Saturday, November 15, 2008

Holiday Snacking

One thing often leads to another. In the case of holiday shopping, something many of us are no doubt preparing for if we haven’t already begun, it can lead to extra excuses for holiday snacking.

Who doesn’t love the idea of stopping for a steaming hot chocolate in between shopping excursions, or taking a break at the mall with one of those gooey chocolate chip cookies or a huge pretzel dusted with sea salt or a cinnamon sweet roll? It’s the holidays. We’re entitled, right?

Then there is the desire to cram in all those talked about get-togethers with friends we’ve been intending to make time for all year. We simply must see them during the holidays. How do we usually do that? Over lunch or coffee, what else?

My point is that it’s really easy to fall into the food trap this time of year and it has nothing to do with holiday parties. Finding ourselves out and about shopping more, we also find ourselves nearer to snack food kiosks, mall food courts, or fast food places while heading from one store to another. It can wreck months of hard work we’ve done if we’re not careful. I’m not saying don’t do these things, I’m suggesting you be mindful of how much of them you’re doing. There is, after all, a reason many New Year’s resolutions are about food and dieting. You want to be sure that warm-up suit or pretty nightgown and robe set you get for Christmas doesn’t have to be exchanged for a larger size. Go out, enjoy the shopping experience, enjoy meeting friends, but try to make them the focal point, not the food.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Celebrating Tradition

Ah, the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate family, friends, and all the things we are thankful for, including our nation’s bounty. At a time when we’re tightening our belts a little more because of economic woes, ours is still one of the richest nations in the world and our waistlines show it!

Perhaps this is a good time to lessen what we spend and what we eat. Nothing makes us trim our portions so much as realizing we need to get more servings out of a dish. But if you can’t get your head around that idea, then this is a good time, a couple of weeks ahead of the day, to think about lightening some of the traditional recipes to lower your calorie intake.

When slicing the turkey, remember white meat is lower in calories than dark. If you’re family counts on the tried and true green bean casserole, try replacing the mushroom soup called for with the 98% fat free version. If your mashed potatoes recipe calls for sour cream, try the lite version instead of full fat. I’m a big believer in using real butter over margarine because I think in the long run, it’s better for us, but there are a number of very good tasting lite versions, including Land O Lakes own. If you’re baking, make sure the lite butter is OK for that. There are some dishes and creations like pie crust, that you would not want to use a substitute. And when it comes to rolls, Pillsbury’s low fat crescent dinner rolls are excellent. Try using a little less sugar in things like the sweet potato casserole or say Aunt Martha’s ambrosia salad. You’ll be surprised at the negligible difference in sweetness.

Of course, you could go with full fat, full sugar, full calories on everything and simply eat less of it. But at a time when we’re celebrating (and sampling) all that America has to offer, that can be pretty tough to do. Take it from me, lightening up dishes where you can, will be healthier, and I bet your family won’t know the difference!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hard Candy is Hard to Beat!

Sometimes just a little something sweet is all we need to get through an afternoon. Thanks to manufacturers having an economic epiphany several years ago after seeing Halloween candy sales increase with the introduction of miniature confections, there are a number of chewy chocolate candy options available year round these days. There is nothing wrong with having one or two as a little snack, but because chocolate candy can be gobbled so fast, it’s easy to overdo it. Before you know it, you’ve buzzed through half a bag of those delectable little bite-sized squares. That's why hard candy can be such a life saver, no pun intended.

I keep a bowl of Tootsie Pop suckers around, either the blow pops or the roll pops. The idea being that it takes longer to get through one of these, provided you don’t crunch it, a temptation the company’s one-time ad campaign so appropriately pointed out. Time is your friend when it comes to snacking. The longer it takes to get through a snack, the more satisfied you'll feel with less of it. Keeping a sucker in your mouth has a tendency to answer that craving for something sweet; it satisfies your hand-to-mouth habit of putting something in there, and calorie-wise, it’s not bad at all, only about 50-60 calories respectively. You just might want to brush your teeth more often though, as ‘holding’ a sugary piece of candy against the teeth for long periods can create cavities if you’re not careful.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday Breakfast

Every Sunday morning after church, my husband and I enjoy going out to breakfast. A particular little diner, complete with the counter and stools, and waitresses who have made long careers of balancing plates along their forearms is a favorite stop. But a couple of weeks ago, some friends mentioned another place ‘up the road’ where we could get what they called an incredible breakfast. They said it’s so good there is always a long line of folks waiting to be seated, something neither my husband nor I wanted to endure. (There is seldom much of a wait at our regular haunt.) However, these friends assured us the line moved quickly and the cafĂ© boasted they could always seat people within 10 minutes of their arrival. We decided we would try it.

It was good. In fact it was very good. Being extremely familiar, read bored, with the menu from our regular little diner, it was a nice change to read some other choices. I ordered eggs with bacon and biscuits, as I have to admit I’m a buttermilk biscuit fan and wanted to see if they were the ‘real deal’ as in a flaky round of golden topped buttery goodness or these plain crumbly pull-apart squares that look more like weak dinner rolls that many places use as a ‘default’ side. I never order the biscuits at our regular diner for that reason. The 'new' place has the real thing, so it was a treat.

This week we decided to try it again. Being something new it was exciting to have more variety. But we were also feeling we needed to go a bit healthier this time. Checking the menu more closely for something we could order a la carte like a bowl of oatmeal or a 2-egg dish instead three, we came up short. There were no substitutions and no combination that could be considered remotely healthy. My husband, who has recently lost 20-pounds calorie counting said, “I don’t think I can eat like this every week.” “No,” I agreed, “we’ll have to save this for a special occasion.”

And so that’s the lesson here. It’s wonderful to go out and splurge now and then, to do something different, change the weekly rut. But it’s wise to make sure we don’t create any bad habits, somehow feeling entitled to a ‘reward’ that will in the end, cause us to regret those changes. Just going out to Sunday breakfast should be enough of a treat in itself. Eating all our daily allotted calories in a single meal isn’t.