will get you through the season without the barbecue bulge!

Limit your sodium

Sodium  is the biggest offender when dealing with sauce, because it adds flavor  and is often used as a preservative to increase shelf life. Since  barbecue sauce is used in such plentiful amounts, adhere to strict  sodium guidelines when choosing one, or you’ll certainly feel the bloat  the next day. Aim for under 250 milligrams per 2-tablespoon serving.  This may be hard to find with many popular sauce brands, so look for  unique food companies that focus more on flavoring with spices instead  of loading on the salt. One of my favorites is Danielle’s Sauces, which  is built on the belief of “clean cooking,” so their products are free of  preservatives and additives. I love the company’s Smoke & Spice BBQ  Sauce, which contains only 240 milligrams of sodium per 2-tbsp. serving  but packs tons of flavor and kick. Or, infuse some Asian flavor into  your dish by using the brand’s Chiliyaki sauce, a spicy teriyaki that’s  one of the lowest-sodium sauces on the market.

Beware of sugar

So  many sauces are flavored with molasses, brown sugar, or even corn syrup  to maintain a smoky sweetness, but sugar can cause your calories to add  up faster than you think. As a rule, try to look for sauces that are  less than 50 calories per 2-tbsp. serving. Chris’ and Pitt’s Bar-B-Q  Sauce is perfect to spread on ribs or chicken and has just 30 calories  in 2 tablespoons. If you opt for a sauce that’s higher in calories, try  to keep the sauce on the side to use as a dip. You’ll most likely use  less if it’s not slathered on beforehand.

Hot  sauce is another great option because it’s low in calories, and you only  need a dash or two to make things interesting. Among the numerous  varieties of hot sauces available, Shiracha hot sauce is my go-to summer  barbecue staple. It provides a spicy flavor, not a five-alarm fire. A  teaspoon or two is all you need and adds just 10 calories and 200  milligrams of sodium to your dish.

Swap sauce for salsa

There’s  something to be said for barbecue sauce, but you may find that topping  your freshly grilled salmon or scallops with a heap of homemade salsa  can add a refreshing aspect to your dish.  Dice an avocado, and combine with half a cup of quartered grape  tomatoes, a three-quarter cup of fresh corn and 1 tablespoon of fresh  cilantro. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt, and you’re  ready to go. The unsaturated fat from the avocado, combined with the  citrus flavoring will create such a bold flavor, you’ll never miss the  sauce! If you’re pressed for time, consider a jarred salsa. The Brooklyn  Salsa Company creates unique blends from local, sustainable  ingredients. Enjoy The Green flavor, which combines cumin, ginger, and  heirloom tomatoes for about 100 milligrams of sodium and only 10  calories per serving.

Make it homemade

Creating your own sauce at home can ignite your creative side and inspire you to add unique spices and fresh flavorings. Keeping it homemade  also gives you control over the nutritional content of the sauce. Start  with a tomato base of either no-salt-added ketchup or no-salt-added  tomato sauce which you can find in the condiment aisle of any large  supermarket. Add 2 tablespoons of molasses, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and  a sprinkle of brown sugar. Season with freshly ground pepper and  one-half teaspoon of garlic powder. You can stop right here, and the  sauce will be delicious, or consider experimenting with spices such as  curry or ginger powder. For a different flavor, try apple cider or red  wine vinegar.

Summer is not a time to be a wallflower! So enjoy the beach, the sun, and the barbecues, knowing that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor when watching your calories.

Occupational Hazard: Is Your Job Making You Fat?

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If you work in an office, you know that person. She’s incessantly talking about her past, future and present culinary endeavors and looking for a partner to indulge with. It starts off bright and early with the scent of a greasy egg-and-cheese sandwich wafting over to your desk, and then sure enough, at lunchtime you hear the rifling of takeout menus. Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an insightful article honing in on the difficulties people face when dieting in the workplace. As I read, comments I had heard numerous times from clients popped into my head: “I just felt so pressured to eat the cake she had made for me,” or “I didn’t want to be the only one not eating.” One survey found that over half of the participants ate foods they knew would sabotage their diet out of sheer obligation. When it comes to work-related eating, there are typically three types of eating personalities. I’ve broken them down for you and provided ways to overcome them.

The Situational Eater:

You let the situation dictate how you are going to eat.  For example, if the weekly staff meeting includes bagels and muffins, you fill your plate just because you can. Regardless of whether you’ve eaten breakfast already, you feel the need to eat.  Most likely, you don’t even taste the food.

Fix It:

1. Ask yourself why you are eating. Often, people are feeding an emotion, whether it’s the nervous energy of the meeting or the boredom you feel from your boss’s last lecture.

2. Keep in mind that you have the power to control your eating and write your dieting script.

The Free Foodie:

I hate to break it to you, but just because food is free, it’s not necessarily good for you.  In fact, most complimentary chow (i.e., donuts, birthday cake, and candy) rank high in calories and low in nutrition… You’ll most likely spend more time, energy and cash trying to peel off the extra pounds than if you’d picked up a solo salad instead.

Fix It:

1. When dining out, stay away from things that are easily refillable. Items like soda, wine (by the bottle) and bread baskets are things waiters can easily provide more of to ensure great service.
2. Try and be the last person at the table to order; people are less likely to focus on what you order once they’ve already placed their order.

The Office Party Animal

If every time you look at your inbox you have another Evite, then you fall into this category. Being social at the workplace and partaking in office camaraderie is important and can further help advance your career. Just be sure that it’s not doing the same for your waistline.

Fix It:

Try to be the server, not the eater. Take charge and volunteer to arrange the candles and dole out the dolce. Ironically, this trick puts the spotlight on you, yet makes it less likely that someone will fixate on what you’re eating. Redefine the word “special.” It’s easy to let office hype get the best of you. Every lunch seems like it’s at the best steakhouse and each happy hour seems like it’s at the hippest watering hole, but what’s really important to you? Save indulgences for things that truly are special, like your son’s birthday or wedding anniversary.

Remember, dieting isn’t necessarily about willpower; it’s about having the strategies you need to make better choices. Once you’ve identified your workplace persona, you’ll be completely equipped to maneuver occupational dieting hazards. For some of these tips I turn back to my first book The Wall Street Diet, which focuses on how to survive dieting in professional settings.

Fast Food the Healthy Way: A Guide

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Let’s be real, everyone loves fast food. (Whether or not you want to admit it, but there’s something about French fries that really gets people going.) As a nutritionist, it’s hard for me to approve calorie-laden burgers, milkshakes or double decker bacon-filled ranch-dressing-topped nutritional nightmares. They’re not providing a ton of good nutrients, and instead are passing along sugar, fat and carbohydrates that will leave you feeling sluggish in its place. That being said, you have to live your life. It’s your life, not your diet, that takes precedence.  So I never want you to eliminate things you love completely. Why not? That will not only make you want those foods MORE, but it’s unrealistic. You’re not going to go the rest of your life without eating a hamburger. (Even I like one occasionally.)

Maybe you just really want a little fast-food treat, or you’re on the road and have no choice. Here are some healthy options for some of the most popular chains. You never have to ban entire restaurants or types of food from your life. That only leads to wanting those foods more! Small indulgences like the ones I’ve chosen below can get you far:

 

McDonalds:
1.) Fruit and yogurt parfait — 160 calories 2.) Caesar salad with grilled chicken and low-fat balsamic vinaigrette — 260 calories
 

Taco Bell
1.) Grilled steak soft taco (Fresco) — 150 calories 2.) Gordita supreme, chicken — 270 calories

Burger King
1.) Tender grilled chicken garden salad with Ken’s fat-free ranch dressing — 290 calories 2.) Small burger with a bun (260 calories). This counts as one angel carb. (What’s an angel carb? A good carb, because some bread is bad, but not all of it!)

Pizza Hut
1.) Two slices of a 12-inch pizza, — 300 calories, 2 angel carbs.

It is possible to eat fast food (very occasionally) and still keep it healthy. These are splurges, but not outrageous ones. No matter your lifestyle, job scenario or wallet, you can eat well.

The Anatomy of a Healthy Sandwich

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Warm breeze, longer days, a calendar full of picnics and BBQs — it’s officially springtime! With all these obligations, it can be nerve-wracking to try to stick to your diet. These events can be filled with creamy potato salad, pies, mile-high sandwiches, you name it. There is still room for the almighty sandwich in your life (and your stomach). You just have to be smart about it. So get out your checkered tablecloth, find your best basket and strap on your sundress. Here are some guidelines to making the most out of this classic picnic staple.

The bread:

Before you quiver in fear and run for the solace of the salad bar, let me explain. Following a healthy eating plan doesn’t mean that you can’t eat bread. Although my book is called Bread is the Devil, I’ll be this first to say that not all bread is bad.

Ciabatta, pumpernickel, rye… The possibilities are endless! No matter how you slice it: Whole wheat or rye is the best option. You’ll also have to forgo anything bigger than a typical piece of bread. There is no reason a sandwich should be named after a submerged sea vessel. Don’t be fooled by the enticing allure of wraps. Most are nutritional wannabes, racking up 300-500 calories full of refined grains and oil. Choose La Tortilla fiber and flax corn tortillas. They clock in at a measly 45 calories, yet have five grams of fiber.

Sandwich spreads:

Aioli, chipotle mayo, and pesto are not your friends. Despite these condiments being offered on every sandwich menu known to man, they equal major calories — as much as 200-400! I love a tasty schmear as much as the next girl, but there are smarter choices than these sinful spreads. Opt for items such as mustard, relish, pickles, hot sauce or a lite soy sauce. If you’re still craving a creamy addition to your sandwich, use a Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge instead. They come in varieties such as queso fresco chipotle and sundried tomato basil, which give your sandwich instant flavor for only 35 calories.

In between the bread:

Most would say this is the part that really matters. There are so many things that you can make a sandwich out of, it’s easy to get deterred. Grilled chicken and turkey are typical healthy options, though it doesn’t have to stop at that. Try roasted vegetables (such as eggplant and zucchini) that have been marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar topped with one slice of Alpine Lace Swiss cheese.

Or change it up with mixing canned salmon (Did you know it’s always wild Alaskan?) with low-fat mayo, celery seed and chopped onions. It’s a top-notch alternative to typical tuna or chicken. And who can resist a classic PB&J? When spread on GG Bran crackers with Justin’s Nut Butter, you have a healthy alternative to a lunchroom standard.

Bottom line:

Sandwiches can still be a part of your life and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. At my new website Bestowed, you have an opportunity to sample some of the products I’ve mentioned. Nutrition advice is available in boatloads, and if you bought everything that was recommended you’d be broke. Think of this as a monthly “fit-kit” full of snacks and treats that have been carefully selected by me for you to try.

Can’t wait to get your feedback!

Can a cup a day keep the doctor away?

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Coffee, teas and sodas, they all have one thing in common- caffeine. Caffeine, an alkaloid chemical, is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system making you more alert and give you that necessary boost of energy to get your gears turning in the morning. This is the world’s most popular psychoactive stimulant; did you know we consume 120,000 tons per year? Clearly it works! People have been drinking and eating caffeine as far back as the Stone Age, and far be it from me to tell you to stop drinking that morning cup o’ joe to get you ready for the day, but knowing the facts surrounding both the benefits and the negative side effects of caffeine may have an impact on your daily caffeine consumption.

How much is too much?

While there is no recommended daily intake for caffeine, generally speaking 200-300 milligrams (equates to 2-4 cups of drip coffee) is considered moderate intake and should not cause any harmful effects. Studies do show that heavy daily caffeine consumption, more than 500-600 mgs a day (4-7 cups of drip coffee), may cause insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, tremors, headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, abnormal heart rhythms and possible increases in blood pressure. However, a little does go a long way. The majority of individuals will see an increase in alertness and begin to experience the effect of caffeine about an hour after ingesting only 25-50 mg. At lower levels of consumption, the negative side effects decrease as well, which means experiencing no feeling of fatigue 4 hours later (or at least not as severe).

Caffeine is known to toy with your blood sugar levels, which is the reason you experience the initial boost of energy followed by the unwanted midday crash. Research shows that by reducing your caffeine intake throughout the day can not only be good for your health but also for your productivity.  Alternatively, switching from a caffeinated beverage or snack to an alternate energy booster such as a vegetable juice or pack of almonds and cashews, can keep you alert and ward off the feeling of restlessness without excess caffeine intake. Caffeine also has the ability to deplete your body of water so be sure to drink plenty of water to maintain hydration throughout the day.

While there are many negative connotations associated with caffeine, before you swear off coffee completely there are a few interesting possible benefits to consider. The most well known benefit is caffeine’s ability to keep you awake and alert; this ergogenic acid can increase both your mental and physical capabilities. There have been studies showing benefits of moderate (200-300mg/day) caffeine intake associated with a reduced risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease in women. There is also some evidence indicating caffeine’s ability to protect the brain to help preserve long-term cognitive skills.

One of the most common negative side effects of caffeine is a headache or migraine. The exact connection between caffeine and headaches/migraines is still questioned and unknown, but a direct correlation has been established. So if you find yourself suffering from headaches or migraines more frequently, cutting back on your caffeine consumption can be an initial step.

Caffeine’s affect on body weight is a question that has been posed by many doctors and researchers alike. Caffeine is believed to give a slight boost to individuals seeking weight loss or preventing weight gain, but only temporarily. There is no evidence suggesting long term effectiveness. There are argued theories for the mechanism of this action such as appetite suppression, water loss and increased calorie burning.

How do popular sodas, tea and coffee stack up on the caffeine scale?

Not all caffeinated beverages and foods are created equal. The table below will aid you in finding out your daily caffeine consumption, which may lead you to rethink how little or how much you should drink. But remember, when you walk in to Starbucks or whichever coffee shop you frequent, a lot of the fancy drinks (lattes, frappuccinos etc) may have less caffeine but most likely have more sugar than coffee or tea. When I’m not in the mood for plain coffee or iced coffee some of my favorite low calorie and low sugar picks are:

-       Nonfat Cocoa Cappuccino: at 8 oz its only 70 calories

-       Tall Skinny Macchiato: 100 calories

-       Nonfat Iced Sugar Free Vanilla Latte: 60 calories

-       Frappuccino ® Light Blended Coffee: 110-140 calories

Drinks Size Caffeine (mg)
Drip coffee, generic 8 oz 95-200
Dunkin donuts brewed coffee 8 oz 70-100
Starbucks brewed coffee 8 oz 180
Starbucks Espresso 1 oz 58-75
Coke- regular, diet or cherry 8 oz 27
Sprite/7up- regular or diet 8 oz 0
Dr Pepper, regular or diet 8 oz 40
Starbucks Tazo Chai Latte 8 oz 50
Black Tea, generic 8 oz 40-120
Green Tea, generic 8 oz 32
Red bull 8.3 oz 76
Rockstar 8 oz 80
Full Throttle 8 oz 80
*Excedrin, extra strength 2 tablets 130
*NoDoz, maximum strength 1 tablet 200

* Surprised? Even medications contain caffeine!

Chill Out!

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While no one in their right mind would ever elect to speed through their summer fun, on days when the thermometer soars past the three digit marks, some of us almost long for chillier days… almost.

Pretty much all of us at least crave a chillier treat.

Between spots where you can whip up your own freezy flavor of ice cream or stores where you can find milkshakes by the millions, it’s hard to resist the temptation and only made more difficult when you’re melting in to a human puddle. Add kids to the mix – be it your little ones, or just your inner child – and your doomed from the start.

Just chill out… and cool off without slacking off.

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Get Outta Town! How to Eat Well and Enjoy Your Vacation.

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Summer time and the livin’ is easy – so naturally it’s time to take a few precious days off and kick up your feet.

Even if your schedule is crammed with BBQ’s, kids’ swim practices, and a multitude of other events, life moves slower in the summer and most of us save and save and save up our carefully coordinated vacation time for a few glorious days out of town. Whether it be just a weekend getaway or a “bucket list” worthy adventure, summer is universally a time for traveling. But despite being in the thick of bathing suit season, the inevitable war-cry of “screw it! I’m on vacation!” could wreak havoc on your eating habits long after the suitcases are un-packed.

But sticking around town in the sticky weather isn’t the only way to cure a case of the vacation inspired “eff its”. Just like you learned back in Girl Scout day camp, always be prepared. And just like back then you were prepared for mosquito bites, you’ll be prepared for bites this time too… and nibbles… and cocktails…

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The Skinny on Agave & Some Cool Low Cal Cocktails

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How often has this happened…?

Something gets the reputation for being “healthy” and suddenly there’s a bandwagon to jump on, a fad to join in on. Recently, agave nectar has snuck its way in to one such a phenomena.

In this case, the allure probably has to do with the fact that this sweetener is “natural.” It comes from a plant so it must be healthy and therefore let’s load up on it, right?! Unfortunately folks, like so many “too good to be true” realizations, the premise that agave is nature’s greatest free-for-all is false.

Sure, agave makes a sweet switch-out for honey or as a mix-in for margaritas (and it’s no surprise – agave is made from the same plant used to make tequila,) but its calorie count is no less than any other sweetener.

The verdict? Use in moderation – just like you would honey or any full-calorie sweetener. But just because you can’t go nuts for the nectar doesn’t mean a few summer cocktails aren’t just the ticket to cool things down on hot summer nights.

I’ve stirred up a few luscious libations and tested them out on a few friends willing to help out a pregnant mixologist! Check ‘em out and chill out.

And never fear, fellow pregnant pals (or anyone who isn’t too spirited about spirits,) I’ve included a few delicious drinks for you too!

Sangria:

1 magnum bottle cabarnet sauvignon (You can use any red wine, but cab has a nice jammy flavor that’s a great starting point for fruity flavors.)

1/2 cup Splenda simple syrup *see below will do (1/2 cup granulated splenda, 1/2 cup water, boiled til Splenda dissolves.)

1 cup of flavored vodka (I like peach, Absolut Apeach, but Abolut Ruby Red, Mandarin, Mango or Citron would work too.)

1/2 liter of Sprite zero, but using the full liter couldn’t hurt, it’d just make it bubblier.)

Fresh squeezed lime juice to taste

Top off with 50% Less Sugar Tropicana just to make it slightly cloudy

Helpful tip, I kept my fruit separate, wheras some folks toss all of this together. Diced apples (skin on is cool), kept with diced limes and an orange. The citrus will keep the apples from going brown too fast. Guests spoon in the fruit and pour the drink over it. This recipe yields a lot of drink, so it might keep a day or so longer. If you leave fruit in the drink sitting there, the alcohol will absorb in to the fruit, making it ferment and give you a nicer buzz than you intended… Plus, it will also break down and get pretty unsavory.

Margaritas

1 ounze Patron

½ ounce Cointreu

Juice of ½ or 1 whole lime (to taste)

Top off with Sprite Zero

Again, this is too taste. If you like a little fresher lime, go for more juice, if not add more Sprite Zero.

Splenda Simple Syrup

Regular simple syrup is just that – simple. And the Splenda version is no different in that sense. However, when I tested this out, I found a little goes a long way. For the Sangria, for example, you’ll only need ½ a cup of granulated Splenda and ½ cup water. Simply boil until the Splenda is dissolved and – ta-da! – syrup!

A good idea is to make a batch of this in advance. Let it cool and fill a plastic squeeze bottle with it and then set it out at your next cocktail party. Your guests can create their own cocktail concoctions with it.

Also, try throwing in different seasonings while it boils to add to the flavor. Throw a whole stick of thyme in for a fresh flavor or grate some lime or lemon peel in.

Drink and Drive

…as long as you’re sipping on one of these scrumptious, alcohol-free mixers.

Throw a little of the thyme simple syrup in to a tall glass of seltzer, squeeze in some lime and you’ve got a drink so refreshing you’ll be chilled to the bone.

For a fresh take on a smoothie, blend seedless watermelon chunks, basil, lime juice and a little bit of seltzer to give it a nice liquid consistency.

But really, herbs are not only fresh additions for your food but for your drinks too! Play with flavors  and spices that will freshen up drinks instead of adding sugary mix-ins to them.

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